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The power of plumbing

Photo: Thanks to his confidence, Jayden isn't worried about going into people's homes for plumbing work

Jayden’s always wanted to defy people’s expectations and, with his achievements in dance, the changes he’s made as head boy, and three BTECs under his belt, he’s certainly done that.

He may only be 18 years old, but Jayden who loves dancing, is a wise head on young shoulders. “It’s weird, but I love the mistakes I’ve made in dance the most,” Jayden says. “I once made a huge mistake while performing with my dance company. I spun round too far and did half the dance facing the back wall instead of the front! Everyone was laughing but my dance teacher loved it so we changed the routine to that.”

Jayden, who’s profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants, has just finished his final year at deaf-specialist residential school Mary Hare. It was quite a difficult end to education for Jayden as he had to leave school in April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown. “It felt strange and disappointing,” Jayden explains. “I wasn’t able to say proper goodbyes and our last big event was cancelled. I haven’t been able to sign as much at home as I was doing at school.”

Jayden uses a mixture of speech and British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate, but is the only deaf person in his family and uses speech at home. He was diagnosed as deaf as a toddler. “My mum says she would call my name and I wouldn’t respond,” Jayden says. “They took me to hospital as they were a bit worried. Both my parents grew up in Jamaica and they had no knowledge of deafness.”

But he’s never let that hold him back, and, despite challenges, including the lockdown during his final exams, has successfully completed BTECs in plumbing, performing arts and music technology. “I’ve always enjoyed using my hands and building things, like Lego,” Jayden says. “I hate working in offices or anything to do with writing. After my first week doing my plumbing BTEC, I was so obsessed with it that I decided I wanted to be a plumber. It’s all about logic. Knowing about  plumbing feels like a special power.”

Now Jayden is looking for an apprenticeship in plumbing and is working with an adviser from the National Apprenticeship Service, who’s helping to match him to an appropriate placement.

“Sally, from the National Apprenticeship Service, has taken my CV and we’ve had an interview over the phone where we spoke about what sort of apprenticeship I wanted,” Jayden says. “My main priority was that it was deaf-friendly, otherwise I didn’t mind. I’ve got an interview in a few weeks’ time through this scheme so fingers crossed!”

Although Jayden isn’t a big fan of writing, this wasn’t his main bugbear when he had to make a CV. “It was really difficult because I had too much to put on it!” Jayden laughs. “I’ve had a lot of experience in design technology, I do a lot of sports, I’m chairman of the school council so I’m good with time management, and I’m head boy as well. I couldn’t fit it all on one page!”

"I've always been confident talking to people when I don't know them."

Sometimes deaf young people are put off customer-facing roles due to worries about communication, but Jayden explains why that shouldn’t be a barrier. “I’ve always been confident talking to people when I don’t know them. I’ve worked in my school’s diner as a server and a security manager before. It was hard being a server because it was so noisy but I loved being a security manager. At one point I even thought about being a bodyguard for famous people!

“Because of my confidence, I’m not worried about going into people’s houses as a plumber. I won’t mind telling them I’m deaf and that they need to turn around or turn the TV off.

“You can also get a badge or card to give to people before you enter their home or business that tells them you’re deaf. You can write on that card or badge the best way to communicate with you, for example to write things down. It just opens up the barrier to communication. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing when I get my apprenticeship.”

While Jayden has made a big decision about his future career, he’s also keen to keep up with his hobbies, and music has always been a huge part of his life.

“My mum said I’ve been dancing since I came out of her womb,” Jayden laughs. “I taught myself from a really young age, but my cochlear implant made a huge difference. Before, I could only feel the kicks in the music but after, I could hear it more clearly and dance to the beat. Once I got my second implant at 11, I started noticing all the other instruments too. Other people would say, ‘Oh I never heard that in the music, but you showed it to me through dance.’

“Dance is the thing that calms me down when I’m stressed or upset or angry.”

"My mum said I've been dancing since I came out of her womb."

Jayden was one of the first deaf young people to win a place at his dance company and, as always, he was keen to defy expectations. “After seeing me and some of my other friends, the company were like ‘Deaf people are really good at dancing!’ So now they’ve been looking for more deaf people to join. It feels good to change people’s opinions.”

With so many hobbies and achievements already under his belt, Jayden is looking forward to a bright future. “When I was younger, people used to put me down because I was deaf,” Jayden says. “My biggest challenge was to try and get them to see that deaf people can do anything and everything. That’s my inspiration.”