Building confidence, encouraging awareness and giving hope for the future are among the benefits of a Warwick-based project that offers “life changing” internships to students with additional learning needs.
EmployAbility – Let’s Work Together was set up by National Grid in 2013 in partnership with Round Oak School to give pupils the chance to gain valuable work experience during nine-month placements.
National Grid now takes interns from Round Oak School, Warwickshire College and Hereward College in Coventry. The pupils are supported by job coaches as they take on roles at the company’s offices in Warwick Technology Park - with around 70 per cent going on to secure paid employment.
Taurai Horton, 19, from Leamington was one of the first pupils to take part in the project. He now works in the company’s safety, sustainability and resilience team.
He said: “Having autism has affected me greatly and had always given me challenges in my life.
“At the end of my first year of sixth form I didn’t know what I was going to do next. I was worried about the future until I was asked to be part of EmployAbility.
“The scheme has given me the chance to build a life for myself and do a job that I really enjoy. I will keep working hard and hope to achieve my future goals.”
Round Oak School headteacher Jane Naylor said: “Our partnership with National Grid is the finest example of partnership working there is. Student confidence and self-esteem has increased, leading to aspiration for paid employment at the end of the programme. Some have experienced success in the job market and look forward to long and varied careers.”
Amanda Onions is one of two job coaches, provided by the school to support the interns. She said: “I have worked in special education for over 30 years and I have never seen anything that transforms people so quickly – it is life changing.”
Kirsty Wilkes, 18, is almost half way through her internship and recently started a placement on the company’s reception desk.
She said: “When I first started here I was very shy, but now I have built up my confidence and am able to interact with people more easily. I feel really happy and am looking forward to being able to get a paid job in the future.”
National Grid project manager and EmployAbility co-founder Mark Pickles said: “EmployAbility offers individuals the chance to gain valuable work experience. We currently have 24 interns at National Grid and hope that other businesses will join us in offering similar opportunities.”