How Joe faced the challenges of autism

Joe Garcia’s eyes light up when he talks about his football club Liverpool and the young children he is helping navigate often troubled waters.

This incredible young man is working as a teaching assistant, which once would have seemed an impossibility. But – on a daily basis – he is helping diagnose primary school children as having the same challenges he faced himself during his early school years.

Overcoming Hurdles

After starting school in mainstream education near to his Walton home, something wasn’t right for Joe.

Eventually he spent a number of weeks in an assessment centre where his autism was diagnosed.  He was then accepted as a pupil by Abbots Lea school in South Liverpool. They understood him better and had an appreciation of the daily hurdles he experienced – dealing with crowds and noise were among them.

When he first started at senior school, even taking the bus was a challenge.  But a few years on Joe has spread his wings way beyond his once compact comfort zone.  Not only does he make his own way to work on a daily basis, he even enjoys being part of the crowd supporting Liverpool at Anfield.

Getting It Right

Joe is a great example of how when schools, training providers and the family work together there can be a happy ending.  Key2Apprenticeships provider and GMLPF member, Riverside LEC were instrumental in getting Joe’s career off to a flying start – they encouraged some work based experience towards the end of his school years. This and the enrichment he gained through his Duke of Edinburgh awards helped Joe build the confidence to step onto a K2A course.

Through delivering the training Joe actually needed and the real-world work experience, his confidence grew. Now aged 18, he’s on a full time apprenticeship at a primary school that has made a significant contribution to developing his potential. Alongside his colleagues at Matthew Arnold, Joe staffs the unit that helps stream young kids into the right education for them.

Full Time Employment

Entirely unassuming, it’s easy to see why Joe’s demeanour is perfect for this job. He says:  ‘It can be challenging but the kids are fantastic.  When they are struggling, I can relate to it and help calm them down or give them encouragement where it’s needed’.  However, nobody is going to pull the wool over this savvy young man’s eyes. Joe adds: ‘We still have to keep an eye on them as they can be strong willed too!  That doesn’t stop it being a dream come true to be working as a teaching assistant’.

Paul Feaver who heads up Riverside LEC speaks highly of Joe: ‘We’d like to see more students like Joe who, despite adversity, have got on the career ladder.  The Key2Apprenticeships programme can be styled around the needs of the individual student, no matter what their experience of school.  Joe really is a shining light to any young person who thinks that their individuality is a barrier to having a career.’


Free Maths Tuition? Yes Please!


A successful Challenge Fund bid is making maths more accessible for young people.

Based off Park Road, in Liverpool 8, Riverside Learning and Education Centre, a GMLPF member, is running youth-club style maths sessions. By creating a laid back atmosphere and keeping groups small, maths suddenly appears less of a challenge for the youngsters aged 11 to 15.

Less daunting

Tutor Graham Johnson says: ‘The children are turning up with enthusiasm and within weeks we are seeing an improvement in their ability.  If we can make maths seem less daunting, the confidence of these school children will develop.  We’re keeping groups small and this is working, we’d really like to see the programme develop to reach an ever growing number of young people. If we can boost their confidence and willingness to face new challenges in learning, it will have positive benefit in other subjects as well as maths”.

Welcomed by parents

At the sessions, the children can get help with their written and online maths homework – a move that is welcome by many parents. One Mum whose child Sam, aged 11, has been attending says:

‘So many of my generation gave up on maths and it became the norm – a mindset that needs changing.  When you think about it, that’s not really acceptable – it got me thinking that I didn’t want that for my child and sessions like the ones Sam is attending are setting the standard in doing this’.

Free sessions

The free tutoring sessions are currently running on Wednesday and Thursday at 4pm. Anybody studying at senior school is welcome to drop in at the centre in Hyslop Street – toast and juice are even provided.  For more information schools, parents and students should ring 0151 709 3637.

James Glendenning, Chief Executive of Greater Merseyside Learning Providers Federation, which has funded the programme through The Challenge Fund says: ‘Community-based projects are the building blocks to break a cycle of challenges in education.  Mastering maths has long been a barrier for many, but in Merseyside we are spearheading ways to tackle that and to get ahead of the ongoing Government agenda to raise standards.

In July 2014, GMLPF launched The GMLPF Challenge Investment Fund as part of its drive to support ongoing development of the region’s skills by investing in the long term future of its members – local training providers. The initiative was designed to particularly encourage:

  • Innovation
  • Improvement in quality
  • Improvement in performance

More on GMLPF’s Challenge Fund

Setting The Standard In Securing Futures

A GMLPF member has achieved the Matrix Standard.

Riverside Learning & Education Centre has been awarded the unique Matrix quality standard in recognition of the advice and support they offer students.  The award underlines how Riverside goes above and beyond in helping individuals with career choices, learning, work and life goals.

Paul Feaver, who heads the charity, commented: ‘Many people first approach Riverside when their future is uncertain, often they are suffering exclusion or are disadvantaged in some way.  These people, many teenagers or single parents, need wrap around care to get their foot on the career ladder. Winning Matrix recognition confirms that we are experts at meeting their needs.’

