Workplace inspires training
The teenager, who has Asperger's Syndrome, left school without any qualifications and took a job at the Young's Bluecrest factory in Grimsby, which packs and distributes the company's frozen-fish products.
Now, thanks to a programme run by Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education, he has earned level 2 NVQs (CGCE-equivalent) in food and drink manufacturing.
Simon said: "I'm proud to have this qualification. It worked better for me than other courses as there are no exams, and it's made me more confident at work now. It also proves to my employer that I'm confident in my work and having the qualification has opened up opportunities for me within the company which I wouldn't otherwise have had."
Young's encourages all their factory staff to gain the NVQs, which are assessed through the skills demonstrated in everyday work, and offers pay increases for successful candidates as an incentive.
After completing the workforce development programme, Simon is now planning to take further courses at the college in Grimsby, focusing on manufacturing and management. He said: "I just got interested in the industry and I'd like to go higher up in Young's in the future."
Karen Simpson, an NVQ assessor, said allowing people to pick up qualifications through their daily work inspired many people who previously had no enthusiasm for education and training. She said: "When they get the certificate, they say, 'Wow, did I do that?' These are often people who are 40 or 50 and it's the first certificate they've ever been awarded.
"Simon has been a fantastic student. Sometimes he would ring me up in the middle of the week and ask if there was anything else I wanted him to learn. He's very eager and he's been looking at the institute's brochure to see what he can do next."
She said the course offered people with special needs an alternative to traditional classroom learning and gave them a qualification recognised by any employer.
It also helps companies like Young's boost their standing with their customers, who know that all their staff are trained in health and safety and food hygiene, she said.