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Past and present interns on the Cardiff University: Engage to Change Project SEARCH were delighted to receive a visit from Jayne Bryant MS who visited to learn more about the supported internship programme.  

Cardiff University is a host business for Project SEARCH and has provided internship placements for over 75 young people who have a learning disability and/or autism over the last 7 years.  The programme was developed as part of the wider Engage to Change Project, a Wales-wide supported employment initiative which started in 2016. The supported internship programme is delivered by a partnership including Learning Disability Wales, DFN Project SEARCH, ELITE Supported Employment Agency, the National Centre for Mental Health at Cardiff University, and Cardiff and the Vale College. The visit, hosted by the Engage to Change Research Team at the National Centre for Mental Health, was arranged following a previous visit from Hefin David MS which led to questions regarding supported employment for young people who have a learning disability and/or are autistic being asked in the Senedd.

Raising aspirations: Supporting the next generation of Young People with Learning Disabilities into Employment

Jayne Bryant MS visited the National Centre for Mental Health where she was greeted by Engage to Change Lead Ambassador Gerraint Jones Griffiths and Dr. Stephen Beyer, Senior research fellow and lead on Learning Disability employment, with representatives from project partners including Project Manager Angela Kenvyn from Learning Disability Wales. Ms Bryant was provided with information about Engage to Change and the internship programme before starting a tour to meet current interns across the University accompanied by the Project SEARCH course tutor from Cardiff and Vale College and Employment Advisor from Elite Supported Employment Agency.

Cardiff University’s Concrete Lab in the School of Engineering was the first stop to meet intern Steffan Fitzgerald and his workplace mentor. Steffan spoke to Ms Bryant about the work he was carrying out in the department as a lab assistant. Next a visit was made to Cardiff University Registrations Department in McKenzie House where Ms Bryant met with intern Elenor Watson, who is currently working on an administration internship. Both interns were pleased to meet the Minister and describe their work, to discuss how they had benefited from their placements, and the impact the internships had had on their confidence and their lives. Following their Project SEARCH internships Steffan and Elenor will be supported to gain paid employment.

Ms Bryant then met with Tyler Savory and Andrew Worsey, who gained paid employment within the National Centre for Mental Health as a result of their previous internships. Now working in data entry and administration roles they have become a vital part of the staff team. Tyler has spoken at several events highlighting the difference having a paid job and good support has made to his life, and that without these opportunities he would be unsure what he would be doing now. He told Ms Bryant that he hadn’t known such roles were available before starting his internship, but he now is happy and proud to work with the team on the important research they carry out.

Tyler and Andrew joined discussions between Ms. Bryant and the project partners about what is needed from Welsh Government to support young people with learning disabilities and autism into employment, including the need for more focus on better transition from education, the impact of ALN reform and an urgent need for a national job coaching service.

Research within the Engage to Change project shows how methods using skilled job coaching input can find people with learning disabilities and autism paid jobs. People with learning disabilities and/or autism are under-represented in government employment policies for disabled people. There is a lack of availability of skilled job coaching offered through government schemes to support people seeking employment. Without programmes offering job coaching, it is difficult to provide supported work experience in host businesses such as Cardiff University. On-the-job support is crucial to delivery of work experience and jobs.

Engage to Change has pioneered the use of Supported Internships in Wales and much has been learned about how work-based learning can be blended into a host business. More than this, it has shown how College and Supported Employment Agency partnerships can deliver this model effectively. There is significant potential to deliver this moving forward with support from the Welsh Government. Project Manager Angela Kenvyn said:

“We were delighted to have this opportunity to showcase the Supported Internship programme to Ms Bryant who is Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee at the Senedd. The success of the programme is due to the commitment and strong partnership between all involved, together with the willingness of the young people to try something new. We are hopeful that discussions with Ms Bryant will be fed back to the Senedd Committee and Welsh Government.”

Cardiff University are the first University in Wales to host Project SEARCH internships through the Engage to Change project and offer tailored employment support to young people who have a learning disability and/or autism. It’s success is due to the commitment of university staff and partnership working with the educator/ supported employment agency, together with the continuity it offers to the young people as they go into the adult world of employment.

group of people posing together and smiling

Jayne Bryant MS visits Engage to Change: Project SEARCH Supported Internship partners at Cardiff University. Left to Right: Dr. Stephen Beyer, Angela Kenvyn, Julie Bugden, Gerraint Jones-Griffiths, Dr. Elisa Vigna, Kayleigh England-Maxted, Jayne Bryant MS, Sian Blowers, Andrea Wayman, Chris Day, Andrew Worsey, Tyler Savory.