Business Disability Forum

An employer-led group has recommended action to help young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) make the transition from education to employment. Action includes employers offering more supported internships, opening up apprenticeships to more young people with SEND, and better careers advice. 

The Transitions to Employment Group was chaired by former Lloyds Banking Group senior manager Graeme Whippy MBE, who said: “Every year, around 120,000 young people with SEND join the labour market from education, with up to four times the risk of unemployment. Stemming this ‘pipeline’ is crucial to cutting the disability employment rate and ensuring that all young people have a fair chance. At the moment, opportunities are being missed.”

The Group reviewed evidence, and drew on the knowledge of a wide range of practitioners, experts and employers. They found powerful examples of employers working in partnership with education and training providers, but not enough. They have written to Disability Minister, Justin Tomlinson to recommend five practical steps to make a difference:

  • A call to action for employers – build into Disability Confident a commitment to key steps flowing from the Transitions work, such as recruiting supported interns and disabled trainees/apprentices, working with schools, colleges and recruitment agencies.
  • A rapid expansion in Supported Internships – these work well for young people with moderate to severe learning difficulties. But they should be expanded, and offered by more employers and education providers.
  • Extend the internship approach to more students – Elements of the internship model (such as job coaches) can improve employment progression for students with milder impairments, making traineeships and apprenticeships inclusive and effective for all.
  • Make success mainstream – raise expectations for success and increase leverage in mainstream programmes, ending acceptance of poor outcomes for young people with SEND, helping them navigate successfully to employment.
  • An inclusive careers strategy – the forthcoming Department for Education careers strategy should address concerns about the disconnect between careers and disability advice. The National Careers Service, the Careers and Enterprise Company and partners (including Jobcentre Plus) should act to improve outcomes for young people with SEND.

Dr Nasser Siabi OBE, CEO of Microlink PC, was an active member of the Group. He said: “There are some clear pointers here for how we can help more young people prosper in the workplace. More work experience opportunities, better help for young people making the step into work, and smoother transitions from support in education to support in the workplace. None of these things should be hard to achieve.”

Click here to download the Through Learning to Earning report (PDF)

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