Work internships for young people with special educational needs and disabilities

The project aims to increase the number of education providers offering supported internships, resulting in more young people with complex SEND getting work placements leading to paid employment. It is funded by the Department for Education as part of the budget for colleges and aims at providing real life skills and foster independence in trainees.

The pilot scheme, to be implemented in September 2015 involves four colleges: Henley, Banbury & Bicester, City of Oxford and Abingdon & Witney. These will provide the learning support, particularly with English and maths to 20 trainees. The launch events later this month will help strengthen the network, recruit trainees, and get the support from carers and employers.

The unpaid internships will last for 12 months and will expose the interns to different roles within a large private company environment with the potential for a permanent job at the end of it or a progression route. These personalised internships differ from traineeships and apprenticeships with extra workplace and learning support.

Changing perceptions and contributing to the community

For employers, supported internships open access to: recruits via the council with specialist job matching skills, in-work training provided by the job coach, disability awareness training, increased diversity of the workforce, a chance to participate in a ground breaking project and contribute to the community.

Oxfordshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Families, Cllr Melinda Tilley said: “The council is proud to support this pilot and create foundations for the colleges to take it on and develop it further in the future.

We hope employers in the area will realise this is an opportunity to participate in a scheme that brings benefits to the community by increasing employability of people with complex learning disabilities and help them succeed in their career, as well as challenging perceptions around disabilities”.

Ruth Collins, Mencap's Education and Employment Service Manager in Oxford, added: “Mencap is pleased to be in this partnership.  Around 80% of working age people with a learning disability in the UK could work but less than 10% are currently in employment.  This is not good enough.

“Schemes like this make a huge difference for people with a learning disability by developing the skills that they need to enter the job market.  We hope more employers work with us so we can get more people with a learning disability into employment.”