North east disabled youngsters get set for work

17 July 2017

Disabled youngsters across the north east are set to benefit from brand new work experience placements across a range of industries, in a bid to help narrow the disability employment gap. 

Currently, disabled people are nearly four times more likely to be unemployed by age 26 than their non-disabled peers. For those who have a learning disability, the gap is even higher, with only 6% in paid employment.

Furthermore, almost a third (30%) of disabled 16-24 year olds are not in education, employment or training, compared to only 9% of non-disabled people in the same age group.

Leonard Cheshire Disability’s new pilot scheme in the north east will aim to tackle this by offering work placements specifically designed for young disabled people aged 16-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), who are in secondary or further education.

Currently, two thirds (66%) of employers believe that work experience is a critical or significant factor when they are hiring young people.

Called ‘ChangeNow’, the project will find accessible work experience for 100 students during its pilot year, working with with local employers across the North East Local Enterprise Partnership region (Newcastle, County Durham, Gateshead, North & South Tyneside and Sunderland). 

The scheme’s launch was one of the new support programmes highlighted at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP’s) ‘North East Ambition’ event at The Crowne Plaza, Newcastle on Friday 14 July.

This event launched the LEP’s dedicated careers programme, which aims to ensure that every young person in the north east can identify routes into work, supported through experience and exposure to the world of work.

ChangeNow youth employment officer Lauren Carr said:

‘Offering work experience at a younger age will support young people to make more informed choices about their future and to help them achieve their ambitions.

‘Young disabled people face significant disadvantages in the education system and labour market, negatively impacting their ability to transition effectively into adulthood and employment.

‘We know young disabled people in both mainstream and special education have aspirations for their future. However, the support available to them can be limiting and schools and colleges can struggle to find accessible work experience placements for their students.’

ChangeNow will be working in partnership with local specialist schools, mainstream schools, colleges and pupil referral units within Northumberland, Sunderland, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, County Durham and Newcastle to identify students who can benefit from ChangeNow. 

This follows the charity’s previous success working with employers on placements for disabled graduates.

SABMiller group talent management director Sharon Peake said of their work placement graduate, Anna:

‘What may have felt like a big deal at the beginning, turned out to be really straightforward and easy. It hasn’t taken much to accommodate Anna’s needs.

‘In return she was a valued member of the team and has delivered some amazing outputs. [It’s] not just an opportunity for the disabled student; it has been an amazing experience for us at SABMiller.’

Anna said:

‘[The placement] has had a huge impact on me and my career.

‘I would never have been able to secure the internship by myself and it has given me much-needed office skills. I used to feel very daunted at the prospect of going for jobs, but now have so much more confidence.’

The charity is looking forward to the many success stories that will arise from ChangeNow.

If any schools, colleges or employers would to take part or would like to receive more information please email Lauren Carr or call 07715 236 570.

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