Perhaps the most uplifting personal account shared at the WDN Employability Conference was offered by Brian McSweeney, a young man with a disability who works with Costa Coffee in Ardkeen.
“I had to do an interview, I had to answer a lot of questions and I was delighted when I got the job,” he told delegates at Dooley’s Hotel. “I got the bus to go to work, I wear a uniform in work and I clean the tables there. I fill and empty the dishwasher, put the cups on the shelf and have fun with the staff I work with.”
Brian added: “I love working and I get paid. I feel part of the Costa family and I feel independent – and I love the hot chocolate!”
Said his employer Nicola Byrne: “I must admit, at first, that I was a little bit nervous, as I’d never worked with anyone with a disability before, so I didn’t know what to expect.
“But now I can say I can’t imagine coming in on a Tuesday or Thursday and Brian not being there – he is absolutely, 100 per cent part of our little family at Costa. Brian comes along to our nights out and our birthday parties, and there is absolutely no difference between Brian and everyone else on the staff – if I’d 10 Brians, I’d be so happy!”
Ms Byrne added: “We showed Brian how to do the floor and the dishwasher and he took to it instantly – he’s on the same contract as everyone else on the team – and if I could employ him seven days a week, I’d be thrilled. We don’t see Brian any differently and we love having him work with us, and I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Said John McDonald: “It’s great to have an employee standing up at a gathering like this and telling all of us how much he loves his job when you think about all of us who moan a bit too much. So to have Brian and Nicola giving us such a wonderful insight was very welcome.”