Supported internships - Andrew's story
Andrew's story of how a supported internship helped him get a paid job
Introduction and background
Everyone has the right to work but people with learning disabilities are not always given the right opportunities to realise their potential. According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, only 7% of people with a learning disability are currently in paid employment, despite the UK's unemployment rate being less than 8%.
There are different pathways to getting a job, and supported internships offer one way for those people with a learning disability who face the most significant barriers to getting a paid job and a sustainable career. A supported internship is a study programme designed for young people with either a Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA) or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). It is based mainly on employers' premises, with some time in college or a classroom in the workplace. Support throughout the study programme is provided to both the young person and the employer through a Job Coach. Supported internships should lead to a job for the young person at the end of their programme and should meet a real business need for the employer.
This case study outlines the story of a young man with a learning disability who successfully completed a supported internship with Worcester College of Technology. He is now in paid employment, and continuing to develop his skills to develop his career in catering.
Andrew joined Worcester College's supported internship programme in September 2012. He really wanted a job and to earn his own money. He had high aspirations for a career in catering but lacked confidence in making the first steps in finding a job.
Andrew had done some previous work experience at Boston Tea Party in Worcester, and really enjoyed working there. Boston Tea Party (BTP) is a small group of family owned independent cafes. BTP was reluctant to offer Andrew a supported internship at first, but knowing that there would be support from a Job Coach gave them the confidence to give Andrew a chance.
When Andrew first began his supported internship, he lacked confidence and was naturally apprehensive about being asked to do things he was not used to. He was initially given the job of clearing tables and washing up, but as his confidence grew, Andrew began serving food to customers.
Andrew proved he was capable of fulfilling the job role, and his Job Coach support faded at the pace at which both Andrew and BTP felt comfortable with. Andrew did face some challenges along the way, so Job Coach support was re-introduced when necessary to iron these out.
Once Andrew understood the job role and became more confident in his ability, he delivered excellent customer service, worked as part of the team and showed real commitment to the role. He was offered a paid position as a kitchen porter and accepted the offer. His Job Coach said "The steps Andrew has taken have been considerable. It is great to see him taking ownership and pride in his work. He has gained an understanding of how important his role is within the company and has improved his skills and attitude. All of his learning and hard work has now been rewarded by the job offer he has received."
Andrew is now employed, working independently, and his life has changed for the better. In his own words, "my dreams have come true!"
When Andrew started his supported internship, it was as a kitchen porter as this was the business need for BTP. Andrew became reluctant to do some tasks, and admitted to feeling resentful because he wanted to do more food preparation, but was not given the chance.
His Job Coach helped him to understand that if he proved himself, further opportunities may arise to do more food preparation in the future. The Job Coach also worked with the employer to open up opportunities to be more involved in food preparation and compiled a photographic step-by-step set of instructions on preparing a variety of sandwiches so that Andrew could achieve the tasks.
Andrew excelled in his supported internship and proved his competency in the job role. He learned how to deal with customer complaints, communicating well and confidently without assistance. BTP was delighted to have been working with Worcester College on their supported internship programme. Avril Gayne, General Manager at BTP said "Andrew has come on leaps and bounds since joining us. He is a real testament to the programme that gives opportunities to those that may not normally get them. We are so proud of the progress he has made and we hope that going forward the programme will continue to help more young people."
Andrew has since been give more opportunities to develop his skills in food preparation and has made significant progress from making cold sandwiches to preparing hot meals to order. On a day when he was visited by staff from the college, he had made a sausage bap, bacon, pancakes and full cooked breakfast as well as the cold sandwiches without the assistance of the chef.
Andrew likes that he now earns money as he can contribute towards his family outgoings and pay his Mum rent. He also has more independence to do the things he wants to do. Andrew said "Having more money makes me a better person for the future; it feels good to help Mum pay for food. Mum is really happy getting more money, it all helps. I'm saving money too as I want to rent my own flat and get a passport. I want to go to Nurburgring in Germany as I am really into truck racing".
Working has given Andrew so much more confidence. He says "I never used to contact people to meet up but I do now! I feel more grown up. I was bullied at school but I feel safer now, I know I won't be bullied at work. I am respected at work."
Andrew is now looking to further develop his career at BTP and his future goal is to progress up to Kitchen Assistant and then Kitchen Manager.