Amba, a member of the FLARE disabled children and young people's group, writes about her experiences of supported internships, and her hopes for the future.
I have chosen the topic of supported internships because I am coming to the end of one in my local area and I want to share how it has benefited me and made an impact on not only me but my whole family too.
What is a supported internship you may be asking?
Well a supported internship is a work based programme for people ages 16-24 years old with learning difficulties/disabilities or autism. It usually lasting around 1 academic year. It is mainly work based learning with 4 days a week in a work environment and then either 1 or 0.5 day a week in an educational centre covering topics such as Mock interviews, CV writing, planning an event and budgeting to just to name a few. There are 3 placements each lasting around 10/12 weeks each.
The first placement usually lasts from September to December with half term and all the bank holidays off. The second placement lasts from January to April, again with all half terms and bank holidays off. The third and final placement lasts from April/May to Mid-July time with all the bank holidays and half terms off.
At the beginning of the course in September you will usually attend an induction week with ice breakers to get to know your other interns more. During the week you will get a variety of talks from professionals as well as getting the opportunity to state the profession which interests you the most. This is so that the people in charge of your internship can get an idea of which places you would like to work in and which areas you would not like to work in. As the project goes on you will get more of a say on which placements you would prefer. You will get fortnightly reviews about the positive and negative aspects of your progress. My advice is to take the negative aspects as constructive criticism and not too personally.
The project was really good for me as it helped me in many different ways including independent travel, time management, and communication. It taught me how to cope in different situations and being outside your comfort zone. The project made me realise that I couldn’t do some jobs on a day to day basis.
I therefore realised that I should change my career path and it was time for me to explore other job opportunities that I did not only like but also that I am good at. That job just happened to be IT and business; I therefore tried something different that I have really enjoyed and I’m hoping to do this as a career. It could lead to paid employment, a traineeship or apprenticeship at some stage.
Should more people with SEND do supported internships?
Yes, I want more people with SEND on supported internships as that will not only benefit them but also the government too. It will help to lower the unemployment rates as well as enabling the young people to achieve their best, build up new and existing skills and get employment in the aspect of work that interests them the most. It will boost their confidence self worth and self esteem.
How should the government/local authority give more of these opportunities to young people?
I want the government to put more money every year into these programmes as I think they waste too much money on unnecessary things and don’t put enough money into the things that matter most to us.
How should employers see me after doing the internship?
I would like employers to see me as a person and not as my disability. I want people to look at me and view me in positive way and my strengths about what I can do and NOT my weakness and what I can’t do.