When Joshua Dickinson joined the CBI events team for a two-week work experience programme in July 2019 both parties got more out of it than they were expecting. Joshua was part of a group of five candidates from a scheme run by Mencap, a UK charity for people with learning disabilities, who the CBI partnered with earlier this year.
Joshua made a big enough impression in the two weeks that he worked with the team that when final weeks of preparation for the 2019 CBI Annual Conference arrived and they needed to hire a temporary events administrator, he was interviewed and offered a paid fixed-term contract to return for five weeks.
“When Mencap first contacted me about the role I thought it was a joke, so I was trying to think of a witty response,” said Joshua. “But they persuaded me that they were serious and that it didn’t come from them pushing the CBI into it.” It was, in fact, the opposite, with the CBI very much being the driver in bringing Joshua back to the organisation.
On his return, Joshua was trained on the systems he’d be using and additional support from Corporate Services at the CBI’s head office allowed for adjustments to be made to his workstation to support him in carrying out the role to his full potential. This enabled Joshua to work at relieving some of the pressure from the events team during their biggest and most important pinch point of the year.
A huge event like an annual conference brings with it a mountain of correspondence and with Joshua’s support the team dealt with over 1,800 emails as well as a large volume of telephone enquiries in the month that he was there.
“He took a massive amount of pressure off the team,” said CBI Head of Events, Elaine Anderson-Wright, who line-managed Joshua. “The week before he arrived, we were drowning in emails. We were at capacity delivering the event anyway but managing the inbox on top of that was horrendous.”
Having Joshua in the team not only alleviated that pressure but it also provided a development opportunity for someone to train and build their people management skills – valuable experience for someone who had never previously managed anyone in that way.
Like many people in similar circumstances, Joshua is keen to take up full-time paid employment, but his experiences of past interviews have left him feeling less confident than he should. “I’ve been to interviews and tried to explain my circumstances to employers,” he said. “I need some flexibility to attend medical appointments. I won’t say that I’ve lost jobs because of it but it certainly hasn’t helped.”
The flexible working arrangements offered at the CBI have helped Joshua work around his medical appointments without issue. And the confidence gained from having paid employment experience should prove invaluable going forward.
On the day of the conference, Joshua helped meet and greet delegates at the main entrance to the event, dealing with any issues and answering queries they may have had before moving inside later in the day to provide support to the media desk. Working on the front-line of a big media event like that gave him the opportunity to practice his people skills and experience working in an environment that was a little out of his comfort zone.
Overall, Joshua’s experience working with the CBI has taught him vital lessons as he continues on his career path. Along with the newfound confidence gained from being asked to come back in the first place – something he described as the aspect he’s most proud of from his time here. But he has also learned the value in taking an opportunity, no matter how short-term it may be. “When I started looking for work earlier this year, I said to myself that I wouldn’t take any contracts under a certain length because to my mind they weren’t worth it,” he said. “I would now because if this has taught me anything it’s that you never know what’s around the corner.”
Joshua’s experience with the CBI has been an overwhelmingly positive one for all involved and the support he provided the events team was vital. It also proved that any barriers in the way of him being able to work in the role were perceived ones. And that with the help of technology, a supportive culture and the relevant teams working together, helped enable Joshua to have a positive experience and start realising and fulfilling his potential.
The CBI is a Disability Confident employer. To attract diverse talent, we partner with specialist recruitment organisations such as Inclusive Boards, Astriid and Mencap. We also provide work experience placement opportunities as well as having a mental health strategy to support employees and managers around wellbeing and mental health.
In September this year, the CBI committed to supporting The Valuable 500 - a global movement to put disability on the business leadership agenda.