Carving Job Opportunities at Pure Innovations

Podcast Episode 49. Job carving can help create sustainable employment opportunities according to this week’s podcast guest Neil Willows from Pure Innovations

Neil is the Assistant Internship Contract Manager at Pure Innovations which is based in Manchester in the UK. His role is focused on using supported internships to help young people gain work skills and find long-term employment. Neil explains how their supported internship programme works helping to develop real employability skills. They work with local companies to provide a range of work placements and job opportunities for young people. Ongoing support is also provided to the employer and their staff. Some have limited experience of working with young people with additional needs and so, having a support system really helps them ensure any issues are dealt with quickly and effectively.

Neil talks about how one of the most important aspects of this type of training is around building the young person’s confidence and allowing them to showcase their talent to employers. Whenever the young person experiences what might be a barrier to employment, they are helped to find ways to overcome it. The example Neil uses is a young person who struggles to tell the time which could then lead to them being late to work. Together with the young person they look at the best tools to use to overcome the issue such as using a mobile phone alarm or other prompts.

Neil also explains the concept of job carving. He talks about how it can sometimes be difficult to find suitable job roles for people with additional needs. However, through job carving where he talks to employers and helps them to identify new roles or to create jobs out of what was not previously a clearly defined job role. Many of these roles can be repetitive and so often suit young people who prefer a clearly defined role. In addition, they might be roles that the employer has not been able to define as a role because of the nature of the tasks required. Neil provides a number of examples of where job carving has led to long-term paid employment opportunities for young people.

Neil and Pure Innovations are not only helping young people build work skills and find jobs they are supporting employers by introducing to them the idea of job carving which can help them effectively fill a variety of job roles with highly motivated employees.

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Podcast Transcript
DEBRA: Welcome to episode 49 of the Journey Skills podcast. This week it’s back to work and I am talking to Neil Willows from Pure Innovations about supported internships. I’ve actually talked to quite a few people now about this model of supported internships. And it’s fun to operate around the world or be it through different organizations, some private, some charities, in different business types with different types of employers as well. And to be honest, it actually changed my ideas about what’s possible for my own daughter after she finishes full-time education. A well-structured program like the supported internship one seems to not only want to help young people identify what jobs they really interested in but the fact that the employer is supported as well does mean that the payrolls that the young people actually go into can become sustainable because that extra employer support is sometimes the difference between long-term and short-term placements. I have right me but when you listen to the podcast you do learn something new each episode, so although I knew a bit about how supported internships work, Neil know does a great job at explaining how his organization uses them, but he introduces another idea worth remembering, that Job Carving. Although the term is new to me, the idea isn’t. I’ve talked to other people about the need to find jobs that fit young people who have very specific skills, and that these jobs might not always be jobs that the employer have thought about as actually being a job as such. So Neil talks about the kind of things that they do when they carve up jobs and it works very well for them and I think it’s something other employers could look at. Another idea we touch support in the game, it’s a recurring thing, and that’s the role of us, as parents. I know we all worry about our young people, we know their vulnerabilities, and naturally, we wanna protect them, but Neil reminded me again that I would need to let go sooner rather later. So let’s hear more from Neil.

DEBRA: Today I am talking to Neil Willows who is the assistant internship contracts manager at Pure Innovations which based in North of England. Welcome, Neil.

NEIL: Hello, Debra.

DEBRA: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and also about Pure Innovations?

NEIL: I’ve worked with the Pure Innovations for the last five years. I’ve always worked on the supported internships and that’s a program that supports young people aged between 16 and 24. Those that may face barriers to get to employment, to work with them and` help them get to paid work but Pure Innovations predominantly is a charity born out of stock poor council in 2005 and we focused very happily on supported employment. We’ve got a lot of different contract with local authorities and as I’ve said before, I work on the supported internships. I’m the assistant internships contracts manager and I oversee all money’s day to day running of 11 different internships sites across Greater Manchester and if I choose to explain little bit about the model of an internship, show how it works, there’s a tri-sector partnership between a local education provider which is a college, a large host employer who provide work opportunities for us and ourselves, Pure Innovations.

