Braw Wee Shop helping students with disabilities prepare for work

Business is booming for students at New College Lanarkshire, where they are busy getting real-life retail experience.

Students with learning disabilities have set up shop in a bid to boost employment rates for people with additional support needs.

Business is booming for students with learning disabilities at New College Lanarkshire, where they are busy getting real-life retail experience.

The Braw Wee Shop aims to improve the employment rate of people with additional support needs, by providing valuable workplace opportunities to those involved.

Stocked and staffed by students in the Supported Learning department, lecturers hope the project will help prepare them for the working world – and the new challenges it brings.

Student Sophie Skilling told STV News she enjoys “working in the shop, selling stuff in the shop, talking to people and asking them ‘cash or card’”.

Logan Smith, also a student, says it is giving him more confidence and improving his communication skills.

He said: “We’re learning how to do the till, we’re learning how to count money, and greeting people.”

Classmate Erin McLaughlin added: “You get the experience to meet new people – and it means I’ll get to work in a shop when I’m older.”

Figures from 2019 by the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities suggest as few as 4.1% of people with a learning disability are in paid work.

Stephen Cotter, Head of Support Learning at New College Lanarkshire, said: “The statistics for people with learning disabilities in employment are really, really, low – so we hope the students can showcase their skills and talents and show what contributors they can be to the local economy.”

Only a few months after first opening last year, the students had already racked up a profit of more than £2,500 – which they then donated to the college’s Free Breakfast Campaign.

Mr Cotter added: “We were thrilled with the response when we opened in November for our pre-Christmas run and business has been booming! We’re excited to be able to give the students this opportunity and how it’ll continue to grow.”

And a Braw Wee Shop could be coming to a campus near you.

The success at the Motherwell Campus has led to plans for expansion in Coatbridge and Cumbernauld after the summer break.

Academic Lead Kiera McAdam, who runs the Ready for Retail group, said: “It gives them a sense of purpose – they’re making the items, they’re seeing them being sold… people wanting to buy them.

“They love being involved in everything, and ideas that they’ve created come to life.”

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