Daisy Chain was Apple support specialist iStation’s first business contract so when they needed an extra pair of hands, there was only one place to look.

Owner Bryan Holmes had no hesitation taking on a supported work placement from the charity, which supports families affected by autism across the Tees Valley.

His four-year-old business has been supporting Daisy Chain’s computer network for three years and 18 months ago, the business moved into new premises on Silver Street in Stockton.

After a number of years working in IT for large multi-national organisations, Bryan decided to go it alone and set up iStation, which specialises in support and maintenance of Apple products including consultancy, training and repairs. iStation is also part of the Apple Consultants Network approved to work on their products – the only Consultant in the Teesside area.

As the business grew, he brought on board his fiancée, Kelly, to help with further growth but also needed more help. Bryan explains, “We did initially look for an apprentice but finding the right person was becoming frustrating. When Daisy Chain said they thought they had found the right person who would suit us, they were right.”

Connor O’Reilly, 19, started the work placement some weeks ago and has instantly flourished in the role.

Says Bryan, “He has a natural ability to work with IT and learns very quickly so that is excellent. We worked with Daisy Chain to put everything in place to ensure Connor was happy and comfortable in the workplace and he has already grown in confidence. Initially, Connor worked one day a week for four hours but now works two full days each week.

“One thing he wasn’t comfortable with was being customer-facing, he thought he would find that intimidating but his confidence has grown so much he has spent some time looking after the shop and dealing with customers which is fantastic.”

Connor says, “I love working at iStation. I really enjoy problem-solving with computers and I am good with technology so it suits me. Working with Apple products was new to me but I love learning it all.”

Bryan adds, “It’s important to get the right trainee in the right place so they can feel supported and able to do the work. We worked with Daisy Chain for some time to find the right person and that’s what makes it work so well.

“We had some time to get to know Connor, he was so enthusiastic I knew he would be the right person. We start the day going through what needs to be done so he is clear what will be happening. He’s very bright and picks things up very easily.”

Bryan himself has a son with mild Asperger’s Syndrome so it may seem as though he has an advantage when working with someone on the autism spectrum, but he would recommend taking on a work placement from Daisy Chain, “You get matched with the right young person for you, the business and the type of role. I know we certainly want to be a business that has the experience and background to employ young people on the autism spectrum.  

“These young adults have so much to offer, it is important that they have a chance and opportunities are created. Some often find interviews too nerve-wracking and overwhelming, but you have to see past that to the real potential. 

“Connor is visited here by Daisy Chain each week so he feels supported and has the opportunity to raise any concerns. We all work together to make it work and it’s very beneficial to the business to get the right person.”

And iStation has gone a step further to support Daisy Chain, donating a MacBook Pro to the employability team. “We identified the need to be able to write reports for clients while on-site and a dedicated laptop would make that possible and assist the team in the fantastic work they do on behalf of Daisy Chain to get young people work experience and into employment.”

For more information on supported work placements or if you are an employer who would be interested in supporting a work placement student, click here.