Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Help Learners with SEND into the Workplace

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Help Learners with SEND into the Workplace

Article excerpt

The principal of a special needs college shares her tips for setting up a programme to develop professional skills

In August 2013, the government introduced traineeships for young people who wish to get an apprenticeship or find other employment but lack the basic skills and experience that employers are looking for.

At Orchard Hill College, we grasped this initiative and ran with it for our students with special needs and I believe that it's going very well. As principal and chief executive of the college, I know that our students have the potential to do amazing things: they just need the right support and help.

Working with the whole community - local authorities, councillors and employers - can help to alter how people with special needs are viewed and ensure that they are recognised for the amazing things that they can offer, rather than them just being seen as recipients of care.

Often when our students come to us, they have had bad experiences and our job is to find their skillset and what motivates them. If we can do that, they simply fly.

We're very well established with traineeships. Our most successful programme is with Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital - we're in our third year with them now.

What started out as a pilot in 2013 has ended up as an exemplar. Staff at the hospital have an unwaveringly positive attitude towards the traineeship programme.

Traineeships enable us to reach and help those who have milder learning difficulties, as well as the Neets (those not in education, employment or training). Last academic year, we were able to put 41 students successfully through traineeships, working with various employers including the Peabody Trust, Places for People, Crystal Palace Football Club, Oxfam and lots more.

We've had some positive outcomes. Riccado couldn't get an apprenticeship because of his health needs, so he did his traineeship at Guy's and St Thomas'. He's now a full-time sales adviser for Dixons at Gatwick Airport.

Fern overcame some significant barriers, including ADHD. She completed a traineeship with Oxfam and now has a job at Kingfisher Leisure Centre. And there are many more stories like this.

At Orchard Hill, we don't present individual traineeships to students - such as bricklaying or hairdressing. Instead we say: "Come in, let's see what you're about, what you have to offer and let's see what we can find for you. …

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