A college is encouraging more young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to gain skills. 

Blackburn College said it is expanding its Supported Internships Programme this September amd said it had two Supported Internship Programmes which match college leavers with employers.

'Get Set', which is run in partnership with Blackburn with Darwen Council and local businesses and the 'DFN Project Search', is a new scheme in partnership with East Lancashire Hospital Trust and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. 

Both offer learners with SEND the chance to undertake job roles which give them the skills, experience and self-belief needed to enter the workforce.

Research shows that fewer than five per cent of people with a learning disability go on to secure paid employment when they leave education, compared to 80 per cent of their peers.

Head of inclusion at Blackburn College, Claire Thompson, said: “The huge disparity in employment rates for people with learning disabilities, autism, or both, versus the national average demonstrates the significant barriers that many young people face when trying to enter the workforce.   

“It’s also widely recognised that having a diverse and inclusive workforce can bring immense benefits to employers, employees, and our wider society. 

“When the Government announced it was investing a further £3 milllion into Supported Internships in the Spring Budget it highlighted the importance of these programmes.

“That’s why we want to work with local employers. We’re here to help them create life changing opportunities for all young people, while also boosting their own business and enhancing their corporate culture.

“Just as importantly, we want parents and students to know that these programmes exist, and that they offer far more than just a few weeks work experience."

A new video created with employers about the Supported Internship Programme has been released by the college. 

In the video, Andy Wells, career and professional development lead at East Lancashire Hospital Trust, said: “The benefits of taking on our supported internships is about giving an opportunity to students who have got supportive and educational learning needs and disabilities.

“We really need to start growing our own talent and that’s where this programme falls into. If we can do this it’s a really good opportunity for us and supports the community as well.

“The job interview process for some people just doesn’t fit and being able to use the internship as a try out is a good opportunity for us and makes the candidate feel more comfortable as well.”

Post-16 learning manager at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Helen Andrew, added: “A supported internship offers a real job matched to a young person’s aspirations and vocational profile. 

“It is a ‘win-win’ situation, with young people obtaining first-hand experience of work and employers benefiting from committed and hard-working employees.

"Taking on an intern also serves to bust a few myths around what it is like to employ someone with an additional need. 

“The supported internship programme has lots to shout about and can be life changing for all of those involved.

"I urge other employers to consider how they could support such a worthwhile programme."

An employer already involved in the Supported Internship Programme is Together Housing in Blackburn. 

Speaking about one of their interns, grounds maintenance supervisor Dave Gregory said: “He is an absolutely fantastic young man and has come on so much with his confidence and skills. 

“He has done everything we’ve asked of him without a single complaint and to the standards we require.

"We work from 7.30am and he’s never late. I’ve been working with young people in work placements for 10 years and he is truly one of the best.”

Another employer is Blackburn’s King George’s Hall, where an intern called Jordan is working. 

Flexible halls attendant Martin Wells said: “Jordan’s a smashing lad and to be honest, we didn’t realise how much help he’s been until we think about him moving on!

"He’s got on with a lot of jobs that we’ve not always had time to do. He’s been a real asset to us!”

Any employer or parent interested in Blackburn College’s Supported Internship Programme should contact Claire Thompson via claire.thompson@blackburn.ac.uk.