[Talks about the secret to their success]

The success of the project is everybody is the same on the project on the tri-sector partnership. So for example, the large host employer that could be a- we’ve got hospitals where we’re running the internships, we’ve got media city which is in the northwest which is where BBC and ITV are as long as theaters and restaurants, Shoppes, it’s like a shopping center, all over the place. So the large host employer, they’re the project host and they provide us with a range of opportunities and work placements for young people and hopefully, that could lead to some paid employment or at least get the young people the skills they need where they can transfer and work with other employers. We have the local education provider and they are the educational leads so the college will deliver an employability qualification so the students do a mixture, it’s very work-focused but, to a mixture of a classroom-based activity which should last about an hour and a half a day then the rest is out in work placements and ourselves who are the supported employment specialist, we set the projects up, we do a joint assessment of the learners, and we do we a lot of customized negotiation with the large host employer to get work placements and try and turn those work placements into paid roles.

[Talk about how the supported internship works]

We also provide a lot of support for the employer’s staff, people who may have not worked with disabilities before or frightened with people with disabilities. One of the first things we do, we work with the employers, we go and identify work placements, we do finding job analysis. We go and do the job ourselves, we look and see how it feels like. You know, just so we know we’re sure we’re putting that person to a safe environment. So we identify those work placements. Once the students have been identified, there is a lot of setting up to do. So we make sure we do checks on them, we profile the young people, we look at the risks, what that barriers may be, what that their learning styles like, and we try and match those skills to a placement. But quite often these young people have never worked before so even though you may say “What would you like to do?”, often they don’t know. They would say “I want to work in a pet shop.” But when it comes to cleaning the animals out, that’s a different matter. So there is a lot of support with the host employer. There’s a cellphone site which is like an employment office, is where I a job coach and a tutor. We identify the work placements, we then introduce the person to the workplace with support from ourselves. You know, it could be taken a while to get somebody get used to getting to work on time.

[Talks about practicing independence]

We put things into place to get that person’s independence as quickly as possible, so if we’re working with the young person that can’t tell the time, or can’t read, we look at ways around that so they could get to work on time, whether that’s using a mobile phone to set alarms or some other kind of prompts. So our aim is to get that young person into that work placement and we do whatever it takes to get that person working independently to build their confidence and we use quite often with people that’s what we call TSI- Training in Systematic Instruction. That’s been developed back in the 1960’s by Mark Gould and he sort of identified, you know, we don’t often give people the opportunities. You know people have more potential than what people realize. So we use that technique to get that person working independently. We start to withdraw the support then that allows that young person to showcase that talent to the employer. Helps them build the confidence, somebody you could train a young person very very quickly to do the job may take half a day, one day, somebody else could take 3-4 weeks. But we do whatever we do to get that person to, you know, to build that confidence and to do the job they want to do. And where ever there is a barrier, we look at ways of overcoming that barrier by putting jigs in place. Well, we call them jigs that could be for example could be about our phone with alarm set on it, it could be picture prompts, if somebody can’t read or can’t memorize things very well. We’ll do like a task list with pictures. We can do all sorts of techniques and very quickly builds up young person’s confidence. We start to withdraw our supports roles on site and then they go and do their jobs and there’s regular monitoring with the host employer and the managers and the young person setting short-term goals and long-term goals. And eventually, they’ll start working independently.

[Talks about the challenges in practicing independence]

And while we’re doing that, they make a side “No, I don’t like doing this. I want to try something else.” which is what we can do on supported internship, we can have somebody working at a cafe and they just don’t like, that’s how we would look to find something that they do enjoy doing. And we’ll also encourage people to try jobs that they make think they don’t want to do. Once they’ve done that and then they say they aim it, runs the academic year of the supported internship which is September to June, but throughout that process, we also try to find if that person is ready to get into paid work but sustainable paid work, you can’t push them into a job. A job isn’t like for everybody. It may have helped build their confidence during the work placements, they may want to move up to voluntary work at the end of it, but the aim of the course is to people to move into paid work and help them move towards independence.

DEBRA: What are some of the biggest challenges that you’re facing? Is it with the employers, finding employers or is it the young people who, as you said, have never worked before?

NEIL: On the supported internship, we have a large host employer where we got a few hospitals in the north. And the host employer said this great, there’s certainly a lot of different job there, from on the rolls, culturing, restaurant, restroom because the host employer has pertained to it and it’s part of the program, they support it, the challenges come around when you go to that shop floor staff or the department and they educate them or work with them. People can be frightened to work with disabilities and as long as they have the support from us and you know, we don’t just leave people there, they will buy into that but I would say that could be a barrier, could be the staff. So if you get the shop floor staff on board with their managers, that helps make it a success. So, you know, but when you go externally so you will go out, somebody wants a job, say in a supermarket, so they may work with the host employee getting the skills, employability skills, but then we would go to local supermarkets.

