Change that leads to better lives

An Employers' Guide to Starting Supported Internships

A step-by-step guide to employers looking to start offering supported internships in their company.

Cover image alt-text: Employers’ Guide to Starting Supported Internships

Supported internships (SIs) offer valuable opportunities for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) as they transition from education to the workplace. SIs also benefit employers by bringing fresh perspectives, fostering diversity, and enhancing workplace inclusivity.

Here's our tailored step-by-step guide to employers looking to start offering supported internships in their company:

1. Build Partnerships and Develop Relationships with Key Stakeholders:

To begin, establish connections with local authorities, SEND employment forums, schools, and colleges. Building these relationships is crucial for a successful supported internship program. These stakeholders can provide resources, support, and opportunities in your area.

2. Collaborate with Schools and Colleges:

Reach out to local schools and colleges with SEND departments to collaborate on offering supported internships. Develop and foster connections with educators and administrators, and inform them about the kind of roles you'd like to offer for supported interns.

3. Present at Schools and Colleges:

Partner with schools and colleges to conduct informative presentations for students, parents, and educators. Highlight the benefits of supported internships, emphasising skills development, work experience, and personal growth.

4. Engage with Open Days and Information Sessions:

Organise open days and information sessions to introduce potential candidates and their families to your supported internship programme. Provide insights into the programme's structure, advantages, expectations, and available support services - this will often be in collaboration with your supported internship provider, college, local authority. Use this opportunity to address questions and offer a glimpse of the internship experience.

5. Create an Accessible Application Process:

Develop an inclusive and straightforward application process for candidates. Ensure clarity and provide alternative formats like audio or easy-to-read versions. Include a section for candidates to showcase their interests, skills, and motivation to participate.

6. Offer a Skills and Assessment Opportunity:

Instead of traditional interviews, consider organising a skills and assessment day. This allows candidates to demonstrate their abilities and potential for growth. Evaluate communication skills, problem-solving abilities, teamwork, and more. This holistic approach aligns with supported internship principles and offers a comprehensive view of each candidate's potential.

By following these steps and collaborating with local stakeholders, you can create an effective and inclusive supported internship program. Your commitment as an employer can empower young people with disabilities to thrive in the workplace and make a meaningful difference in their lives.

Continuous Learning and Strengthening Supported Internships

As you start the journey of providing supported internships within your company, remember that it's not just about getting started; it's about continuous improvement and ongoing learning.

1. Proactive Learning and Collaboration:

Building and maintaining strong relationships with local authorities, SEND employment forums, schools, colleges, and other relevant stakeholders is essential. However, it's equally vital to proactively engage in continuous learning.

Seek opportunities to understand how best to support young people with learning disabilities and special educational needs. These partnerships can provide valuable resources, support, and opportunities in your area.

Sign up to DFN Project SEARCH Employers Champion Training (Free), which provide employers with essential information, advice, and training, fostering growth in internships and job opportunities within their organisations. Learn more about the training here.

2. Beyond the Checklist:

To create a truly inclusive and effective supported internship program, avoid merely checking off boxes. Make it a priority to continuously improve and enhance the inclusion of individuals with learning disabilities and special educational needs. Stay informed about evolving best practices and tailor your approach to meet the unique needs of each participant.

3. Leverage SIQAF for Excellence:

Consider engaging with resources like the Supported Internships Quality Assurance Framework (SIQAF). SIQAF offers valuable guidance and standards to ensure the quality and success of your program. Active participation in SIQAF demonstrates your commitment to excellence in supporting young people with SEND on their path to meaningful and sustainable employment.

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