When I Grow Up: increasing opportunities for young people

The When I Grow Up project launched last week at the Milestone Academy in Kent. This is a four year project funded by the Big Lottery to work with three schools in England to increase aspirations and opportunities for young people with learning disabilities to find employment after leaving school.

I attended the day with four colleagues to talk to the pupils, teachers, families, community employers and members of the board of Governors about the project and how we will be working together over the next few years. As well as working in a school in Kent, we will also be working with schools in Berkshire and Redbridge, London.

It was great to meet everyone at the school and discover the enthusiasm about the project from those involved. We will work in partnership with Milestone Academy, students, families and local employers to provide the support, technical expertise and knowledge to take forward Milestone Academy’s vision for young people with learning disabilities to have access to paid work opportunities in their future. This will involve:

  •  setting up workshops for parents to raise their aspirations about their child’s employment opportunities and think about the skills and interests their child has
  • work with young people to find out about their aspirations and interests and develop their work experience and employability
  • work with the schools to develop their knowledge and experience in supporting students to look for employment opportunities post school
  • work with local employers to help them think about the opportunities they could offer people with learning disabilities in their area.
  • We aim for the learning to be replicated once the project finished in four years’ time so that other schools who are interested in developing similar work can use the learning in their own schools.

    At the moment it is estimated that only 7% of people with learning disabilities are in paid employment. Part of the reason for this is the availability of jobs and the support to help people with learning disabilities to succeed in gaining employment. However a large part of the problem is the lack of aspiration people have about the employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities.

    For many years it was assumed that people with learning disabilities would not be able to find paid work and that they would leave school and got to day centres or similar. Now society can see that people with learning disabilities have as much to offer employers as everyone else and how including them as a valued part of the workforce has many benefits.