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Helping each and every young person into the North East workforce

Our ambition here at the North East LEP is to help young people in the region prepare for the world of work. And that means each and every young person. All the work we do with schools, colleges and employers is focused on meeting the needs of each and every young person, including those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

It’s a startling statistic that just 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment* and yet more than 65% of people with a learning disability want to and are able to work**.

How do we start to turn this around and ensure that all young people in the North East have the opportunity to experience the world of work, receive high quality careers guidance and have clear routes into employment?

How can we make sure businesses are able to access the widest pool of talent possible and reflect the communities they serve? And how can businesses make sure they’re not overlooking potential employees who can bring real benefits to an organisation?

We’ve formed a working group made up of businesses, careers leads from schools (both SEND specialist schools and those with a SEND provision) and representatives from the third sector. We’re also working closely with the Leonard Cheshire Foundation and host their North East presence, working together to support young people to develop their careers.

The working group aims to uncover and tackle the challenges faced by the SEND sector when it comes to transitioning from education to work. We are also sharing examples of best practice with employers and offering guidance for schools and businesses on how to best support young people with SEND to successfully enter employment.

Nationally, one great example of best practice is the National Grid. Their focus is on building a workforce that meets the needs of the business and that also helps to create a fairer and more inclusive society where everyone can reach their full potential. Their EmployAbility programme which provides supported internships for young people with SEND has seen fantastic results – 60% of interns have gone into paid employment, compared with a national average of only 6%, and they have a 100% retention rate for intern recruits.

Every business can benefit from better engaging with young people with special educational needs and disabilities. Young people have a valuable contribution to make to our workplaces and businesses like the National Grid have seen wider benefits across their entire workforce such as a boost to overall performance and morale, and increased coaching opportunities. 95% of the employee volunteers for National Grid’s EmployAbility scheme said they felt more positive about the company.

If you’d like to find out more I’d encourage you to register for our free event on 15 May at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead when we’ll be hearing from the National Grid and the Careers and Enterprise Company who will be sharing more detail about their successful model. You can book a free ticket via Eventbrite.

We’re also looking for more businesses to join our working group. Whether you’re already successfully working with young people with SEND or you would like to help champion the right of each and every young person in our region to access the world of work, we’d love to hear from you.

Michelle Rainbow, North East LEP Skills Director.

*Source: Mencap

**Source: HM Government, Valuing Employment Now