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Date: 1 December 2020

Time: 05:44

Charlie Beddows receives his award

Apprentice overcomes stammer to scoop top award and land dream hospital job

Story posted/last updated: 10 January 2017

A Birmingham apprentice has overcome a debilitating stammer to win an award for customer service and land a job working in a top hospital.

Charlie Beddows - an apprentice at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust - completed an apprenticeship as a receptionist at the organisation’s Learning Hub.

His commitment to overcoming a stammer that had held him back throughout his life not only saw him publically recognised with the Trust’s 2016 ‘Brighter Future’s Award’ but also saw him successfully secure his first permanent role at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

Charlie said he was overwhelmed to receive the Brighter Futures Award, presented by Olympic gymnast Kristian Thomas (see picture attached), and hopes to inspire other young people to seek support and follow their dreams.

Charlie left Halesowen College in July 2015 having achieved a distinction in Level 2 Health and Social Care. For many youngsters this would have been enough to get them their dream job, but for Charlie, landing a position was more difficult.

“I do suffer with a stammer. I have had a stammer since I was little. I was born 16 weeks premature. I was really poorly and I had life-saving surgery to connect an artery to my lung at the age of 15 days old. In total I spent 134 days in hospital before I was well enough to go home and I was even in the local newspaper when I celebrated my first birthday. I am also one of triplets.

“I left college thinking ‘what I am going to do?’ I had let my stammer control me. I was so nervous all the time and I was always worried what other people at school and college were thinking.

“I always used to get upset and cry a lot. I remember being at the doctor’s in floods of tears because I found it really hard to speak and or to even talk about my stammer. I remember at school and college I found it very difficult to get my point across and complete group tasks. At home my speech was a bit better – I think this is because I was more relaxed.”

After leaving college Charlie completed the Innovate course at The Learning Hub to help him apply for an apprenticeship with the Trust.

“I had an interview in the January for an apprentice position. I was so nervous for this. There were three people on the panel and I remember really struggling with my speech.

“Having a stammer is not a physical disability. When we speak to people the first thing that people do is say hello and I struggled to say hello or even yes to a register. So in October 2015, when I came across The Starfish Project, an organisation which provides four-day intensive speech courses, I booked on.

“I told the interview panel that I had booked myself on a speech course and then I just burst into tears. I think it was the fear of the unknown and the realisation of what I was going to do.

“I wasn’t actually successful in my first apprenticeship interview but a few hours later they phoned me up to say The Learning Hub had offered me some work experience. I went from being so sad to being extremely happy.

“I started my work experience in January, having not yet gone on the speech course. I generally shadowed people in the office and I didn’t even go near the phone. I had another interview at end of January for the apprentice position and I was successful – I was so excited.

“In February 2016 I went on the course; it was the most emotional and intense few days of my life. I think all of the emotion that I must have built up over 15 plus years just poured out of me. I remember getting dropped in Sussex and I felt sick. I was incredibly nervous. This was also the first time I met other people who had a stammer. It was also the first time I had done anything about my speech.

“On the first day we had to create a video in front of everybody on the course. There were people from all walks of life from young people to those in their 50s and 60s. It was the scariest and hardest thing I have even done! After each day ended we would then practice the technique in everyday situations, for example, ordering from a menu.

“For me using the telephone was the most difficult of all! We had to practice using the phone and call up the people in the room. Then we had to do a ‘real’ phone call to the public.

“On the last day of the course we were all so tired and emotionally drained but we went into Eastbourne and tried out the techniques we had learnt. For the first time in my life I could say my name to a member of the public with control and it felt amazing!

“On the very first day back at The Learning Hub I used the phone for the first time and I was able to phone up 30 clients; I will never forget that! Everybody at the Learning Hub was so happy for me and could not believe how much the course helped. They even let me go back to teach the technique to young people and their parents. To be on the other side and able to teach the breathing technique to a young person in front of 40 people was another amazing experience.

“I practice my breathing every day. I have to do that because I will always have a stammer, but it’s a great feeling that I am able to control it. Sometimes I have broken down and have been a bit low, but I pick myself up by going back to basics with the technique and the knowledge that there is so much support from the people from Starfish, the people at work and my fantastic family.

“I have just completed an apprenticeship with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, where believe it or not, I worked on a reception desk meeting students who are attending the different courses we run at the Hub.

“I pinch myself every day that I’m doing the job I’m doing because not in a million years did I think I would be able to do what I’m doing.”

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