A YOUNG woman from Gwynedd who has Down Syndrome has given an insight into a day in her working life - to encourage other people with learning disabilities to find out more about apprenticeships.

Sarah-Jayne Mawdsley from Caernarfon is a pharmacy apprentice assistant at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor.

The 19-year-old has Mosaic Down Syndrome, a condition that affects just one in 100,000 people in the UK.

The condition means that Sarah-Jayne has two or more types of different cells in her genetic make-up.

She left school with several GCSEs but like many teenagers didn’t know what she wanted to do next. That was when she joined 'Project Search' - a one-year internship programme supporting people with learning disabilities to gain skills and experience to move into paid employment.

Sarah-Jayne says that after taking on work experience at the Bangor Hospital, she hopes to secure a full-time job there in the near future.

"I love being an apprentice here and I’m looking forward to an exciting career in pharmacy," she said.

"They put me to work on reception in the dispensary because they said I proved quickly that I was good at the job.

"Most days I’ll do everything from taking prescriptions to answering the phone, greeting patients and advising them on waiting times. I’ve recently taken on new admin duties like filing and scanning. I love my job. I’m happiest at work when I’m busy.”

Sarah-Jayne says that, by giving an insight into a day in her working life, she can show that anyone else with the same or similar condition(s) can achieve the same success.

"Having Mosaic Down Syndrome makes me push myself harder," she added.

"I now want to help other people with the condition as not a lot is known about it, and if I can help by raising awareness of the opportunities available as an apprentice in Wales, then that’s a start.

"Having this condition doesn’t stop me from doing anything and I think it’s so important that people talk about it. I watched a video on Facebook about a nursery school teacher in Argentina who had Down Syndrome and it really inspired me to work hard so that I can do anything I want to do."

Traditionally, there has been under-representation from protected groups on the apprenticeship programme in Wales with only 1.5% declaring themselves as having a disability or health condition. The Welsh Government is concerned that this figure is is disproportionate to the disabled population in Wales and is now launching the ‘Inclusive Apprenticeships - Disability Action Plan’ which aims to drive a culture change and remove barriers to participation for disabled people.

In Wales, it’s funded as part of the Welsh Government-supported Engage to Change project. The scheme helped her to start a Skills for Life and Work course at Llangefni College and she went on to work part-time in a shop. She’s now working towards NVQ Level 2 in Pharmacy Services and in Customer Services, on a two-year apprenticeship at the hospital.

Sarah-Jayne’s employer, chief pharmacy technician, Lynne Roberts, thinks it’s just the start for the pharmacy team’s first ever apprentice.

"Having Sarah-Jayne on the team has had benefits for everyone," she said.

"She’s fantastic in the role. It’s helped her confidence immensely and it’s helped us to develop our organisational skills.”

Lynne added that she hopes Sarah-Jayne will stay with the team once her apprenticeship comes to an end.