Over the last two years, we have been proudly supporting Rochdale-based Redwood Secondary School’s Supported Internship programme.
The partnership with the pioneering special school sees students gain work skills at the club, carrying out several roles within different departments.
For one of those students, Isaac Bartlett, the programme has had a huge impact.
From starting his internship as a member of our groundstaff in September 2019, Isaac has worked as a paid member of our matchday team since November in that year.
As a result of his work, he has been enrolled on Level 1 in Practical Horticulture Skills at YMCA College in Manchester since last year.
“I’ve always been interested in groundswork and I’ve now got around three years of work experience under my belt,” said Isaac.
“The college course has been great and there are now over 100 job possibilities open to me in horticulture.
“It’s been a pleasure working at Rochdale AFC with Richard [Blackburn] and Josh [Haigh]. They treat me as an adult, not someone with disabilities.”
Head Groundsman Richard, who has been Isaac’s line manager throughout his time working at the club, said: “Isaac has been a great addition to the team.
“Right from the start of his internship, he got stuck into every task that we set him, and we were soon training him up on the rotary machines.
“At the end of his internship, he said he was gutted to be leaving, but after enrolling on his college course, he has had an opportunity to do one day a week of work experience with us.
“He loves working here, especially on matchdays. He is very much part of our team here.”
Isaac began Level 1 of the course in September 2020, and after a successful year of learning and developing his skills which has earned him his Level 1 qualification, he will begin his Level 2 in September this year.
Marie English, Redwood’s Internship Manager, who supported Isaac in successfully applying for his college course, says he has changed his life for the better.
“We are extremely proud of Isaac and all he has achieved. He came to the internship lacking in confidence and self-belief, but what a change there has been in him.
“Isaac is now a fantastic member of the grounds team and works very hard to achieve his goals. He especially loves the socialising and is now a totally different person from when he started.
“This could not have happened without the support from David Bottomley, everyone at the club and our job coaches at Redwood, Gail, Anne, Jane and Michaela.
“We are all so proud of you, Isaac!”
Isaac, who turned 20 this month, is now looking forward to starting his Level 2 qualification in September.
“I’m proud of myself because without this I would probably have struggled for the rest of my life.
“Now, with getting paid employment as well as going to college, I know I’m going to be able to get on with my life.
“To anyone in my position I would say give it a shot and don’t give up. There are opportunities out there for everyone.”
If you would like more information on the Redwood Supported Internship programme, please email email@example.com.