Released: 8 March 2019
Hundreds of young adults across West Sussex are overlooked for jobs because of a disability or autism despite being skilled and ready to work.
During National Careers Week (4-9 March) West Sussex County Council has been raising awareness of the issue. A new online resource has just been launched to help teachers, parents and employers work together to support young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to achieve their career goals.
Just 6% of people in the UK with learning disabilities are in employment, despite 60% wanting to and being able to be in work, according to Mencap.
Richard Burrett, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at West Sussex County Council, said: “Many young people with additional needs have the capability and desire to work. But the low number who are actually employed shows we have a long way to go in helping them to find rewarding jobs.
“Employing a person with a disability is easier than many employers think. There are huge benefits to working for young people with special needs and disabilities. Their confidence grows, they make new friends, feel part of their community and become more financially independent. And at a time when some businesses are struggling to recruit and retain staff, helping people with special needs to get into work could be the ideal solution.”
The council is working with schools, colleges and businesses to share ideas, resources and build on good practice. A dedicated online resource has been created containing:
• A mythbusting quiz highlighting common misconceptions and attitudes
• Guidance for schools and teachers including how to create a careers planning strategy
• Guidance for parents and young people with SEND – where to go for more information
• Inspiring stories and videos from young people who have succeeded in the world of work
• Guidance for employers about the benefits of employing disabled and autistic people, including reduced staff absence and staff turnover.
A crucial step towards getting paid work for young people is work experience to gain valuable work-based skills.
Oak Grove College near Worthing provides special education for disabled and autistic students from Years 7 to 14 and runs a successful work experience programme. Students are employed in a wide variety of industries, from retail and catering to childcare and sports leadership.
Carol Noble, Sixth Form Curriculum Lead at the college, said: “The impact of work experience on our young people is phenomenal. Many are very nervous to begin with and think they will not be able to do it, mostly because they are worried about getting it wrong.
“Once they have taken the first step their confidence grows very quickly and they realise they can do it and do it well. This growth in confidence impacts on them as a whole person and they become ready to take on the challenges of the world beyond school - ready to go on to college to take the next steps towards work or ready to go into work directly.”
Mr Burrett added: “We want young people to be inspired to fulfil their dreams of finding a job, but they need the right support and guidance. We are asking schools and employers to sign up to receive resources, and to get linked in to support from employment specialists.”
Schools and employers can find out more and sign up online.