Podcast Episode 67 Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? Most of us didn’t but we figured it out along the way because we were given opportunities for part-time work or work experience. For many young people with additional needs, this doesn’t happen, meaning they don’t always have a clear idea of their options.
In this episode, Guy Chaudoir from Scope explains why this shouldn’t be the case, and discusses some ways to help young people increase their options. This includes changing the way they approach applying for jobs and the interview process. It’s also about changing the perceptions of employers and Guy explains the work Scope has been doing in this area.
Scope provides a bridge to employment by helping young people with additional needs to find their own path into work. They also help open doors with employers, so the path can continue forward for both the young person and their employer.Show Full Transcript
DEBRA: Welcome to Episode 67 of the Journey Skills podcast. Back to my favorite topic which is you know by now is work but from a slightly different angle. I’ve spoken to quite a lot of people recently who I would describe as social entrepreneurs who have started up social enterprises. And we talk about that in this episode, we talk about the importance of social entrepreneurs and social enterprises. I’m talking to Guy from Scope which is a UK-based organisation which is focused around helping young people with additional needs get into work. And although this is a UK-based organisation, I’m sure wherever you are in the world there are very similar organisations.
It’s great to have people starting up small businesses from scratch, maybe you even saw my Facebook live last week from Ignition Brewery in London that was celebrating the one-year anniversary of their taproom and they’re a really great example of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. Nick and Will have created a sustainable business which pays the people they employ so it’s not a charity and it survives because the product is something people want. It just happens to provide employment for people with additional needs.
So what Scope is, I think it’s a bridge between employment and if we’re really honest, that proverbial cliff that people talk about, that young people with additional needs can fall off when they move from education and they don’t necessarily have anywhere to go after that. And Guy explains all the things that Scope helps young people with and they are the essential things that we think about; CV writing, interview skills and things like that. But he also talks about the importance of helping young people identify where they really want to go because as he explains, sometimes they haven’t really sat down and thought about exactly what they want to do, they’re just thinking about ‘I want a job, I want to work’. And I believe that organizations like Scope are key.
If you listen to any of the podcasts where people have started up businesses which make money so they can spend money on employing more people, all of those organizations have behind them in some way shape or form another organization helping young people develop the skills that they need. Scope are a charity and they play a really important role, not in providing employment itself, what Scope and other organisations do really effectively is not create jobs, they help create the employees. They help develop the skills of young people so that they can see themselves as employees, so they can see themselves as someone who can go out and get a job.
DEBRA: Today I’m talking to Guy Chaudoir who’s from Scope which is an organization based in the UK. Welcome, Guy.
DEBRA: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself first of all and then also about Scope?
GUY: I’ve been at Scope for nearly seven years, managing all of our employment services but previously to that, I’ve worked in apprenticeships both here and in Australia and also supporting people get into work and in my previous life I was a retail manager working for a big organizations like Virgin. So, Scope, we’re a national disability charity and we operate in England and Wales and our real aim is about equality. So, it’s about equality for disabled people so that they have the same rights and access as non-disabled people, be that in getting the best start in life, being financially secure, or to be able to live the life they choose.
I work on, along with my team, around employment. I manage Scope’s support to work service which is a national digital employment service which supports disabled people across England and Wales, to help them find paid work in something they want to do. So my team really help people to identify what skills they have, identify organisations in areas and career paths that people want to work into and then really with the nitty gritty things about finding work from creating and evaluating a really good CV, developing a really good cover letter or working through application forms to things on interview skills and making sure that people are getting the right support, be it reasonable adjustments when they start work or getting the right support in terms of any adaptations they might need for an interview or for an assessment center as well.
DEBRA: So how do people come to Scope?
GUY: We have quite of presence on the High Street with the Scope retail charity shops which raise funds for the organization but also, we do a lot of digital marketing and have a digital presence, through Facebook and Twitter. We try to make sure that when people are looking for disability employment through search engines that they find us as an organization.
So when someone does find my service, the support to work service, they can sign up online and once they sign up online within forty-eight hours they’ll get a call from one of the team to arrange an initial appointment with an employment advisor, over the phone or it can be via Skype or via email depending on people’s needs or in terms of barriers to employment.
DEBRA: So what kind of things do you talk about in that first phone call?
GUY: The first phone call of Scope session is really about what people have done before, what they’re looking for. So there’s no real kind of hard and fast rules, it’s very much about having an initial conversation getting to know the person to see what they perceive their barriers to employment are or what the barriers they found previously and then really working with them to create an action plan that’s really personalized to themselves.
