(UK) $21M for jobs training for SPED students; 75% fail to be employed

Nov 19, 2022, FE Week: Just 1 in 4 SEND students in work a year after supported internship ends

Providers say support must continue as learners move into paid work

Just one in four special educational needs students remain in employment a year after their supported internship has ended, FE Week can reveal, prompting calls for more dedicated aid for the scheme.

Those delivering the “life-changing” programmes say that learners still need support once they have moved from internship into paid work, and the government should help fund that assistance as it looks to double the number of placements.

Supported internships are structured programmes for SEND students aged 16 to 24 who have an education health and care plan (EHCP) to get into sustained employment, with placements lasting for six months to a year.

They are enrolled by a learning provider, but spend a significant amount of time – often between two or four days a week – in work with an employer and assisted by a dedicated job coach.

The DfE has committed £18 million [$21M] over the next three years to nearly double the numbers taking advantage of the scheme, with ambitions for 4,500 on programmes each year by 2025.

But data released to FE Week under the UK’s Freedom of Information laws has revealed that just a quarter of students on supported internships found employment in the year following completion.

The internships have steadily grown from just 216 starts in 2013/14 to 2,499 starters in 2020/21, with that most recent intake representing a near doubling of the 1,291 seen four years prior, suggesting that the government target is achievable.

Completion rates for the programmes is an average of nearly 84 per cent since 2013/14, according to the data.

A study by Cooper Gibson Research in 2020 (which interviewed 42 providers and eight wider stakeholders involved in the programmes) reported that most providers estimated at least half of their students on supported internships secured paid work at the end of their placement.

Providers which have reported strong employment figures have said they have laid on longer-term support from their own funds to help learners beyond the end of the programme.

But more government support would bolster that, they say.

The Hive College in Birmingham, which supports around 12 people on supported internships each year with around half moving into paid employment, runs a three year ‘live’ programme in which learners do one day a week in work for their first two years before the supported internship in the third year. …

More than 80 per cent of supported internship completers at LSEC were offered jobs in the last year, it reported.

Like others, learners go on employment preparation the year before, which features one day per week work experience in the second and third terms. …

“Many of our young people need more than just employability training in order to function successfully in adult life,” she said. “There are other preparing for adulthood pathways that are equally important, such as independent living, being part of a community, having a social life and friends, and being able to maintain good health.”

A DfE spokesperson said the eight-figure investment over the next three years will build capacity and quality of the programme, adding: “Supported internships are a popular and high-quality study programme providing young people with education health and care plans with the skills they need to build a fulfilling career through learning in the workplace.

“We continue to support pathways to employment for disabled learners, including through investment to expand and improve the supported internship programme.”