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Empowering Futures: Mercury College's 'Preparing for Adulthood' Training Event


Attending the Mercury College Training Event on "Preparing for Adulthood" last month at the Crowne Plaza in Newcastle was a transformative experience for our team. As a volunteer at our organisation, I alongside my colleague Jane Bray, Project Coordinator, had the privilege of diving into comprehensive strategies to assist young adults (18-25) with profound and complex intellectual and learning disabilities in navigating the transition to adulthood. The valuable insights we gained are not only crucial for supporting our clients with these specific needs but are also applicable across a wide range of transitions that our clients encounter. We left the event invigorated, armed with practical, effective tools that will empower us to guide our clients with confidence and compassion, ensuring a smoother journey through the critical phases of their lives.


Who are Mercury College?


Mercury College is a specialist institution offering a distinctive array of educational and residential opportunities for young people aged 18 to 25 with learning disabilities, frequently in conjunction with autism and complex care requirements, encompassing behaviours of concern.


With a focus on trust, collaboration, innovation, celebration, aspiration, respect, and inclusion, the college aims to be the preferred choice for students with complex needs. The person-cantered curriculum covers various domains, including communication, health and emotional well-being, community engagement, recreational/vocational programmes, employment, and citizenship. They deliver this exceptional teaching, learning, and assessment in a secure and inspiring environment where each student receives a personalised study programme and progress plan, ensuring their unique aspirations and goals are met.


The philosophy and practices of the college are grounded in ensuring the well-being and success of every individual, irrespective of their background or circumstances. Emphasising holistic development, the college seeks to address the spiritual, social, moral, and cultural needs of its students. This includes fostering self-awareness, respect for the law and the rights of others, and promoting positive behaviours conducive to learning and community engagement.


The primary goal of the college is to foster independence in every student through learning within an environment of warmth, security, and consistency, both within the college and through collaborations with local authorities, schools and the surrounding community. This objective is supported by a professional and calm atmosphere cultivated by the dedicated staff members, where trust and positive relationships between students and staff form the foundation of the college's ethos.


A core aspect of the college's mission is to instil values of equality, diversity, and inclusion, ensuring access and opportunities for all, empowering students to develop essential skills for adulthood. This commitment extends to promoting Fundamental British Values such as democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance. Through an inclusive communication environment and a steadfast dedication to non-discrimination, the college actively strives to create a supportive and welcoming community where every student can thrive.


In alignment with its broader objectives, the college aims to equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary for successful transitions into adulthood, including employment readiness and civic engagement. By providing a comprehensive support system and promoting a culture of respect and understanding, Mercury College endeavours to empower its students to lead fulfilling and purposeful lives, contributing positively to society.


Central to their mission is prioritizing students' needs and fostering positive community relationships. Mercury College does this through a cultivation of positive perceptions in the community and by advocating for inclusion and education. This commitment is evident in their recent training events, where they engaged with parents, professionals and community members to raise awareness and promote understanding of the challenges faced by young adults with learning disabilities as they transition into adulthood. By actively involving the broader community in their initiatives, Mercury College demonstrates their dedication to creating a supportive and inclusive environment where all students can thrive.


The Lead up to Inclusive Excellence: A Journey of Accessible Event Planning


Accessibility is a constant challenge for many people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, and finding an event that not only promises inclusivity but delivers on it can be like discovering a hidden gem. As a powered wheelchair, I always have to investigate possible events for accessibility before booking because claims of accessibility typically assume a manual wheelchair user that can "hop small steps" or be "lifted over obstacles."


Upon discovering the event online, I was immediately drawn to its subject matter. Transitioning to new stages in life can be daunting, especially for those with specific needs. Intrigued by the expertise promised by Mercury College, I delved deeper into their website, hoping to unearth insights into the college's approach to these crucial transitions.


As a powered wheelchair user, accessibility is a paramount concern in every aspect of life, including attending events. Having encountered countless instances where event organisers fell short in providing accurate information about accessibility, I approached this event with cautious optimism.


However, my fears were swiftly allayed when I learned that the event was to be held at the Crowne Plaza in Newcastle. Familiar with the venue from past experiences, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that both the journey from Central Station to the Crowne Plaza were accessible.



Yet, mindful of the potential challenges that could arise, I reached out to the organisers to ensure my specific needs would be accommodated (for example, the layout of the room would allow for access). What followed was a shining example of exceptional customer service.


Engaging with a representative from Mercury College via Facebook, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the level of understanding and efficiency displayed. The representative not only grasped my needs immediately but also reassured me that necessary accommodations would indeed be in place. From providing guidance on the best training sessions to keeping me updated about ticket availability, the support and service extended were nothing short of exemplary.


In a world where barriers often overshadow opportunities, this experience highlights the transformative power of accessibility and the profound impact of genuine customer service. Thanks to the dedication and empathy of the organisers, not only was I able to attend the event with ease, but my disabled colleague also joined me, further enriching the experience.


Empowering Transitions: Insights from the Mercury College Training Event



Mercury College ran two separate events tailored for parents and professionals, aiming to provide targeted support and resources to both groups. With the help of their customer service agent via Facebook, my colleague and I were able to successfully book onto the event for professionals which was held on the 9th of May.


