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In 2016, Engage to Change brought supported internships to Wales, creating opportunities that were previously unavailable. Now, every FE college in Wales offers supported internship programmes, thanks to funding from the Welsh government, and partnerships with local businesses, and supported employment agencies.

This report dives into the challenges faced by young people with learning disabilities and/or autism when seeking jobs. It highlights the shortcomings of traditional approaches and emphasises the importance of hands-on learning in real-world settings. Supported internships are presented as a tailored solution to help young people with a learning disability and/or autism gain the training and work experience they need.

The report takes a closer look at two internship models used by Engage to Change. It explores the success of the DFN Project SEARCH model, which has proven to be more effective in getting people employed compared to the national average. Additionally, it introduces the Alternative Supported Internships (ASI) and examines their flexibility, showcasing the differences and benefits of each model. The perspectives of those directly involved, the interns, are integrated to provide a comprehensive understanding.

Overall, 203 young people participated in the study, and 191 successfully completed their internships. Among them, 129 through DFN Project SEARCH, and 62 through the Alternative Supported Internship.

In terms of demographics, 30% of interns identified as female, and 70% as male. A closer look reveals that PS sites had more male interns (73%), while ASI sites had 65% male interns. These numbers highlight the diversity in these internships.

The average age of interns across both models was approximately 19.67 years. PS sites had an average age of 19.59, while ASI sites were slightly older at 19.84. Most PS interns were 19 when they joined the project, while ASI participants mostly started at 17.

Interns also shared their thoughts on teaching, job coaching, and mentoring. In terms of teaching, 60% found it “very good,” and 32% labeled it as “good.” They learned practical skills like job searching and workplace responsibilities, which also boosted their confidence and personal growth.

Job coach support received high praise, with 93% of PS interns and 88% of ASI interns acknowledging it as “Very good” or “Good.” Job coaches played a crucial role in providing practical assistance within job placements, ensuring interns understood routines, and encouraging them to navigate tasks independently.

In conclusion, the report by NCMH recognises the value of both DFN Project SEARCH and ASI models. It calls on policymakers, educators, and employers in Wales to collaborate, expanding supported internship opportunities and creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for young people with learning disabilities and/or autism in the workforce.

English report here: English report

Welsh report: Welsh report