Al Barker had always worried that his autism might prevent him from finding a job that he loved. However, with the support of his Inclusive Employment Consultant at ECL he has been able to secure his dream role and is keen to help others do the same.


"I thought it was going to take a long time to find something I enjoyed but I am so proud to have been offered this job straight away."

Since 2015, 37-year-old Al has been undertaking horticultural vocational training in the gardens at ECL Greenacres two days a week. Steve, who is a Community Care Assistant at Greenacres recalls his first visit, “I was there on Alastair’s first day many years ago. He knew very few customers at the time, so it was a big step for him but being introduced to the gardens gave him the confidence to keep coming back.”

Although he enjoys his visits, Al was increasingly keen to find a paid role which would challenge him further and give him the opportunity to earn a wage. To help him realise his ambition, the on-site team put him in touch with one of their Inclusive Employment Consultants (IEC), Caroline Giess, who began the search for his perfect position.

After building his CV and talking to Al about his goals, Caroline was able to identify a number of potential jobs for him and together they narrowed the field. In the end, he decided to go for a role within ECL’s own network, repairing and cleaning equipment with ECL Community Equipment Service in Witham. He had several trial shifts to make sure it was the place for him and, after formally submitting his application, was then invited for a telephone interview.

Al says, “I thought it was going to take a long time to find something I enjoyed but I am so proud to have been offered this job straight away. I am loving work, and my family are really pleased for me, too. This is the best job I have ever had - I feel like I have achieved my dream.”

To make sure he was settling in, Al was initially allocated a support buddy from the Equipment Service who was on hand to help teach him the ropes and offer advice. Caroline also kept a close eye on his progress and still regularly checks in with him to see how he’s getting on but, through his work, Al has a new-found independence and has been able to reduce his attendance at ECL Greenacres to just one day a week.

Reflecting on Al’s progress from those early days, Steve says, “As time has passed Alastair has really come out of his shell and now he mentors other customers, helping them to get involved in projects in the garden. Thanks to the support of Caroline and the employment team I no longer speak to him solely as a customer, but as a colleague. That is a truly remarkable story.”

“I would recommend teaming up with an IEC to anyone” enthuses Al. “I enjoyed the process of looking for a job and the support I’ve received has been very good. Since starting my role my confidence has grown and I hope to be able to take on more responsibility at work, but I would also be happy to be a champion for the scheme so that other customers with ECL’s Day Services can understand how an IEC could help them, too.”

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Ground-breaking project to help adults with learning disabilities and autism to achieve their aspirations of paid employment.

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