The journey there wasn't easy as we made our way by public transport and we arrived with moments to spare before the conference was due to commence. Despite coming in latter than planned, they both the Crowne Plaza and Mercury College staff were welcoming and reassuring. We were directed to the most accessible seats and instructed on where the accessible toilets were and the the best way to get there.



At the 'Preparing for Adulthood' Training Event with Mercury College, every delegate was greeted with a thoughtful gesture - an expertly curated bag brimming with invaluable resources. Beyond the informative documents and booklets lay a surprise: a fidget cube, emblematic of Mercury College's commitment to holistic support. This thoughtful inclusion, alongside the high-quality materials, spoke volumes about the event's dedication to equipping participants with not only knowledge but also practical tools for success.



Amidst the enriching sessions and engaging discussions, the Mercury College Training Event ensured attendees were well-nourished with an array of culinary delights. Catering to diverse dietary preferences, including vegetarian options, the event left no one hungry. Lunchtime was a highlight, featuring a tantalizing buffet spread boasting fragrant Indian curries, a make-your-own salad station, and an assortment of delectable desserts. Even when faced with a temporary hiccup, such as the hot water running out midway through, the staff exhibited remarkable responsiveness, swiftly rectifying the situation and ensuring uninterrupted comfort for all participants.



At the helm of this enlightening event stood Steven Rowbotham, an exceptional speaker whose confidence and eloquence captivated the audience. His personal journey and profound transformation through his experience at Mercury College served as a powerful testament to the institution's impact on young lives.


Following the event, my colleague and I had the honour of engaging in a conversation with Steven, where we exchanged insights and reflections on our shared experiences. It was a privilege to connect with someone whose story exemplifies the profound difference education and support can make in shaping one's future.



The conference's venue boasted exceptional accessibility, going beyond mere compliance to ensure comfort and inclusivity for all attendees. Notably, even the accessible toilet exceeded expectations, offering a luxurious experience complete with beautiful soaps and hand lotion. However, the only minor hiccup in an otherwise seamless experience was the lack of clear signage leading to this well-appointed facility, tucked away around a corner. Despite this minor inconvenience, the venue's commitment to accessibility remained commendable, underscoring the importance of attention to detail in creating truly inclusive spaces.



The wealth of information and engaging activities provided at the training event sparked a paradigm shift in our approach to communication and transitions. By challenging conventional perspectives and introducing innovative strategies, the event encouraged us to explore these crucial aspects through a fresh lens. Armed with newfound insights and perspectives, we are now better equipped to navigate the complexities of communication and transitions, empowering us to provide more effective support and guidance to those we serve.


Beyond the Event: Implementing Insights and Initiating Change


We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to attend such a high-quality, free event, which has proven invaluable in shaping our approach to supporting individuals with complex and profound disabilities.


Jane had this to say after the event:


Artemis said:

"After attending the event, I realised that my role isn't just about helping others transition; it's about empowering them to navigate life's journey with confidence and dignity. What we learned can be applied to all aspects of what we offer at Tailored Leisure and I can't wait to implement the lessons we have learned."

The insights gleaned from the Mercury College Training Event have not only broadened our understanding but have also inspired tangible action. In response, we have developed a new volunteer pathway known as Tailored Ally. Tailored Ally is thoughtfully crafted to cater to the unique needs and abilities of volunteers with complex and/or profound disabilities, ensuring that they have a fulfilling and impactful experience within our organization. This initiative exemplifies our commitment to inclusivity and empowerment, driven by the transformative knowledge gained from the event.


Click here to find out more about the Tailored Ally Pathway:




And Click here to find out more about our other volunteer opportunities:



Upcoming 2024 Events


June


Care Forum

3rd & 4th June 2024

Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre

London Heathrow

Provider: Forum Events


Supporting Autistic People & People with a Learning Disability

6th June 2024

Pendulum Hotel & Manchester Conference Centre

Provider: Open Forum Events


The Autism Show - London

14th & 15th June 2024

Excel, London

Provider: Park View Events


The Autism Show - Birmingham

21st & 22nd June 2024

NEC Birmingham

Provider: Park View Events


July


nessen LIVE

5th July 2024

Resorts World, NEC, Birmingham

Provider: nassen


September


Autism Minds LIVE Cardiff

20th September 2024

Cardiff City Stadium

Provider: Autistic Minds UK


October


Care Show Birmingham

9th & 10th October 2024

NEC Birmingham

Provider: CloserStill Media


Kidz to Adultz North

11th October 2024

Manchester Central

Provider: Disabled Living


TES SEND Show

11th & 12th October 2024

Business Design Centre,

Islington, London

Provider: TES Events


December


Learning Disabilities and/or Autism London

4th December 2024

The Royal National Hotel, London

Provider: Open Forum Events


To learn more - talk to one of their customer service representatives on Facebook.


Concluding Thoughts


In conclusion, the Mercury College Training Event has been nothing short of transformative for our team. From gaining invaluable insights into supporting individuals with complex disabilities to implementing tangible changes such as the Tailored Ally volunteer pathway, our journey since attending this event has been marked by growth and innovation. As we continue to navigate the landscape of inclusivity, we are reminded of the profound impact that education, collaboration, and shared experiences can have on shaping a more equitable and empowering future. Armed with newfound knowledge and a renewed sense of purpose, we are committed to championing inclusivity, breaking down barriers, and fostering opportunities for all.

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