Since 1979 Riverside LEC has helped thousands of people take the first steps towards a meaningful career.  The organisation puts building confidence and self-worth on an equal footing with gaining qualifications, so that the future prospects of vulnerable students are boosted.

Paul added: ‘Gaining a qualification alone is often not enough to get a job.  Our students need to believe they have the ability to achieve and to advance themselves.  They develop personal skills alongside vocational ones, so that they are not only ready to work, but to make a real difference for the employer too. That means they and their family have a more secure future, and that is what we’re all about – providing a positive future where there previously might not have been one.’


GMLPF Apprenticeship Reform Planning Implementation Group 11/7/14

The first meeting of the GMLPF Apprenticeships Reform Implementation Planning Group took place last week.

Brian Quinn (tpm) and GMLPF Chair Debbie Tagoe (Mode Training) provided an overview of the Reforms to date, and GMLPF activity over the past months including:

  • Coordination with NWPN of regional employer responses to Government consultation
  • Lobbying: meetings with MPs and Councillors

The group discussed terms of reference and objectives which will be formalised and shared on the GMLPF website. Broadly, the group will be pushing for the detail of the landscape under the new reforms to enable members to prepare effectively. They will identify the key critical points which will impact on delivery and feed these through to members, local authorities and other local and regional groups/meetings with partners and MPs.

Discussion points

The following points were made/discussed:

  • Members of the group are representing the sector as a whole, not their respective organisations
  • Apprentices and employers to be invited onto the group to ensure their voices are represented
  • Importance of having a representative from a trailblazer on the group
  • Dedicated blog section on GMLPF site to post updates on activities/actions of the group
  • Group to take responsibility of keeping local employers informed via GMLPF blog about the development of reforms and their impact
  • Potential areas of focus in coming months: group agreed on some examples of specific areas of focus: quality, NEET, LLDD, Ofsted
  • Development of case studies to illustrate success that is at threat under new reforms
  • Communications responsibilities of the group to include: keeping members informed of progress keeping employers informed, and raising awareness of the issues/impact of reform

Members of the group are: James Glendenning (GMLPF) Brian Quinn (tpm), Debbie Tagoe (Mode), Pavlina Kiakides (GMLPF), Doreen Hesketh (Winning Pitch), Angela Owens (Hugh Baird), Paul Sheron (NWCS), Bev Doughty (Southport College), Martin Knight (ESG Group), Hilary Comaish (The Training Station) ,Adam Gilbert (Asset Training), Paul Feaver (Riverside LEC), Joan Furnival (NWCS) and Alison Gibson (Michael John Academy).

The group will meet each month.

Dylan Jones winner of Sefton Apprentice of the Year

High proportion of LCR Apprenticeship Award winners supported by independent providers

Many of the winning apprentices and employers in this year’s Liverpool City Region Apprenticeship Awards received support from GMLPF’s independent, smaller training provider members.

The prestigious awards, which were held on 20th June at Lord Derby’s Estate in Knowsley, recognised and celebrated the achievements of Liverpool City Region’s most accomplished apprentices and committed employers. These included winners supported by the following GMLPF independent smaller learning provider members:

  • Dylan Jones (pictured above with Emma Sinnett from award sponsor, Mode Training) won the title of Sefton Apprentice of the Year 2014, trained and supported by Asset Training
  • Jess Lowry won the title of Liverpool Apprentice of the Year 2014, trained and supported by Mode Training
  • Melissa Murphy won the title of Knowsley Apprentice of the Year 2014, trained and supported by The Training Station
  • Bethany West won The Peter McEvoy Award for Overcoming Adversity, trained and supported by Riverside Learning and Education Centre
  • Sarah Noonan Hairdressing won the New Employer of the Year Award, with training and support provided by Mode Training

Also worthy of mention are GMLPF member, tpm, who had 2 out of 3 finalists in the SME Apprentice of the Year category and a finalist for The Peter McEvoy Award. Other GMLPF members with finalists included Michael John Academy and North West Training Council

Training provider role

James Glendenning, CEO of GMLPF, highlights how the achievements of the winning apprentices and employers are outstanding in their own right but also a reflection of the standard of training and support provided by the region’s highly effective and proficient training providers and colleges.

“Sometimes the role that training providers play in the Apprenticeships jigsaw is overlooked. These organisations provide the professional training to the high industry standards required by the Apprenticeship programme, tailoring their services to meet the individual needs of apprentices, and also to fit in with employers’ varied and diverse operating environments.

Unswerving dedication

“Providing this level of intensive support is challenging at the best of times, operating within an arena where policy change and funding upheaval are constant factors. It’s particularly hard for the smaller, independent training provider which is why I’m delighted that so many of them have winners in this year’s Awards, reflecting these organisations’ unswerving dedication to facilitating successful futures for our region’s young people.

“The Government’s proposed Apprenticeships Reforms spell even more challenges ahead but I have no doubt that these training providers will continue to deliver the highest quality Apprenticeships training and support for apprentices and employers in our region.”