On International Day for Persons with Disabilities, we caught up with four young people with special educational needs and disabilities, who’ve been given a step up into work by our ‘EmployAbility, Let’s Work Together’ initiative.
EmployAbility, our supported internships scheme, is helping young people aged 16-24 who have additional needs grow in confidence and experience, ready for the workplace. The scheme started when a team from National Grid, who’d been volunteering at a special needs school in Warwick, wanted to make even more of an impact on the prospects of the pupils there.
Founded in 2013, EmployAbility now runs at three of our UK office locations – Solihull, Warwick and Wokingham (within current COVID restrictions).
EmployAbility is similar to a standard apprenticeship or internship, but the levels of support involved are greater – for example, each Let’s Work Together intern has the support of a job coach while learning new tasks. The scheme runs over an academic year and combines learning in the workplace, through one or more placements, with opportunities to study for relevant qualifications, including a BTEc in work skills, maths and English. The interns are all at school or college.
60% of our interns have gone on to get jobs. When nationally fewer than 6% of people with learning disabilities are in paid employment, this is a real success story.
So far, just over 100 interns have completed the programme and 60% of them have gone on to get jobs. When nationally fewer than 6% of people with learning disabilities are in paid employment, this is a real success story.
Here, some of the interns explain how the scheme has helped them.
Lewis Jones, 22, worked with IT Commercial and Global Procurement in our Warwick office. Now he’s hoping to do a course building on the office skills he’s picked up on his placement.
“I had to scan work files, making the decision to scan or not. I started out worried and had someone look at them to check, then I was confident enough to make the call on my own. In three words, it’s been frustrating, changing and important.
“The scheme has helped me become more able to work effectively in an office environment, using my own intuition, and to know what kind of jobs I can look for with the confidence to say, ‘I can do it!’.”
Jasmine Hibbitt, 20, didn’t cope well with school, but found her placement working on the Reception desk at our Warwick HQ made a huge difference to her confidence.
“I enjoyed being on Reception. It really brought my confidence on to help me overcome my fear of being in a workplace. I enjoyed organising the Christmas market last year and my confidence had grown so much that I volunteered to make the opening speech with our Corporate Affairs Director.
“I have learnt how to be professional in a workplace and the skills needed for an interview. This has led to me gaining employment in a branch of Smiggle and a tea room, when I leave the programme. It’s been helpful, interesting and life-changing.”
Kyran Nurse, 22, worked in ESO Customer Contracts, Capital Delivery and Customer Liaison in Warwick as part of the scheme. When he finishes the programme he’ll start working part-time, doing a delivery round and supporting his family’s business in the office.
“The best bit about the scheme was working in different departments, gaining experience from the job placements and learning new skills. I learned a lot during my time, like what daily working life is like and how I should behave in the workplace.
“It was tricky for me getting used to the building at first and getting into a routine, but now I know how to get around the building and get a routine together during a work day. Three words to describe the experience for me are positive, work-ready and matured.”
Stephen Watts, 20, was an EmployAbility intern and is now a Contracts and Procurements Administrator at our Warwick office.
“I've learned about the company's multiple teams working around the clock to keep the country's gas and electricity moving and how all the employees at National Grid can support you in any decision and choice you make.
“Getting used to the world of work was difficult at first. I'd done work experience with the school before the programme, but now I’ve spent an entire year at a major company, especially its main office. It’s been enjoyable and life-changing.”
It’s not only the young interns who benefit from programmes like this; it’s also a valuable learning experience for their mentors within National Grid and other companies. Dan Jones, Senior Data Scientist, Strategy and Performance at Data Science, recently managed George, an EmployAbility intern, and found it to be a really positive experience.
“George is great to work with. He’s light-hearted and funny, brings energy to meetings and is enthusiastic to learn. He’s worked really well completing the tasks we set him. Learning disabilities don’t prevent George from doing great work. Also, we’ve had opportunities to develop leadership skills by mentoring and project managing George,” explains Dan.
We also run an EmployAbility initiative in the US.
Intern or ‘fellow’ David Elsner joined Tom Decina’s team in Gas Complex Constructions in New York. His manager Tom says: "Initially I was nervous, worried I wouldn’t have enough time to give David the attention he needed to be successful in the role. By the end of his fellowship, David was a critical member of our team and took on many projects that we hadn’t originally planned to give him. I think David will be a great full-time addition to our company in the future and we'll be working hard to try and make that happen.”