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“I really am enjoying it,” says 19 year old Joe of his work placement at the Co-op in Barmouth. Every Friday Joe walks a few minutes down the road for an 8am start at the local shop, where he has been working for two months now with support from Agoriad Cyf through Engage to Change.

When he first arrived, Joe was directing customers to the items they were looking for. Now, with help from his job coach Zoe, he has been learning other tasks including stock rotation and the recycling process. When stacking, Joe has been working with milk and cheese in particular. “I know how to stack a shelf in under 15 seconds!” But it’s recycling the cardboard that has become his favourite part of the job. “I break up the boxes and put them in a cage by the double doors at the back and then they get recycled,” he says.

In his spare time Joe loves playing Minecraft and laughs, “If you think it, you can build it!” He clearly carries this philosophy with him, as he is currently helping a family friend tile their bathroom as well as putting up a fence in his own back garden with brother Jordan. He also enjoys looking after the family’s two dogs, a French bulldog and a bullstaff named Blue and Luna.

Joe’s sister Lois expresses how much the opportunity for Joe to go to work has meant to him and for the family.  “Joe didn’t actually want to leave college, because he loved going there to be able to communicate with his friends, the independence to go on the bus,” she says. “Going to these work placements was like college in a way, so he does enjoy venturing out of the house and being independent.” Joe was attending a pre-vocational course at Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor in Dolgellau, as well as completing his Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award which he is very proud of. He joined the Engage to Change project in October 2016, completing short work experience placements at Y Sosban and TH Roberts cafes in Dolgellau, before securing the placement at the Co-op.

Joe estimates that he’s met about twenty new friends through working at the Co-op and always makes sure he gets to work on time. Lois adds, “Obviously it’s more of a routine now because it is every Friday. He’s aware of the times he has to be there and his schedule, time management and stuff, so he has developed that really.”

Lois has noticed other changes in Joe too. “He’s become more polite because he’s dealing with customers!” She believes the support from Agoriad has helped him to identify his weaknesses, and though he can do a lot of things on his own he knows the support is there if he needs it. “Especially around the wines!” Joe exclaims. In this way, she thinks the project is meeting Joe’s needs and that the independence he gains through it is valuable, and a right he enjoys exercising.

Looking forward, Joe is hopeful that things will settle down at the Co-op following a recent refurbishment so that he can establish a routine, which helps him. “Yesterday was hectic! The queue went around four aisles!” He is also really excited about a potential opportunity for more work at Cerist Mineral Water nearby.