Whilst most people recognise the need for young people to gain real work experience, currently only one in four employers offer it. This number is even lower for young people with a learning difficulty or disability (LDD). These young people are more than twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET) than those without, so the need for good quality work experience has never been greater.

Work experience enables employers to understand the benefits of employing disabled staff, whilst students learn about the workplace and develop their confidence as future employees.

Chief Executive, Natspec

I enjoy the work experience because people treat me the same as everyone else, and I am not treated differently because of my autism.

Sam Clarke, 21, Thornbeck College student

Sam Clarke at Beales Department Store

What is the Work Experience Quality Standard?

A set of nationally accredited frameworks which learning providers and employers can work towards to ensure they are delivering comprehensive work experience programmes.

The Work Experience Quality Standard accreditation allows the college to demonstrate its commitment to working with employers, promoting the benefits to employers of committing to providing work experience placements for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, as well as the positive impact that employers have on their development.

Emma blossoms in this role and the skills she has acquired have improved her social, communication and listening ability.

Barbara Smith, Emma’s mother

Good practice at Thornbeck College

Thornbeck College actively engages with employers on a local and national level to provide high quality and meaningful work experience placements for learners, linked to their long term goals and aspirations.

The college has worked extensively to locate and engage employers within the region to ensure that learners are able to attend placements within their own local communities and ensure that these placements are sustainable beyond their educational programme with Thornbeck College.

To add further weight to their quality assurance, Thornbeck College has developed a work experience charter, which outlines their key principles of working with employers. It manages expectations and acts as an introduction to the college’s supported internships.

The access to documentation from Fair Train through the Work Experience Quality Standard accreditation has enabled to the college to develop high quality processes which record the impact of work experience as well as provide quality assurance mechanisms to evaluate the impact of work experience placements.

Fair Train is a national charity which champions the benefits of all types of work experience. We support colleges across the country to improve their work experience provision, through the national Work Experience Quality Standard.

Natspec is the membership association for specialist colleges, representing the interests of over 3,000 students with complex learning difficulties and disabilities. 

Thornbeck College is a leading specialist college and part of the North East Autism Society.

Natspec advocates that: Students should have a right to specialism and expertise which will enable them to achieve their long term aspirations and become valued and active members of society. Employment rates for young people and adults with learning difficulties or disabilities remain shockingly low; for example, fewer than 10 percent of those with a learning difficulty are in work, yet evidence shows that they are excellent employees; they stay in jobs for longer, take less sick-leave than other employees and have better attendance rates. Therefore, Natspec seeks cross departmental promotion of the benefits of employing disabled people, and access to work to be extended to students on work experience.

For more information about the Work Experience Quality Standard and working with Fair Train:

Visit: www.fairtrain.org   Email: [email protected]   Tweet: @FairTrainOrg