So, the first tool to finding a job even now and has been for a long time is a CV. If you’re not getting interviews, there’s possibly an issue with the CV, it’s not doing the right thing or you’re not applying for the right jobs. So the team really take that back to basics, look at CV’s, are they the right kind of thing, are we applying for the right thing, are people limiting their job search or are people just going in the market and not being savvy in terms of what jobs they’re applying for and just applying for everything, which then doesn’t help at all.
DEBRA: What would you say to these challenges that it’s the CV, is that something that they struggle with?
GUY: Not necessarily. I think some people just need a little tweak and it can be just a little tweak from an unprofessional email address to too much on it. We’ve seen some CVs going back a good twenty years not very useful. That’s just one kind of barrier sometimes it’s barriers of perception of people applying for jobs.
And I think it’s also about the availability of what people want to do in their local area so there might not be the opportunities that they can see in the local area and sometimes that’s a real barrier. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot, all we can do about that in terms of creating those kinds of jobs. How people apply for work especially how people perceive themselves is also sometimes a real barrier. We see a lot of kind of negative language on CVs of people saying “I can’t do this, I can’t do that, I can’t do this” rather than talking about what’s unique about them and talking about what they would bring to an organization.
DEBRA: Can you talk a little bit more about that then, the big question that people often have with their CV is whether or not they talk about what their additional need is?
GUY: Yes and I always think it’s personal choice and I think there are lots of really good organizations out there who really want to employ more disabled people and if they are saying that on their job advert, then I think this is something you would mention in the cover letter or the application form rather than sticking it on your CV. I think knowing when to talk to an employer about your disabilities is really important and we have got lots of information about that on our website.
But I think it’s really about that personal choice but also thinking about “If I am to get to an interview would I need an adjustment for the interview?” It could be a physical adjustment in terms of if you’re a wheelchair user and there isn’t a lift or there isn’t a ramp, that’s probably not going to be the best place for you to work anyway.
But thinking about what you need to tell someone so you might tell them when they offer to take you to the interview stage. So, I, as a rule of thumb wouldn’t put disability or barrier on the CV but I’d really think about having a strategy of how you are going to talk to your employer about your disability, about what adaptations you need.
We’ve worked with a lot of deaf customers who have text-only written on their CV and that’s a need for them because if someone rings them and they don’t answer the phone then they are never going to be able to get into employment. As a rule of thumb, I’d say not in a CV but really think about when you are going to talk about it if you are going to talk about it.
My suggestion would be to obviously talk about it if it’s a guaranteed interview that is the organisation is saying “guaranteed interviews to disabled applicants”. Then definitely you need to talk about it otherwise you’re not going to get that guaranteed interview. But also if you need certain adjustments when you’re going to start work but it’s really a personal choice if you want to talk about it and it might be once you’ve started work, that you talk to your line manager about your condition/disability/impairments or you talk to your team, or you don’t talk about it at all because it’s your business at the end of the day.
DEBRA: When it comes to interviews though, for some people who have additional needs, say something like autism, it might be something that they’ve mentioned in the cover letter though.
GUY: Yes, definitely, we’re working with someone at the moment for who an interview’s quite a petrifying experience. He is on the autistic spectrum and he was sent to an assessment center and they just said in the email they wanted him to go to an assessment center. He didn’t know what that meant he had no perceptions or ideas so we worked with him. We didn’t do this for him we said: “Go back to them and ask what exactly is going to happen”. Then he knew that it was going to be a group session and then it was going be one to one talk and then they were going to ask questions.. So it was more about him saying “I’m autistic. I need to know what this is going to be like exactly so I can plan and organize myself.”
And I think sometimes recruiters not necessarily trying to trick people up but they just don’t think about these things and I don’t think anybody does it with any kind of malice. I think it is about people going “Oh, this is just the way we do it” And I think a real reasonable adjustment is a change the interview process. And that’s something you can definitely request.
So if you think you’d be better to show someone that you could do a job then requesting a work trial or a trial shift is a really good way to show “Yeah, I can do that” rather than somebody who’s really good at sitting in front of someone and telling them they’ll be good at their job or being asked competency-based questions or hypothetical questions could be a real struggle for someone on the autistic spectrum. If somebody is saying “Can you tell me what would you do in a situation?” then they might respond “I don’t know, I’d have to see”. So it’s better if they can talk more about their previous experience. I think asking for adjustments in interviews is really important I don’t think people do it enough.
DEBRA: I was just going to ask you, what do you think is the biggest challenge? You mentioned things like people going for the wrong jobs and maybe putting too much on their CV, but what from your experience is the biggest issues for young people looking for work?
GUY: I think it’s sometimes and it goes back to school and especially people who have additional needs or special educational needs who don’t necessarily get the same opportunities as their peers in regards to work experience or summer jobs and that kind of thing. So, they haven’t got anything to put on their CV because they got excluded from doing work experience. So, I think that can be a real challenge because when you apply for a job and put in a CV and you haven’t got anything to put on it that’s really difficult.
