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Innovative employment programme wins national award

A Weston College programme that helps young people move into paid work has won a national award.

The ‘Into Work’ course took the prize in the ‘Inclusion in Employment’ category at the National Special Educational Needs (SEND) Awards.

Staff members from the College’s Faculty of Inclusive Practice received the accolade at the annual SEND Conference at the Pool Academy in Redruth, Cornwall.

Into Work is a year-long supported internship programme for 16 to 24-year-olds with special educational needs and disabilities and who receive an Education, Health and Care Plan. Staff work with learners, their families and employers to provide employability skills, and instil confidence and self-belief.

Into Work, which launched in 2014, has already proved a major success with 45% of learners achieving paid employment, and 55% progressing to higher-level training. Nationally, just 6% of learners with learning disabilities are in paid employment.

Elaine Biddle, the College’s Specialist Support Practitioner for Foundation Learning, said: “As a relatively new programme, it was great to see Into Work recognised for helping learners move into employment and relevant further training.

“These results demonstrate how the College has embraced the ideals and ethos of supported employment and been able to put this into practice to achieve sustainable outcomes and help learners transition successfully into adulthood.”

Ben Mager recently completed the Into Work programme. Ben suffers from cerebral palsy memory loss, seizures and other cognitive difficulties. He also lacked self-confidence after being bullied at school.

During his time on the course, Ben completed internships with Dunelm and Castle Kids Club and achieved a grade C in the English GCSE. He was also offered a paid job at Dunelm and has now progressed to a Level 2 Apprenticeship at Castle Kids Club.

Ben said: “The Into Work course allowed staff to focus on me rather than a whole class. It means they’ve been able to pin-point what I need help with.

“That’s helped me find more out about myself, improve my confidence and move into sustainable paid employment.”

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