BUSINESS BOOST FOR EMPLOYABILITY THROUGH SUPPORTED INTERNSHIPS

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Young people with special educational needs and disabilities are being supported into work through a new internship programme led by North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College(NWSLC) in partnership with local and regional businesses.

National Grid Meteringand Nuneaton Signs are already on board with the programme and are providing work placements for students that aim to see them move into paid employment. As a large employer in the area with over 600 staff, NWSLC has also made a commitment to offering five supported internships within its own teams with placements in sports, floristry, construction, automotive and catering already in place.

Tom Blount and Scott Edmondhave already started work at National Grid Metering where they have been introduced to the systems and processes involved in the customer servicecentre, the metering department, and the IT support team. Students Warren Evans, Darren Sneddon and Connor Deakin have recently joined Nuneaton Signs which has manufactured signs, stickers, and banners since 1982.

The new scheme was officially launched at the college’s Nuneaton Campus with a formal induction and NWSLC is calling on more employers from across the region to lend their support by offering new supported internships.

Faye Dowling, Change Specialist & Employability Lead (Solihull) for National Grid Metering said, “Tom and Scott started with National Grid Metering in September, and we have never seen such a huge transition in confidence and abilities in such a short period of time. Within just five weeks both Tom and Scott were independently organising their own workload, learning multiple systems and processes, taking part in team meetings and community projects, and have even delivered ‘All About Me’ presentations to our employability team.”

Holly Hunter, Social Impact Officer for Nuneaton Signs said, “Our business was originally founded as a sheltered workshop to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities. Getting involved with the college’s scheme enables us to extend our reach to young people and help them to bridge the gap between education and employment. We have over 60 members of staff and 65 per cent have at least one disability. We have 20 mentors within our workforce and everyone at Nuneaton Signs was pleased to welcome Warren, Darren and Connor and are now helping them to settle in.”

Marion Plant, Principal and Chief Executive of NWSLC said, “We were delighted to host our students and employer partners at the launch of this scheme which provides a vital stepping-stone for young people with special educational needs and disabilities. The scheme is structured so that students benefit from the support of a dedicated job coach to help them adapt to the demands of their new work routine and have someone to check-in with them on a regular basis. This is very important for these students and helps to make sure that they remain in the placement and thrive, moving on to paid employment when the time is right.

“We’re grateful to our employer partners who have helped us to secure placements for our first intake of students, and we are happy to support the scheme ourselves by offering the opportunity for students to work at the college in a variety of roles from sports coach to catering assistant. With around 100 students currently enrolled in our foundation learning programme, it will be important to develop a robust pipeline of future opportunities so we urge businesses to get in touch if they feel that they can offer a placement to one of our students.”

Supported internships are structured study programmes designed to enable young people with special educational needs and disabilities to achieve sustainable, paid employment by equipping them with the skills they need for work through learning in the workplace. Internships normally last for a year and include unpaid work placements of at least six months. Wherever possible, they support the young person to move into paid employment at the end of the programme. Students complete a personalised study programme which includes the chance to study for relevant substantial qualifications, if suitable, and English and maths to an appropriate level.

Organisations that are interested in finding out more about offering a supported internship should get in touch withPaula Jeffries at NWSLC by email at paula.jeffries@nwslc.ac.uk

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