Call for businesses to offer work experience to young people with complex needs

Alice Lomasney, 18, who will be starting as an apprentice at the Nisa Local shop in Attleborough. Pi

Alice Lomasney, 18, who will be starting as an apprentice at the Nisa Local shop in Attleborough. Pictured with shop owners Michelle and Stephen Eagling.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Businesses have been urged to join a scheme to create new work experiences opportunities for young people with complex needs.

Trust Norfolk SEN, a cooperative trust which Norfolk's 10 complex needs schools belong to, has received a grant from Norfolk County Council to promote 'supported internships'.

Unlike existing work experience opportunities, the project will train a 'workplace buddy' at the business, who will work alongside, supervise and support the young person.

The scheme will also see a member of staff at each school become an employment champion, who will support the internships.

Robert Ashton, a social entrepreneur who sits on the board of Trust Norfolk SEN, outlined benefits employers could gain from the project.

He said: 'It's good for staff development. The person who could be a workplace buddy could be someone who has not has much management experience before.

'It's also a chance to show the employer is inclusive and open to change, and Mencap research shows that people prefer to be with companies that wear their hearts on their sleeve.'

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He added that there are jobs that can be hard to fill, perhaps because they are repetitive, that could be well suited to someone with a learning disability.

Businesses already getting involved include the East of England Co-op, the Wind Energy Museum at Repps with Bastwick, and Dodds Road Stores in Attleborough.

Stephen Eagling, who owns the Dodds Road Stores with his wife Michelle, said he will probably ask his student, Alice Lomasney, who studies at Harford Manor School, to check best before dates and stock, and operate the till, if possible.

Mr Ashton asked businesses to contact him to details of the scheme, which is likely to involve offering work experience one day a week for a few weeks in late February and March.

He said there is no expectation the students would be paid, but he hoped some might continue work experience, or even work part time after they leave school.

Contact Robert Ashton on 01953 609757 or robert@robertashton.co.uk

Do you have an education story? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk