Nick’s work placement is recipe for success
“Volunteering with Coles Kitchen has given me confidence”, says Nick, a young volunteer. Nick is one of many young people who have worked with Coles Kitchen, a social enterprise in Weston-Super-Mare.
In November 2013, Coles Kitchen won a contract from Knightstone housing (working across Somerset and the West of England), to provide catering services for their new offices.
This was one of the first contracts Knightstone issued to a social enterprise as part of their aim to work with more third sector organisations.
As part of the tendering process Knightstone requested information from bidders about the learning and volunteering opportunities they could provide to their residents, to support Knightstone’s Into Work strategy.
Cole’s Kitchen’s aims
Coles Kitchen and their sister project, the Cole Shed Project, aim to provide opportunities for disadvantaged young people who have a wide variety of support needs (such as learning difficulties or autism).
They aim to provide young people with experience in catering and customer service through supplying food for Knightstone’s meetings, and via the café they run at Weston-Super-Mare railway station.
The offer for young people includes work and volunteer placements, taster days and training up to a NVQ Level 2 in catering. With a strong track record in supporting disadvantaged learners, Coles Kitchen is also able to offer additional support around literacy and numeracy.
Volunteer Nick went on to say, “Some employers can find it hard to understand how people with learning disabilities and autism (like myself) function. Simon (Coles Kitchen owner) knows how my mind works and is the best boss anyone could wish for.”
Coles Kitchen took on 15-20 volunteers in the first five months of the contract and has seen a significant increase in business in the last 12 months, which has enabled them to increase the number of volunteers they work with and train. They have also been able to increase volunteering opportunities for remote rural areas.
Coles’ plan is now to offer paid work to volunteers.
On top of this, Knightstone have increased their support for the volunteers who are moving into independent living.
Jemma Coles, from Coles Kitchen said “‘The catering contract has let us create so many new opportunities, the guys involved have really come on with their confidence levels and social skills. They have leapt forward, which is so lovely to see, they even tell me to stay in the car now when we deliver!
“The Knightstone contract has allowed us to take on two new members of staff this month and we are also in the process of taking on extra premises. This new expansion will enable us to offer additional volunteering opportunities to young people.”
Nick said; “It has been a good experience working on the Knightstone project. I feel like I am giving something back to the community. The job keeps me on my toes with the amount of work – we are providing a service for a big company so it has to be perfect. I like to pass on some of my experience to the newer volunteers. The sandwiches and chocolate are not good for the diet though!”