Gloucestershire's Apprenticeship Champions 2019

National Star illuminates route to work

Thomas Hopkins

Every year, National Star works closely with employers to enable more young people with disabilities enter the workplace. In the UK, by the time they are 26, people with disabilities are four times as likely to be unemployed as their non-disabled peers. Forty-five per cent of people with disabilities who are in their early 20s are NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). National Star runs supported internships, traineeships and work-based learning programmes for young people with disabilities in Gloucestershire, Hereford and in other parts of the countries. Megan Rogers, from National Star, explains that apprenticeships are not often appropriate for young people with disabilities or learning difficulties. “They may not have level 1 Maths or English. They will need a higher level of support and likely have an EHCP (Education Health Care Plan),” said Ms Rogers. “Just because they don’t fit the apprenticeship mould, doesn’t mean they don’t have a great deal to contribute to the workplace. They do. It may just mean that the approach has to be different.” Every learner has a job mentor, a dedicated person from National Star who works with the young person and with the employer. The objective is to create long-term sustainable paid income and to provide an important contribution the business. “We support employers to understand how to make adjustments, often ones that are not costly but are quite straightforward. Often the greatest barrier can be fear. Many employers may not have had a member of staff with disabilities,” said Ms Rogers. Besides the traineeships, supported internships and work-based learning programmes for young people aged 16 to 24, National Star also offers Steps intoWork, a supported internship for people with disabilities who are aged 19 and above. This year they have 18 working with employers across Gloucestershire, including organisations such as the University of Gloucestershire,Atkins Global and EDF Energy.

Research carried out about the Steps programme estimates the social value for Steps is £7.01 for every £1 of public money invested. All the programmes have success stories. One highlight for the 2018 academic year was Tom Hopkins who landed his dream job - straight from leaving National Star. The 18-year-old, who has been on a supported internship programme, is now a full-time commis (junior) chef at Bowden Hall. Tom gained skills and confidence while working at National Star’s StarBistro, which is based at Ullenwood and open to the public. He had always wanted to be a chef.Tom has Hypertonia, a condition which affects muscle and tone and can make arms or legs stiff and difficult to move. He saved his earnings to buy his own set of chef’s knives. Now he will be working full-time as a commis chef l

28 | December 2018 | www. punchline-gloucester .com

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