Young people with learning disabilities are being supported into work through a new scheme launched by Liverpool City Council.
Just six percent of young people with learning disabilities in the city are in employment, and the aim of the scheme is to help them transition from education in to the world of work, so they can live more independently and don’t become socially isolated.
The council has teamed up with the Marriott Hotel, Hilton Hotel and grounds maintenance partner Glendale Liverpool to offer Supported Internship placements. They last an academic year with the pupils working for a different department in the organisation each term.
Pupils from Sandfield Park School, Bank View High School and Myerscough College are working four days a week and spending the other day in lessons to build employability skills.
All the pupils are supported by a work coach who helps them get used to the routine expected when in employment, instructing and supporting pupils to build skills in the work place to complete work tasks to a high level.
Assistant Mayor and Cabinet member for Schools, Councillor Nick Small, said: “Far too few young people with special needs achieve their potential because they are not given the opportunity to work.
“This scheme is about working closely with young people and employers to support them into the world of work and give them the opportunity to compete for jobs.
“Everyone can make a contribution to society if they are given the chance and we need to do far more to integrate young people with special needs into the workforce, rather than institutionalising them and – in many cases – leaving them languishing in the care system.”
Although it will take time, the eventual aim is for every young person with disabilities that wants it to be given the chance to get paid employment.
Sarah Spoor, Learning Mentor and Inclusion Officer at Sandfield Park, said: “I can honestly say that the Supported Internship programme is the best thing I have seen in all of the years I have been working with young people with special educational needs.
“For too long there have been poor outcomes for disabled young people leaving school or college and very few are able to find paid employment – this is not only unfair but it means that so much talent and skill is not being used or developed and sadly impacts on disabled young people’s aspirations and hopes for the future.
“It is a chance to develop work skills with support from a work coach to give the young person a real chance to get meaningful and paid employment.
“I have seen all three young people grow so much in confidence and maturity and they are more independent and developing great skills.”
Becky Cooper, HR Manager for the Liverpool Marriott Hotel said: “The supported Internship program is an exciting opportunity for us to work closely with our community partners to enhance the experience of young people with disabilities and equip them with the necessary skills to go on to paid employment.
“Allowing us to access a new pool of talent, the programme also provides our employees with exceptional personal development opportunities as they work with and mentor the young people.
“We have been working with the students for over 12 months in the lead up to this project and since starting the Internship in September they have settled into Marriott exceptionally well and already feel like part of our team.
“In a short space of time we have seen huge positive change in their confidence levels and communication and they are doing a great job within the Housekeeping department. We are excited for the next stage in the internship and look forward to seeing them to continue to thrive.”
John Stanton, aged 17, from Sandfield Park School – who is working at the Liverpool Marriott Hotel in Queen Square – and is pictured at the top with fellow pupil Adam Farah – said: “I really enjoy working at the Marriott Hotel as the staff are really nice and helpful.
“I think supported internships are good as it gives a chance to work in a work place. I would like to get a job here when the Internship has finished.
“I enjoy everything about the placement, I love getting up the mornings to go to work and doing jobs really well and I am proud of myself.”
Helen Eaton, Assistant Principal of Myerscough College, said: “The Supported Internship programme provides the opportunity for Myerscough College to work with both young people and their supervisors.
“It’s about creating work-ready young people and removing any barriers that may be present in the workplace that could stop the employer from taking on a young person with learning difficulties. I’m so proud of the progress that’s being made.”