[Talks about the process of getting partner employer]

Once I get to know and trust us, quite often they’d come to us for recruitments so if we can build a quick relationship with the employer, that’s good. Which is the initial contact when you go in, you gotta find the right person to talk to, explain what we’re about and never go in and say “We’re working with people with disabilities”, because sometimes that can just paint the picture because disability is such a wide spectrum, really. So we say “These are people with barriers, you know, into employment.” We explain what we’re about, what we support, and when they buy into that, then that’s great! But that is one of the barriers with people’s perceptions.

[Talks about weaknesses among the young people]

Another barrier is quite often some of the young people work with have never worked before, so they question their own ability. “Can I do this?”. And again, we’re all nervous when the start our new job, so you know, these young people who got support from ourselves. If somebody’s really nervous, we take that young person and meet the employer where they’re going to work in the work placements. There’s no surprise on the first day. They’ll have a job coach, employment officer with them to support. The other barrier I find can be parents and carers actually not thinking that their child or the person they’re after is not capable of doing something. They’re reluctant to want them to be traveling independently because they think they won’t be safe. And we won’t allow anybody to travel if it’s not safe. There is always risks there. I think one of the best ways to describe beneath it, a parent said to me at the end of the course where somebody got the job, she said “At the start of the course, I didn’t know where to go next. I never thought that- his name was Alex- would be able to travel on his own”. To me, this is like congratulations at a university. So, I think it’s just- everybody is different and it’s about building the trust with the parents and the carers and the young person but always being open and honest. And it’s about being open and honest with the employers as well. These young people we’re working with, some people have never worked before, they’re not gonna be an employee, to begin with. They do things wrong, they’ll arrive late for work. They may say something inappropriate. Behavior may be wrong but that’s what we’re there for is to put things into place to overcome that so the right employability skills to move into the workplace. So the barriers vary but it’s all about what the young person wants, that’s who we listen to. But as the preparation starts and people start traveling independently, they’re never gonna be supported and the confidence builds because they can do the job independently and we get good feedback from the employers.

[Talks about the next-stage set of problems]

Another barrier that I find quite a lot is once somebody has progressed into paid work is that the employer treats him in a correct way. And what I mean by that is sometimes people can be too kind. It’s posted discrimination that is why you treating somebody more favorably because they have a disability and that’s all great to begin with but it causes problems further down the line not only with the employer but with the other staff, say somebody keeps turning up for work late but they don’t do anything about it. They need to be performance-managed just like everybody else and I also support employers with that. So you got the initial or what is it gonna be like working with someone with disability will they be able to do the job. Parents and their apprehension and then you also got employers where staff maybe that they get away with things they shouldn’t. So it’s all about getting that balance and I’ve learned over the years to address that beforehand. Talk to the employer and support the employer to tell the young person with disabilities that “That’s not right! “That’s inappropriate” or “That’s wrong!” and “This is how you do it.” And then they’ll overcome those obstacles.

DEBRA: So when they finish this supported internship, you said that some people would go into paid work, do you have to facilitate that?

NEIL: Yeah, of course. When somebody goes into paid work, we never ever just walk away. We continue to monitor and support. A lot of these young people never get a chance of a job through a face-to-face interview. But by showcasing their talents and what they’re able to do, through those support internship, that would work on the interview. And if the success will be offered a job, but once they go into work, we continue to monitor it. We do a minimum of 6-week placement review with the young person and the employer but we also continue to go back. So that they may have managed to go in, but they may still need to do some online training. They can always call on us to support that. And I think the monitoring is really important because they were taught to address. And it may be clumsy performance, hopefully, we can address that before it gets to a more serious situation. But also, you know, just another side a half-supported employers because we work very closely with them to make reasonable adjustments you know in the employment process but there are certainly so many reasonable adjustments an employer can make. Just like any member of staff where they got paid to work but they’re not performing but been given the opportunity. It’s no different than anybody else. And we always support the employer with their performance-management as well. We wanted to be right for the young person but if it means to go it down the disciplinary road, you know, 6 months into employment. So there, because that’s the same as anybody else but we support the young person and the employer as well.

[Tells a story of the challenges an intern had encountered]

But the retention of the moment, I mean, I’m just thinking this figures of good luck, 22 young people that I’d work with into paid work over 3 years, just with 1 employer and 17 or 18, I think we’re still unemployed 3 years later, which I think it is much fairly. One person left, one had been dismissed. Yeah, there is support there and we’re also pure our setting up like a monitoring system because that’s an important part of the job that changed. While a young man working in supermarket and have had 3 different store managers within the last 6 months. It worked great with the first store manager but less information is not passed on about how to support that young person and the reasonable adjustment has been agreed and the people knew and they could support in the right way so a new manager comes in and starts changing things around, say do this, do that. This young man with autism troubles will change that it looks as though he is not doing the job properly so through the monitoring system we can step in and provide that support.

