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Why hire young people with SEND?

Meet James, a town planning apprentice at Ealing Council. Watch him share why employers should consider offering jobs and training opportunities to young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND).

James has a high functioning autism. A family therapist almost wrote him off by saying he wouldn’t do anything particularly ambitious in life. Fast-forward 20 years later and James is a valued member of council’s staff and even won an award in the prestigious Spark! Awards at the end of 2022, being recognised for his commitment, passion and inspirational journey.

How it started for James

He says: “I originally applied for a level 2 IT apprenticeship and that funny enough was found by my mum in Around Ealing magazine. I didn’t quite make the cut for that particular apprenticeship but I was referred to the support programme that was provided for apprentice candidates who wanted to try and seek other opportunities. I found my level 3 apprenticeship through this process. I completed that in December 2021 and I am now doing my level 4 course.”

Offering jobs or training opportunities to young people with SEND

When asked what he would like employers to know about creating opportunities for young people with SEND James says: “While there are certain challenges that come for each individual with a particular task or particular area, what is considered to be maybe a weakness in one particular area, they have three other strengths in another. Try to consider what the strengths of the candidate are and play on those strengths. They have a lot more to offer. The candidates just need encouragement and support.

“What you have in terms of a disability doesn’t necessarily define who you are. That person isn’t the disability and neither is the disability them. I can guarantee from personal experience that putting the investment into helping these people with opportunities will seriously benefit you. You will really have so much to gain from this.”

Hear from James’ manager

Steve Barton comments: “James has been absolutely phenomenal. We are very keen to get more young people involved in our service and industry, to get that sort of fresh thinking and that fresh perspective and fresh energy. It also helps with the ICT, because I’m getting at the end of my career so if somebody could work out how some of the software works.”

When asked if he has had any difficulties meeting James’ needs, Steve adds: “No, we had a very very frank, open discussion at the beginning about the things he felt comfortable with – his strengths and also a good discussion about the areas where he felt he needed support and improvement. I would say probably the biggest area really is sometimes overthinking things. Again, we have developed a whole range of coping mechanisms – being very clear, providing clarify about work instructions and tasks and setting word limits.”

Exciting event

Discover what young people with SEND have to offer and explore why it is important to diversify your workforce at the ABLE – Access to Better Lifelong Employment – a free event on 28 March from 10am to 1pm at Ealing Town Hall. It will be a great opportunity for local businesses, young people with SEND and professionals to have a discussion about inclusive recruitment.

What are you waiting for?

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, cabinet member for decent living incomes says:

“We have strong commitments not only to creating good jobs for our residents, but also in tackling inequality. We want to see more wonderful young people like James, who have so much to offer, getting into the workplace.

“If you are an employer and want to recruit top talent like James, but don’t know where to start, then we are here to lend a helping hand to make sure that you get the support to make it as straightforward as possible. And not only will we support you, but also your new recruit too. Reach out and contact us today to find out how you can be a brilliant employer and take on some wonderful new apprentices.”

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