I think it’s also just about opportunities so it’s about grasping every kind of opportunity that you can. I think access to apprenticeships is really difficult because apprenticeships, until recently, required people to have some level of Maths and English but there has been relaxation on that around people with learning disabilities. But I don’t think that it’s been well enough communicated, especially to apprenticeship providers and employers so it’s about making sure that people are aware of that they can access on an apprenticeship even if you don’t have the level of Maths and English they’re requiring if you’ve got a learning disability and if you have an educational and health care plan.
But also, it’s just a bit about employer attitudes as well. It’s just people thinking “Well this person’s going to be more difficult. This person’s going to be harder to help.” We supported someone in recent years who wanted to work within a creative field but was finding it really challenging to find that opportunity and we worked quite closely with an employer to really talk to them about what needs he had and what they could do to make the environment more accessible to him and that was really good. They came to us and said “We don’t know what we need to do” and one of my team sat down with them and said, “Well, think about breaks, think about quiet places, think about lights that might affect people.” That kind of stuff is often what employers can buy into and really help that person to be successful in their role and really develop.
DEBRA: Do you think there’s a misunderstanding of what reasonable adjustments are?
GUY: I think people don’t know what they are. I think in the field that I’m in and you’re in that we know what it is and we can see it but I think the average person on the street who might own a small business or shop or restaurant or cafe doesn’t know what a reasonable adjustment is and wouldn’t understand what it is. I think that’s a big education piece for us as an organization but also from a policy point of view from the government for them to be able to say “This is what a reasonable adjustment is, this is why you have to do it by law. I think the problem is that the term reasonable is very varied in people’s minds so that doesn’t help. I think once people are aware of it, they’re like “All right. I understand now.” But I think the awareness isn’t there.
DEBRA: You think there’s not a clear definition?
GUY: Well I think the definition is whatever is deemed reasonable so it’s not a clear definition to me. That’s kind of a tricky part of it as well and I think there is that support and there’s support through access to work which I think is a really important scheme that also one people aren’t aware of. Unfortunately, it is sometimes the case of the person looking for work having to educate an employer and saying “I’ve got these additional needs, I’ve got these barriers or I’ve got this supporting needs. But this is what we need to do, here is a fund from the government from access to work that will pay for this. All you need to do is agree to it” and then I think they will go “Alright. Fine.” And I think that unfortunately the onus is being put on disabled people to push that rather than people understanding this in the wider business community.
DEBRA: Do you think that’s a big issue then, cost?
GUY: I think that it costs sometimes but the research we’ve done as an organization has said that, that employer’s attitudes are a big barrier and I think it’s more about the employer’s understanding as well and that’s what we really want to change as part of our Work With Me campaign. This is really focused on employers to show them that there is an untapped pool of disabled talent out there and that by being aware of reasonable adjustments and different schemes and different support that’s out there that disabled people can be an asset to an organization. They are shown to stay longer in positions and be more productive as well so it’s a real win-win for employers, they just need to get on board with that.
DEBRA: When you try to persuade them, do you say “These young people will stay longer?”
GUY: Yes and we talk about that (and we’ve got a lot of research around that) but we really talk about the person, we talk about why they will be an asset, about how they can show they’re an asset, how they can speak positively about themselves and show themselves as a positive motivated person that’s going to be the best fit for their organization. And that’s what everyone should do in any interview situation.
DEBRA: Have you got some examples of employers that you think are ahead of the game?
GUY: We work a lot with Virgin Media and so they have really committed to becoming a better employer of disabled people and are doing a lot of work in that space. Where I’m seeing a lot of really good work is in kind of like the social entrepreneur field so lots of organisations that are setting up things like cafes or valet services and I think those are really good and I’m seeing some really good growth.
We work with a partner called Unlimited and they are really keen to promote social entrepreneurs for them to go on to employ more disabled people and then create more disable entrepreneurs as well. Because self-employment and working from home is a really good opportunity for disabled people who might have access needs but also might have a fluctuating conditions so that working from home or being home-based is a real kind of bonus. And the internet has opened up those kinds of opportunities. Skype meetings and conference calls means that you don’t have to be nine to five in an office to be able to do a similar job. We have got people who work for us who are home-based and can do exactly the same as someone can in the office and probably get less distracted by everyone else around them anyway.
DEBRA: In terms of helping people, you help them with CV writing, with getting interviews and talking about reasonable adjustments. When they’re actually in employment, do you provide support to the employers?