[Explains how job carving works]

We keep quite a lot with the employers, something call job carving. I look at the row but then perhaps take bits out the row with greater a row with somebody. An example was it a draining center they used to pay a company to come to do a deep clean of soft plane area. I’ve got young man with down syndrome and he works 9 hours a week, he loves his systematic work, with a scrub robe for him to do a deep clean on that soft plane area. It’s a job that is not there but still saving the company money. One of the hospitals that sold these gas canister bottles left around the hospital, I think there’s a deposit on them, by carving a row by a young person, he collects all those and takes them back. The return on that where they get the money back pays his wages, you know, it’s saving the company money. So we’re also looking for things or where people are doing jobs but that they’re paying to much for that job. You’ve got maybe somebody on, say 20-30 pounds an hour, photocopying, laminating, 10 hours a week. We try and create roles for people. You know, what might be boring to somebody else, but for Gareth, he looks that routine, took his equipment and he does that systematically 3 hours a day for 3 days a week. He’s never on the job before, he’s independent and then a year down the line running that little task solve, so job carving employers can get the head round, but quite often say if you allow me to fact find with a lot of loitering around and just see what we can come up with. And quite often, you know, we couldn’t employ people to do some of the jobs that they want to do. And what I mean by that is you might have somebody- I’ve got a young man, he’s got a muscle bracing disease. He gets tired very very quickly. 2 hours shift a day is perfect for him. Absolutely perfect. Anything over 2 hours he gets tired. He’s got a job in a play center, ‘coz they couldn’t employ anybody for 2 hours a day to do what they wanted. It’s a benefit for the employer as well. Very reliable terms. That’s what I mean by job carving.

DEBRA: We just revisit a little bit about parents. You mentioned before about parents maybe not having lower expectations on what the young person can do. If parents are thinking about going down the supported internship route, what are some of the things they can do before they get to that stage before they think “Well, maybe my child, maybe my young person will be joining the supported internship”. What are some of the things that we should be doing or I should be doing as a parent?

NEIL: What they should be doing is and it’s very easy for me to say because as a parent myself I’m very protective about my children, but it’s just trying to move towards that independence. How they use their own money throughout let say about a year, I’ll buy this for a year. But it’s about getting that person independently to go to the bus. And I’ll give you an example, the young man I mentioned before Alex, never traveled independently. We got him to travel independently where he was working on the supported internship then got a chance of a job at a different building and he had to be travel trained again, and I asked his mom if she would help with the travel training. So I suggested she took a photo of the bus stand in his mobile phone and also a photo of the front of the bus where the bus number on, so he used that. I call that a jig. That’s a prompt for him.

[Talks about the importance of getting young people do things on their own]

And we did all those things and he was able to travel independently. And I think it’s just same old, “Why can’t they do it? Do we need to look to a different way of helping the young person?” It is a difficult question because sometimes you need to be taken out from that environment and working with people like ourselves who can then demonstrate what year, what county somebody to. They may not, you never told them what time is because they can’t tell the time, but we’ve got something into place like alarms on mobile phones that tells that young person when to get ready for work or when to leave home to go and catch the bus, you know it’s things like that. That’s a difficult question, really. Inseparably so different.

DEBRA: But it seems interesting because as parents we want to protect them, [Right] so as parents we want them to be independent so it’s a really difficult thing [It is] and I think most of us feel that our children are quite vulnerable so I think that’s, you know, we are being protective but then all parents are protective, and I guess sometimes we just have to let go a little bit.

NEIL: Again, the vulnerability side of things, we see that quite a lot expectedly with travel training, so if we were travel training somebody, we assist the route, and it can be simple things like you know with the young person, when you get on a bus and never sits at the back, he will sit where the driver can see you. It’s all these things that we build in, it may take somebody a month to be travel trained, it could take somebody 6 months. You can never eliminate risks, can you? You can reduce it but it’s just about put faith in your young person.

DEBRA: Thank you very much for your time.

NEIL: You’re very welcome.

DEBRA: Key takeaways? Well for me, it was job carving and how that might work for my own daughter and also the need I think to let go and to help her find her independence. That seems to be an ongoing thing. Definitely a key takeaway for me.

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