Rhiannon, aged 26, and Matthew, aged 21, have embarked on their journey towards promising careers after completing a life-changing supported internship programme with The Heart of England Forest.
Supported internships are study programmes specifically tailored for young people, aged 16 to 24, with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). By providing vital work-based learning opportunities, they can help young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) take their first steps towards embarking on a rewarding career.
Warwickshire County Council (WCC) works in partnership with local colleges, special schools and young people to select suitable placements and to provide ongoing support for the young person and business host throughout the internship and the early stages of any ongoing careers.
The Heart of England Forest’s 10-month supported internship programme has been carefully thought out to provide excellent opportunities for the interns to develop valuable hands-on skills alongside gaining relevant qualifications by completing a personalised study programme.
Interns work with the different teams across the Forest completing three rotations during their placement. This allows them to gain a wide range of skills such as learning how to cultivate trees from seed, assisting the head gardener to maintain the Forest’s private sculpture garden and developing people skills by supporting the Forest’s regular volunteering sessions and school groups.
Throughout their placement, Rhiannon and Matthew received one-to-one support from a designated member of the Heart of England Forest team and were guided by an expert job coach to help them carry out tasks and develop their employability skills. When their placement ended in June 2022, they both received support to apply for jobs with the charity and are now enjoying the benefits of full-time employment working as Tree Nursery Assistants.
Hear Rhiannon and Matthew talking about their experience and more about the programme from The Heart of England Forest team in the video below:
The Heart of England Forest has continued to support young people into employment following this initial success, with another two interns recently being taken on as paid employees after completing the programme in June 2023. Harrison, one of the new employees, said: “The forest is calm and everybody is friendly. I like that it’s work-based and no reading and writing and I like being able to use my practical skills that I couldn’t in school.”
With only 4.8% of adults aged 18-64 with a learning disability securing permanent paid employment in the UK, compared to 80% of their peers, supported internship programmes, such as the one offered by The Heart of England Forest, are vital.
Thanks to a grant of £105,000 from the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi), Warwickshire County Council is working with partners to improve opportunities for young people to access community-based supported internships across the county.
This includes the development of a clear pathway and a suite of new guidance to support young people, parents and carers, business hosts and schools and colleges in understanding how to access and deliver high-quality supported internships with the aim of this leading to lifelong employment.
Councillor Kam Kaur, Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for Education said:
“In Warwickshire we are fully committed to working in partnership with education settings and local employers to expand the opportunities for young people with additional needs so they can access high-quality supported internships, if this is a route they choose after leaving school or college.
“I am thrilled to see the fantastic achievements of Rhiannon, Matt and Harrison, who have worked hard with the support from The Heart of England Forest team and their job coaches to take their first steps into paid employment, and I would like to wish them all every success in their future careers.”
“I hope that with the development of our supported internships offer in Warwickshire that we will see many more young people set out on this exciting path to a promising career and to fulfilling their potential.”
Warwickshire County Council is keen to hear from other young people, parents and carers and businesses, about their experiences of supported internships. If you have would like to share your story, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find more Information on Supported Internship opportunities across the county by visiting the college websites below:
- Hereward College
- North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College
- Stratford Upon Avon College.
- Warwickshire College Group
More information about post-16 education and training for those with SEND is available on Warwickshire’s SEND Local Offer.