Podcast Episode 46. What happens to young people with additional needs when they finish full-time education? How will they find employment? How will they cope on their own throughout adulthood? Continue reading
Podcast Episode 45. Successful sustainable employment opportunities for young people with additional needs comes when support is provided for not just the young person but also for their employer too. Continue reading
Podcast Episode 43. “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right,” according to Henry Ford: this week’s podcast guest Marjorie Madfis clearly believes this to be true. Continue reading
Podcast Episode 40. Everyone needs a Shed – a place to go, to be. But this Shed is much more than that, Continue reading
Let’s start with a bad then a good statistic. Somewhere between 50% to 70% is the unemployment rate among young people with additional needs, depending on which website you visit. A good employment statistic happens on a Project Search program at the Marriott (the topic of my latest podcast Project Search at the Marriot), where around 70% of the young people completing their year-long program get paid employment at the end. As well, much of this is in full-time positions, not part-time.
How do they do it? through a much more integrated and systematic approach, and having very clear roles for the staff supporting the young people. So, as well as the program tutor there is a job coach and a job developer. The young people coming onto this supported internship program train with purpose, train with help from a job coach and have a job developer to ensure that by the time they complete the program, they not only have a better idea about what they want to do, but they also have links with prospective employers and, in many cases, have a job waiting for them when they graduate from the program.
The job coach, as the name suggests, is on hand to help identify the strengths of the young people and where they might see their work future. So, although this particular program is based in hospitality at the Marriot, the job coach talks to each young person about what careers they are interested in. These need not be in hospitality, in one case a graduate of the program now works in a skilled role in the care sector.
The job developer role is key though in breaking down the barriers with employers. It doesn’t really matter how ready, willing and able a young person is if there is no job for them to go to. Finding a suitable employer who is open to hiring someone with additional needs can be quite a challenge, according to Sam the job developer. However, she has also noticed that there is a growing shift in perceptions around what young people with additional needs can do. One thing she advocates is the idea of using unpaid trials as opposed to the usual interview process where sometimes a young person will perform poorly because of their lack of language skills. An unpaid trial can take the formal element out of the equation and allow the young person to show an employer how well they perform in the workplace. This means the employer can consider their capabilities rather than basing their decision purely on the interview alone. This gives the potential employer the opportunity to see just how capable the young person is and breaks down the “fear factor” that a lot of employers have and show them the young person’s real capabilities.
The ongoing support provided to employers seems key to this program’s success. The tutor, job coach and job developer all continuously support the young people, but this support also goes outside the confines of the program when they move to paid employment. This support seems to have been the difference in some cases as to why an employer has taken on a young person and why as well they have been able to make those “reasonable adjustments” we’ve talked about in the past, which ensures a young person can perform the tasks required. Often these reasonable adjustments are simple things an employer wouldn’t think of, but which fundamentally change the way a task is done without impacting on the quality of the outcome.
Project search and supported internship programs like it prove that with the right support and strategies it’s possible to break down barriers that exist among employers and sometimes the young people themselves, preventing them from working in jobs they want rather than the traditional jobs they might have been expected to take on. More supported internship programs like Project Search will go a long way toward solving the lack of paid employment opportunities for young people with additional needs. Just as importantly every single young person who graduates from a program to paid employment helps in changing the perceptions towards young people with additional needs and their ability to have full-time paid employment.
Podcast Episode 39. Work is central to most of our lives. It not only provides a purpose to our day but also makes us feel an integral part of the society we live in. Continue reading
Podcast Episode 38. Friendships and purpose are two of the most important things to have in our lives. For young people with additional needs finding these can sometimes be a challenge. Continue reading
Podcast Episode 35. A social enterprise must first achieve success as an enterprise before they can deliver on any of their social objectives, Continue reading
Regular readers will know why we started Journey Skills. Fear of the future. Fear of what would happen to our daughter when she finishes full time education, which is coming towards us way too fast. So, one year on from when we launched Journey Skills, I am pleased to say I’m not afraid anymore. It has been a pleasure and privilege to talk to and share the stories of so many fantastic people. I’ve found some fabulous solutions to many of the problems I anticipated, which has made me very optimistic for my daughters future.
One key part of my daughter’s independent future will be a job. Finding paid work is not an easy task for young people with additional needs, often because of negative perceptions around their ability to work. Hence, nothing takes away my future fears more than hearing what is possible and what forward thinking people are doing to change the world of work my daughter will jump into in a few years. In my latest podcast, Providing Opportunity Not Charity, I talked to Steve Chapman and Matt Clifton, from Skillnet Group, who are doing their bit to alleviate my fears.
Matt is the Chief Executive and Steve is a former client of Skillnet. Steve now mentors young people placed with employers on internships. He also spends time educating employers as to why those with additional needs make excellent employees. Skillnet Group started in part as a result of a white paper issued in the UK in 2001 called ‘Valuing People’. While you might not have time or inclination to read all of it, the executive summary is worth a read, even if to be a good reminder of how far we have come.
This report identified where change was needed and this, along with the frustrations felt by a small group of people who believed the services being offered did not enable people to develop, grow or progress led to the creation of the Skillnet Group. The focus is on developing initiatives where choice and control are put into the hands of the people using them. The focus is on real work where people with additional needs are valued and seen as contributors not passive recipients of care. A key part of the operational structure of Skillnet is that they are not a charity, something Matt was keen to stress. Matt recognises that there are many charities, across varied sectors, doing excellent work. However, he also believes that often the concept of charities can reinforce an imbalance of a power where there are helpers and people being helped. Skillnet is a social enterprise and operates very much as a business. It sell services as a supportive and nurturing employment agency.
Steve illustrates what can happen when opportunities are provided. If you listen to the podcast you will hear Steve explain how his initial involvement with Skillnet was through attending courses, and how he quickly realised that this wasn’t enough for him. He felt his strengths lay in talking to others, particularly employers. He knew he could help change the attitudes of employers towards people with additional needs. Steve passionately believes everyone has a need and desire to earn their own money, and are empowered as a result of doing so.
Organisations like Skillnet Group, Ignition Brewery, REDinc and The Ark Project give hope. While these organisations may not necessarily be the right fit for my daughter, or your child, somewhere out there is the solution. In the meantime I shall keep looking and sharing what I find and I hope you will continue to come on the the journey with me.
Podcast Episode 33. One day soon people with additional needs will be valued as contributors to society and not just as passive recipients of social care, Continue reading