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The Corporation

Posted: 27/03/23

Supporting students into the world of work

Today (Monday 27 March 2023) marks the first ever National Supported Internship Day – a campaign run by Internships Work partner DFN Project SEARCH. It is part of a consortium working in partnership with the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) and British Association of Supported Employment (BASE) which is being funded to double the number of supported internships to 4,500 per year in England by March 2025.

  • Shaun Cross is undertaking a position with the hospital's Skanska team
  • Shaun works closely with many members of this team
  • Nathan has had great support from Lisa his mentor
  • Nathan has a busy role in the mop room at the hospital
  • The college’s employability and supported internships manager Louise Pilter
  • The college's internship team members Lisa Nussey and Helen Power
  • Dennis Felipe, Medirest domestic assistant is complimentary of Nathan's work
  • Skanska office manager Emma Godfrey is delighted with Shaun's development in his role
  • National Supported Internship Day

Supported Internships are a work-based study programme for 16 to 24 years old with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and can help kickstart a young person’s career or put them on the path to employment. West Nottinghamshire College wholly supports this campaign as it has its own tranche of students currently enjoying paid placements, building their skills at King’s Mill Hospital, working with its contracted Medirest and Skanksa teams.

Supported National Internship Day aims to raise awareness of the huge impact that a supported internship can have, not only on the life outcomes of the interns who take part, but on the host organisation and wider society too, and to challenge misconceptions and pre-set cultures about young adults with a learning disability and/or autism. One big solution to the challenge is meaningful employment. Only 4.8% of young people with SEND in England gain paid employment, compared to 80% of their peers.

Currently the college supports 11 interns over two programmes, and this sees young people working on placements across a range of local businesses. Last academic year, the college was proud to see 75% of its interns take up employment across a range of areas. Students went on to perform full and part-time roles such as production assistant, gallery assistant, front of house assistant and pitch detailer.

This academic year, students are still reaping rewards and gaining many new technical and life skills through businesses such as Mansfield Museum, Capita, Nottinghamshire County Council, Gedling Borough Council and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

We followed up with some of the students who are currently enjoying placement at Sherwood Forest Hospitals, on the DFN Project SEARCH campaign.

Drew Clarke, Reece Shires, Nathan Florence and Shaun Cross have wonderful stories to tell of their roles within Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Their internships have been blossoming for the past six months and will see these young individuals experience a rotational pathway of roles in a range of departments such as estates, housekeeping and stores, discovering new skills in administration and communication while bolstering personal skills such as confidence, team building, organisational and time management skills and social interaction within these busy teams.

Drew, 22, began college in January 2023 and was uncertain of the kind of career he wanted to go into. However, he was open to suggestions, and this is when teachers explained DFN Project SEARCH to him. He began his first rotation placement at King’s Mill Hospital working for the Medirest team, the service which provides cleaning, catering and security services on behalf of the hospital trust. Drew, together with a job coach, began working with the window cleaning team undertaking a very physical job.

He interacted well with his mentor Margaret, and really built on his communications skills, which helped him to develop great professional working relationships. His confidence also soared with finding his way around the hospital site.

Drew said: “I was nervous when I started and not very confident. My mentor and job coach have been there every step of the way to encourage and support me. I am more independent now, can set up my workstation and find the areas that I need to be working. My job coach is still there for me, and we communicate throughout the day to plan our routine and whereabouts around the hospital.”

Reece Shires, 21, has studied a mixture of life skills and practical skills at the college, such as basic cooking skills and Level 2 in Vehicle Fitting. This has been beneficial for Reece in his home life, allowing him to be independent and cooking tea for his house mates.  This, combined with Reece now taking more specific vocational courses, is giving him every opportunity to gain meaningful employment at the end of his supported internship career and live an independent life.

Reece started his first rotation placement with DFN Project SEARCH at Kings Mill Hospital in October 2022 with the support of a job coach to support him in his role in the estates administration team. Reece has completed tasks in Computer Aided Design (CAD) confidently and also catalogued numerous files which has taken him patience and time. Reece has become a valued member of the team and moved on to work within the Skanska team’s stores.

Reece said: “The program has helped me to get into the real world of work. It‘s better for me to do more practical work and less classroom work, as I learn better hands-on. So far it has been a positive experience for me on DFN Project SEARCH.

