Call to companies to employ more young people with learning difficulties

At Derwen, we support young adults to achieve their goals. For many, the ambition is a job, which for most us doesn’t seem like an unreasonable expectation, does it? 

Supported intern Maisy  stands next to a restaurant table that she has laid out for a table-laying competition.
Maisy is a hard-working, polite and chatty intern, who is looking to work in a restaurant or cafe.

Our Supported Internship programme aims to help young people hone the work skills they’ve learnt with us as students. But we need more businesses to provide work placements. We need businesses from Shrewsbury and Telford, in the Hospitality and Retail sectors, so if you’re a restaurant, cafe, shop, office, or hotel, you can help!

Derwen College wants local enterprises to back their life-changing supported internship programme, which is an introduction into employment for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

It’s the ideal opportunity for businesses who would like to become more inclusive to see how employing a person with SEND could work in their company. We ask employers to offer regular weekly voluntary work during term time, with the potential of offering the intern employment at the end of the year if they are capable and independent. The College is confident that they will be!

Derwen College has a range of brilliant young people who need the opportunity to hone their skills with just a bit of extra support from a college-supplied job coach.

Could you help JT towards finding employment?

Capable potential employees looking for vital work opportunities include JT, from Telford, who is interested in a career in retail or business.

JT is a student at Derwen College Telford; he is 18 years old and is autistic. JT likes to work in customer-facing environments and understands the importance of customer care and how good customer service can benefit a company. He also has good money handling skills.

JT has completed work experience placements at Derwen College print shop, charity shop, garden centre and on a Derwen stall at Much Wenlock Market. He also enjoys a weekly external placement at Jolly Good Eggs Farm shop, in Telford. JT completes tasks such as visual merchandising, stock checks, pricing, stock rotation, serving customers on the till. He is able to complete admin-based tasks with confidence such as printing, trimming and laminating.

Could your business offer Maisy a work placement?

Or there’s Maisy, a polite and hard-working Hospitality & Food student, who is looking for work at a cafe or restaurant. Maisy has worked in the College’s Orangery Restaurant, Garden Café, Hotel 751 and Food Centre. She has won medals in Restaurant Service skills competitions, and has enjoyed external work placements at McDonalds and Gobowen’s Station Café.

The College is particularly keen to find supported internship placements in the Telford and Shrewsbury areas in a business admin, retail or hospitality environment

Many employers in the county are keen to diversify their workforce, and create a more inclusive environment. A lack of understanding can sometimes hold them back, says Derwen College Work Experience and Supported Internship Coordinator Abi Baker.

Student JT enjoying using the printing equipment in Karten Print Shop.
JT is looking for a weekly placement in a retail or business environment.

Abi and her team are doing everything they can to support businesses to work with employees with learning difficulties. Creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce can be an incredibly fulfilling experience, with employers reporting an increase in motivation in the workplace.

Just a day a week in a work environment provides vital experience for interns which helps them towards employment and a more independent future. Interns are supported at work by a Derwen College job coach, with this support tapering off as the intern becomes more independent. The College also supports employers on how to make their environment more inclusive, this is usually far simpler and less expensive then employers might believe.

‘An intern is a real asset to a business’

Work experience and Supported Internship co-ordinator Abi Baker said:

“An intern can be a real asset to a business. Businesses that we work say they have found it a rewarding thing to do. Offering internships and employment to a person with a learning difficulty promotes diversity and boosts a company’s reputation for being community-minded and inclusive.”

What our current work providers say …

Agri-cation CIC, in Wrexham, provide a weekly placement for an intern.

They said: “She is such a wonderful engaging individual that fits into any role given to her at Agri-cation CIC. Her approach to challenges is very constructive, and she is keen to ask questions to make sure she understands the task at hand so that she can apply her knowledge and skills to get a desirable outcome. I am impressed with her creative abilities and each week she uses this talent to create beautiful recycled items to help develop our sensory garden. She is a joy to work with and I would recommend that people engage in this programme to create opportunity not only for the student but the employer themselves.”

Weston Park, near Shifnal, work another supported inter on a Horticulture placement.

They said: “He has been incredibly helpful during his time with us so far. He and his PA have tidied up an area that we haven’t had time to look after for some years. It now looks fantastic and it is all down to them!”

This year, Derwen College has been awarded a prestigious Queen’s Award for Business for Promoting Inclusion. Last week, the college won an award for ‘Pathways into Employment’ from Natspec – the leading membership association for specialist education providers.

To find out more about offering work opportunities to a young person with SEND, please contact Abi Baker on abi.baker@derwen.ac.uk


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