GUY: On our support to work service, we don’t because we’re national service and it’s more a kind of advice and guidance service but we offer three other employment services which are much more localized face to face support. We work with employers to ensure that somebody is comfortable and in employment and any kind of barriers or bumps along the way that come along so we definitely do that with those ones.
We’re just about to launch a new service, just so new it doesn’t have a name yet which we’ll be launching across the whole of London for young people who are in education and it’s more career advice service because we’re finding that the people coming to us who are coming out of school with special educational needs or additional needs and they haven’t been given any kind of careers advice. We are going to be working with schools across London to work with disabled young people to give them kind of career advice and goals and really work with them to think about what’s their next step.
DEBRA: If you had to talk to parents who maybe won’t have access to Scope or can’t get help getting the young person access to Scope, what kind of tips would you give them in terms of getting the young person ready for employment?
GUY: I think it’s about confidence and motivation. There aren’t many jobs where you won’t have to talk to somebody at some stage so it’s about being comfortable in those kinds of social situations to be able to talk to someone and then that can develop into interview skills. I think volunteering and work experience is really key, to give people that stuff they can put on their CV. It also builds that confidence around meeting new people, learning new things and really kind of seeing if that’s the right kind of career goals to consider. I think it’s about opening your eyes up to all opportunities that are out there. Make sure that they’re in touch with local councils to see if they’ve got any kind of schemes to support young people. All the councils I know are interested in recruiting young people and apprentices into their organisations. Is the university route right? Is straight into work right and how does that work?’ and looking at other supported employment services or looking at really just any kind of community groups that are doing anything to develop those kind of skills as well.
Because I think with most jobs you can be taught how to do the job on the job. A lot more what people looking for are attitudes and attitudes, about looking at where this person fits in the team. And so, that kind of confidence to communicate with strangers is really kind of important because that will really help in terms of developing those kind of social skills and social networks. So it’s really about thinking about those social kinds of networks and I’m not talking about getting a LinkedIn profile, I’m talking about just knowing your friends and where they’re going to or the people you’re in a club with, or an organisation that can really help you, that kind of networking as well.
DEBRA: I’m getting the impression that often young people with additional needs then aren’t really preparing for work in the same way that someone else might.
GUY: I think that’s where we’re falling down is that people aren’t being given those kind of skills to transition into work, understanding about applying for jobs from CVs to cover letters, interviews to managing money, to understanding the wider world. I think that’s where the focus needs to be about making sure that people are prepared. If they’re able to and they want to work and knowing how to work, how work works. We do a lot of what we call World of Work sessions where we take a group of usually young people to different businesses that we’re working with and they get an understanding of how the business works, how’s the different parts of it fit, how’s the different functions of the organisations fit together and what work is like.
Also, the understanding that someone’s work is quite boring and sometimes you might just be sat in front of a computer all day and typing and sometimes work isn’t that exciting and understanding that what you think might be really exciting is after getting some experience a case of you going “Oh no, I definitely don’t want to do this”. Having a real perception of what work is like is really important, I think.
DEBRA: You’re suggesting that we need to give young people more chance of doing work experience, the big challenge there is of course, perceptions among employers especially when work experience means something you tend to do in a smaller organisation.
GUY: I think lots of large organisations do have work experience schemes abut it is about challenging that perception again, similarly with employers, but I think work experience is a real kind of feed into it. And it doesn’t have to be two solid weeks of work experience. It could be a taster a day or just to see what a day might be like in an organisation. And I think it’s really about community engagement and about corporate social responsibility. It doesn’t hurt to ask and I think that’s the key as well and saying why you want it and how it would be of benefit and then how it can be of benefit to them so selling that. But it is a tricky one, and I don’t think that barrier is ever going to go away A lack of awareness is the barrier unfortunately but I think that’s something to try and work with and try and make sure that people are getting the right opportunities.
DEBRA: And I would assume that the more employers that take on young people with additional needs, the more perceptions change?
GUY: Yes. Definitely and the research we’ve done says that lots people have never spoken to a disabled person or knew a disabled person, when you’re looking at this there’s forty million disabled people in the UK, that’s a lot of people. And so, I think it’s all about perceptions. It’s about the perception in the media, what people see on television, in soaps, in current affairs, in dramas, where the disability doesn’t define the person, it’s just part of them and I think that really helps in terms of attitudes.. its about changing people’s perceptions to ensure that there is a equality and that people can see that that and it becomes a norm.
DEBRA: Thank you very much for your time.
GUY: Thank you.
DEBRA: Key takeaways? It’s essential that young people have the opportunity to explore their options to try and figure out exactly where they want to go and that they have the resources and the assistance to do that. And also, that it’s important to try and get experiences of work along the way. And I think this is one area where, I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve cracked it yet, I don’t think that my daughter has had enough experience of work in her life.
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