“My job coach helps me when I am feeling anxious and talks to me. They helped me to start my second rotation in stores and showed me what to do. I was very nervous, but they helped me to stay calm. My job coach reminds me when I need to follow the rules and when it is ok to talk to people. I have help in the classroom from my job coach and tutor and they will explain things to me if I don't understand.”

Nathan Florence, 20, had previously studied at Portland College and Inspire College working on setting up a radio station and gained the Personal and Social Development Level 1 and Employability Skills Level 2.  At the start of his journey with DFN Project Search Nathan had no clear career path and was open to suggestions around the roles at the hospital so he could explore employment options in the future.

Nathan started his first rotation placement at King’s Mill Hospital in November 2022 with the support of a job coach to help him in his role.

Nathan progressed immensely throughout the first couple of weeks using a ‘train to fade’ system of support. He integrated well into the staff team and improved his communication skills to build professional working relationships, especially with his previous mentor Margaret and present mentors Lorraine, Angela and Dennis.  Nathan has also completed the hospital’s Level 2 Basic food Hygiene course recently.

Nathan said: “The supported internship programme is helping me to try and get a job by encouraging me to work hard and to complete my targets to prove to that I want to work for them. I feel part of the team at Medirest.

“I preferred window cleaning role to the mop room duties because there’s lots to be done all at the same time. I am finding multi-tasking hard but with support from my job coach and mentor I have become more confident.”

Nineteen-year-old Shaun Cross was quite nervous and shy when he started his first rotation in the Skanska stores based at King’s Mill Hospital. Shaun was supported by the job coach and after two weeks with the one-to-one support Shaun had gained the confidence to be left to work alone with his mentors Linda and Craig.

Shaun has to sign-in every morning at the main office and now makes his own way there every morning and then goes over to the stores fully-independently. The job coaches check with staff to ensure he arrives in a timely manner. Shaun now works independently in the first rotation while progressing and learning new tasks within the stores.

Overall, Shaun’s work experience has been a good one, and having support has given him the safety and security he needed to grow in confidence, personality and practical skills. His positivity and kindness have been respected by staff and he will continue to develop in his new environment and future rotations within the hospital roles. He has also completed the hospital’s basic food hygiene course recently.

Shaun said: “I really enjoyed working in Skanska stores office. My mentor Linda is so helpful and supportive. Linda has taught me how to use the electronic system ‘Concept’, which they use for booking deliveries in and ordering items.

I feel I have become more confident and able to speak out more. There are a lot of staff and visitors who come into the stores, so I feel that meeting more people has helped me communicate better.

Emma is currently my mentor and she’s very helpful and is giving me more challenging tasks to try.  I have created a poster with Richard and I have completed lots of things on the computer.

DFN Project SEARCH’s supported internships have seen up to 70% of their graduates gain paid employment, and it’s not just the interns who benefit but wider society benefits from a diverse talent pool.

The college’s employability and supported internships manager Louise Pilter said: “It has been great to be involved in such a fantastic, supported employment programme and is a great addition to our supported internship programme delivered from our main campus. Over the past three years we’ve been able to strengthen our partnerships with local employers and provide a wider range of opportunities for our young people.

“Immersing our young people into a workforce gives them opportunity to discover and showcase their talents whilst learning new skills. Our interns are integrated into the workplace with the combined support of a mentor and a job coach, to enable them to develop and work towards independence. The impact these opportunities have on our young people is life changing, allowing them to make informed choices about their future and build their work experience to enable them to secure and sustain employment.”

Jackie Wix, audit officer for estates and facilities at the hospital, said: “These students have all gained so much already and we’re very impressed with how hard they work. It’s an absolute pleasure to be involved in this programme as not only does it teach them skills, but it also touches on all the people who have been in contact with the programme, all of the staff they are working with.

“As business liaison I aim to provide as varied a range of areas as possible to offer the students on their job rotations. We have had so much positive support and offers of places for interns to go. We are really looking forward to next year’s programme being just as successful.

Take a look at the video below which shows Shaun and Nathan's great progress in their roles.

To find out more about the college’s internship support and DFN Project SEARCH, visit www.wnc.ac.uk/courses/supported-internship