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Alex cleaning the hospital“My name is Alex Jones and since March I have been working as a Domestic Assistant at Ysbyty Gwynedd. I have learnt a lot of new skills from my job such as how to work with people, it’s improved my communication skills, how to use different cleaning equipment and products, how to manage my own workload independently and most importantly how to carry on working safely during the Covid19 pandemic.

During my internships with Project SEARCH I learnt how to clean offices, corridors, wards, bays, toilets etc. I am now fully flexible and can cover any area as and when needed. When I started at the domestic department I was in charge of keeping the executive corridor where I was cleaning the toilets, library, kitchens, and corridors and emptying bins in the offices. Being a Domestic Assistant is a very physical job and I found it hard at the beginning to keep up the pace. Because I was cleaning the seminar and meeting rooms I had to have good time-keeping skills by keeping an eye on the screen to see when the rooms were empty.”

Alex joined the Engage to Change DFN Project SEARCH internship programme in September 2019 with very little previous work experience and no clear idea of what type of work he wanted to do. When he started learning about the different departments within the hospital, Alex thought that he might to work as a porter but the Engage to Change DFN Project SEARCH team suggested that his skills might be better suited to the domestic department. Initially, Alex was not so sure “I was quite reluctant at first as I wasn’t much of a cleaner.”

However, after just a few weeks Alex quickly became comfortable with his new routine as a Domestic Assistant. His supervisor was very happy with his progress, so much so that Alex was given extra work to do. Alex explained, “I was finishing my work early so they gave me an extra area to clean which was the anaesthetic department. I was quite nervous with going to clean somewhere new and needed my job coach support at the beginning. Once I got comfortable I continued to finish my tasks a little earlier and I was offered experience somewhere different – on Alaw Ward.”

Alex was a bit worried about working on the wards as he knew he would be encountering patients who were very ill but, with some reassurance from his job coach, Alex decided that he would give it a go. On Alaw Ward, he had support from a mentor called Colette. According to Alex, “Collette was very welcoming and made me feel at ease straight away. She gave me little tasks to complete at first and then started building up my workload. After a couple of weeks, I was talking to patients confidently, working under my own initiative and given my own bay and cubicles to clean. I was then moved on to cover three busier wards with a different mentor. I couldn’t believe how fast things were changing. I used to be afraid of change in the beginning but by now I am always up for the challenge.”

In February, Alex began cleaning in another new area, this time it was the facilities department: “This meant I would be coming across my supervisors and manager all the time! There is a lot of coming and going in this area but I always greet each person with a smile and a kind word especially during these hard times.”

Before joining the internship programme, Alex was studying Life Skills in Llangefni College after finishing school the year before. He told us “I remember coming to the open day of Project SEARCH in Ysbyty Gwynedd and it seemed very interesting but I was quite nervous. As I was only in my first year in college I wasn’t sure if it was the right step for me. But after speaking to the team, asking questions and being shown around, I knew this course was for me.”

Outside of work, Alex is a keen gardener and now enjoys going to the cinema with friends or going for walks but this was not always the case. Alex told us, “Before joining the project I didn’t do much. I didn’t really leave the house. But now I have a great group of friends who I go to watch films with and travel to cities like Liverpool. My life has changed so much within a year and I am very grateful to the Engage to Change Project Search team for supporting me through the transition from education to work.”

Alex’s job coach has really noticed the difference in him since he joined the project back in September. “When we first met Alex he was quite shy, set in his ways and didn’t like change. He didn’t believe in his own abilities at the beginning but a few months down the line he has changed from a student into a trusted employee of the NHS. We receive glittering feedback from his manager who has described him as a perfect employee.”

When he first started his internship, Alex needed some support with finding a structure to his workload so the job coach designed a checklist for him to follow. Once he became comfortable in his area, he no longer needed the checklist and whereas previously the anticipation of being moved to another area was quite a daunting prospect, Alex now willingly volunteers to help out in different areas of the hospital. According to his job coach, “Alex has become so resilient and adaptable that he has cleaned around eight different areas. We admire Alex so much for his enthusiasm and work ethic. He is a credit to the domestic team. Well done Alex!”