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Millie Clarke, from Tyne and Wear, is a former Retail student from Derwen College.

The 23-year-old has gone on to a supported internship in her home area. She is applying for apprenticeships and has moved into her own flat in supported living.

We asked Millie – who has communication and learning difficulties and dyspraxia – about her time at Derwen College, and how it has prepared her for future employment and independence.

How did you first find out about Derwen College?

I found out about Derwen College through my mum who looked on the Natpec website.

When you visited, what made it seem like the right place for you?

When me and my parents visited Derwen for the first time, we saw all the different students making friends and enjoying themselves. I also enjoyed learning about the different departments of college and about independence training which was the main reason for me wanting to start at Derwen.

How did you find the admission process?

I found the admission process easy and really fun. I enjoyed having a taster session in the Retail department because it helped me to see how much fun it was learning new skills. I enjoyed making badges in the print shop on a taster day.

Did you know from the beginning that you want to do Retail?

No, I didn’t know I wanted to do Retail straight away because I thought about doing Hospitality. However me and my mum discussed that Retail would give me a better chance of getting a full time job in any sector of business or enterprise. I also thought I might struggle to carry hot drinks or food so it wasn’t a good idea to do Hospitality!

What did you enjoy about working in Retail?

My favourite work experience at College was in the Karten Print Shop. I enjoyed learning how to print different types of work such as banners, labels, leaflets and posters. I also enjoyed talking to internal and external customers in person or over the phone. I also like talking to suppliers over the phone to order more supplies

What work experience did you do at College?

I worked on Reception in the college training hotel Hotel 751 and at Premier Inn in Oswestry.

What independence skills did you learn at Derwen College?

I can use the oven by myself now without any assistance. Now I’m at home, I do chores around the house such as laundry, vacuuming, dishwasher, sorting out clean clothes and tidying up.

What were some of your favourite things do at Derwen for fun?

I enjoy going on trip such as theatre trip, cinema trip, shopping centre trips, Cadbury’s World, Alton Towers and other fun trips.

What activities and clubs did you do at Derwen?

I enjoyed doing College Band, women’s football, Duke of Edinburgh’s Bronze award, swimming pool lessons, dancing class, table cricket, boccia, disco, and playing pool in the Student Union.

What did you enjoy doing with your friends?

As well as the trips, I liked spending time in the swimming pool, Student Union, or walking to the local Co-op shop. I also enjoyed hang out with friends, listening to music, chatting and playing games, watching movies, having picnics in the summer, having tea at their houses or having them over to my house, or visiting the Garden Cafe with them

How did you feel about finishing at Derwen?

I felt ready to leave because I wanted to move on to the next chapter of my life. However, it was a shame that the final year was cut short because of Covid, and that the prom and graduation were virtual.

Are you still in touch with friends from Derwen?

Yes I am! I talk to them when we are online together which is sometime hard because we are all busy doing things.

What training are you doing now?

I am doing a supported internship called Project Choice which is run by NHS Trust. We do two days of education and then an internship placement. Right now we are just doing the two days education because the tutors are try to find placement that are Covid safe. I am hoping for a placement in Cedarwood Centre doing admin work. I been applying for apprenticeships and have some interviews coming up.

Where are you living?  

Right now, I’m back living back home with my family. However I have my own flat in supported living which is only ten minutes away from my family home which I hope to be able to move into soon.

I have also now in my own flat in supported living which is awesome. It’s near my family home, but I can be independent and do what I want.

What are your hopes for the future?

I would like to get a full-time job in business admin, and to possibly learn to drive an automatic car. One day I’d like to take my family on an all-expenses-paid super holiday.

I am really happy with how my life is going so far.