A PORT Glasgow man who lives with autism says support from the team at a gardening hub has helped him grow in confidence.

Cameron Tracey, 26, has been part of the team at Parklea Branching Out in Port Glasgow since 2018.

A popular figure at the hub, Cameron is involved in operations management - and mucks in with everything from planting seedlings to working heavy machinery.

Cameron found out about Parklea on a work experience placement while he was studying at James Watt College.

He carried on volunteering at the hub throughout his course and was thrilled to take on an 18-month paid post at the horticultural hub through the Community Jobs Scotland scheme, which runs in partnership with SCVO.

The employability programme creates job opportunities for people aged 16-29 who are the most disadvantaged in the labour market - including people who are care experienced, Armed Forces service leavers, and people who have disabilities.

Cameron says learning about everything involved in the day-to-day running of Parklea has really helped him live well with his condition.

He said: "I was doing woodwork at college but I realised I wanted to be outdoors.

"I did some work experience at Parklea and really enjoyed it.

"I knew nothing about gardening at all when I started but now I know about all of the stages that plants go through.

"I started in the autumn and I got the chance to work on the cultivator machine and the hydraulic log splitter.

"I learn about so many different things and it helps me a lot with my autism."

Customers got to know Cameron well last year when he was in charge of managing the traffic moving in and out of the hub when stringent coronavirus restrictions were in place.

He says meeting people and getting to know his colleagues has helped him come out of his shell and become more confident.

Cameron said: "The team are brilliant here.

"I was quite shy when I started but one of the guys noticed and started talking me and it made me feel less nervous."

Cameron's Community Jobs Scotland contract has now ended and he's back to volunteering but he's hopeful that he'll get a paid position before long.

He continues to receive support in his employability journey within the Branching Out social enterprise.

He's also keen to pass on everything he's learning to students on outdoor working courses at college.

Cameron added: "When the college starts back again, I would love to give a talk to the students who are just starting, telling them about what I'm doing and how the work experience helped me."

Parklea administrator Darren Murray said: "Cameron continues to be an asset within the organisation - not just in terms of helping the staff team but also through offering support to new participants, volunteers and our visiting customers during our social enterprise activities."