College strikes gold

Posted on in Community services

Middlesbrough College has picked up a highly sought after North East Better Health at Work Gold Award.

Karen Harrison

Karen Harrison

The Gold Award is one of only two handed out in Middlesbrough in the last 12 months.

And Karen Harrison, student engagement officer, is among the staff and students to celebrate the achievement.

The award is given to companies who meet strict criteria, including actively promoting health issues, banishing bullying and involving the wider community in health improvement events.

Karen, 32, from Guisborough, has multiple sclerosis.

In the three years she has worked at Middlesbrough College the level of support she’s received to help overcome the potentially debilitating condition has been “fantastic”.

She said: “It’s not just practical help – like software and pieces of equipment – as an employer Middlesbrough College also provides a huge amount of emotional support.

“They’ve paid for acupuncture sessions, which really help alleviate some of the symptoms, and provided counselling sessions which allowed me to talk through some of the psychological challenges.”

Karen was first employed at the college in 2009 as a hairdressing lecturer and was supported in this role but as her MS began to affect more areas of her life – including her eyesight and mobility – she took the decision to redeploy.

Since making that decision last year the college has done everything it could to support her through the transition.

She’s now a student engagement officer in the student services department and provides support and advice to health and social care students.

To enable Karen to fulfil her role the college has provided her with specialist computer software which magnifies text and responds to voice commands, a phone purpose-made for those with visual impairments, and a larger-than-average keyboard.

To further assist Karen the College also identified external sources of support, including financial help towards travel costs, as the deterioration in her eyesight meant she had to surrender her driving licence.

Mike Hopkins, principal and chief executive, said: “We’re thrilled to receive this award, it’s very well-deserved recognition for all those who strive tirelessly to make Middlesbrough College the best place to work and study in the Tees Valley.”

The awards are organised by Public Health North East and are intended to improve workplace health thereby resulting in reducing absence and staff turnover and increasing productivity.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust health improvement team delivers the award services in partnership with other assessors across the region.

Middlesbrough College will be presented with the award at a glittering ceremony in March and plans to further develop its range of health activities for staff and students.