On Tuesday 25 June, students, employers, friends, families, Carers, EmployAbility and Surrey Choices enjoyed an afternoon of celebrations at Denbies Wine Estate, for the annual EmployAbility Making a Difference Awards. Amongst 16 of this years winners, were Watts Gallery.
Watts Gallery have been working with the Surrey Choices EmployAbility team since December 2018, taking on student Sarah just before Christmas. When they were approached by the EmployAbility team, Community Programme Curator, Ellen Love, told us how fantastic the opportunity sounded, not just for them as an employer, but for the students they can support into work. Watts Gallery already knew their now volunteer student, Sarah, through their Art for All Learning Programme, which worked out perfectly for Sarah already knowing the Art Gallery so well.
Currently, Watts Gallery have over 300 volunteers, including Sarah and another student Oliver, as a result of working with the EmployAbility team. Sarah and Oliver’s roles include working in the office typing up feedback from gallery visitors, and working up towards welcoming guests into the galleries and working in other areas with the support of colleagues.
Ellen spoke of how the students they have taken on are a huge asset to Watts Gallery.
Working with the EmployAbility team in terms of Watts Gallery enhancing our diversity as a place to work is a really nice step in the right direction for the company. Simple things like permanent staff working with students with learning disabilities has transformed our workforce in such a positive way. One of our volunteers communicates only through British Sign Language (BSL), and as a result colleagues have been learning how to communicate through using this sign language. This has really helped our front of house staff and other volunteers, as we sometimes have customers who visit and use BSL as a form of communication.
When talking about encouraging other Employers to work with our EmployAbility team, Watts Gallery emphasised how imperative it is that all workforces become diverse and open.
It makes for a much more lively work environment and you learn more about how you work when teaching it to others who require more support I know that these placements have undoubtedly enriched not only colleagues, but the many customers who visit Watts Gallery too.
Sarah, a volunteer at Watts Gallery told us how her placement through EmployAbility has changed her life.
Two years ago I started coming to Watts Gallery with Halow Project for the Art for All workshops. We have done fun printmaking, pottery, boat making with sails, painting and drawing in the gallery. These workshops make me feel really happy. The workshops are really fun. I love George and Mary’s artwork and when we come to Watts Gallery we learn about their art and then make our own art work. Art is important because it calms you down when you have a bad day. I feel proud after I make a great piece of art.
In December I started volunteering at Watts Gallery and I love it so much! I don’t want to go home at the end of my shift! When I volunteer I help in the Learning office typing up feedback, stewarding in the gallery and helping prepare for workshops. Very importantly I make teas and coffees for everyone!
I want people to see our work in the Art for All exhibition to feel excited by our art work!
Congratulations once again, Watts Gallery!
The Surrey Choices EmployAbility service support people with disabilities or additional needs to find and sustain work. For further information on Surrey Choices EmployAbility team and how they could support you into work please contact 01483 806806 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.