CfESEND blog: City College Norwich on supporting learners with SEND with employment

Blog by Elaine Dale, Director of SEND at City College Norwich, for the Centres for Excellence in SEND programme.

As many of you will be aware through our recent webinar, we have been sharing our effective practice of our employment agency MINT and have talked about the successes of our learners with SEND gaining employment during the pandemic.

MINT employees standing infront of wall

We have been focusing on rebuilding ourselves and adapting the way we work to create a ‘new normal’. The team’s approach is always ‘business as normal’ and to create positive image and approach with employers and or our MINT learners, who continue learning and preparing for work with job searching, supporting applications, pre-employment skills and preparing for interview.

This has continued remotely during lockdown with learners gaining sustainable work.  In the first lockdown, MINT supported 20 learners gain employment and this was reported in the local press. The MINT team have had further successes during subsequent lockdowns and continue to find employment for learners with SEND.

In practice, the team are still working hard and looking for opportunities to engage new and existing employers through MINT.

Mercure Hotel and Parcel Force are real advocates of MINT learners and are always willing to promote the benefits of employing a learner with SEND to other employers. They have both over the years employed MINT learners and assisted with mock Interviews for other learners as well as offering hotel and depot tours to show learners what it would be like to work in the industry.

If you need a helpful guide to engage an employer to recruit a learner with SEND, take a look at our business sense model within the inclusive toolkit employer guide or check out our recent interviews with Stuart Collins General Manager, of Mercure Hotel, Norwich and Faye Greene, the Delivery and Collections Manager of Parcelforce in the text below.

How did MINT help support you and the MINT young person in employment

“Very supportive all the way through from the inductions to the end of the work experience.”

Have you employed a person with disability before?

“We have employed several people who came to us via the Mint project.”

What factors do you have to consider?

“We always make sure that the person has a ‘buddy’ so that if they require any extra support, they are always on hand and will work the same shifts together.”

Did you find you had to give more time in induction and help them settle in?

“All new employees receive an induction and several one to one meetings during their first month of employment. Having a ‘buddy’ works well though as there is always a point of contact for any questions/concerns that the young person may have.”

“No-one springs to mind everyone was very supportive through the work experience.”

Did you find they settled in well and quickly – did this surprise you?

“We are a very friendly team here and all settled in very well.”

What would you say to a young person starting work to help them prepare? 

“They must come in with the right attitude, wanting to learn and work, that is very important. Punctuality and reliability is always key and they must ask questions if there is anything that they don’t understand.”

“Take each day as it comes, it will get easier once you have learnt everything you need to, to do the task properly.”

Where you concerned about having to make adaptations?

“Not at all, the MINT project is brilliant and is a great opportunity for these young people. It is a pleasure to watch them grow in terms of the job and personally too.”

Did you have any surprises good and bad?

“All of the young people that we offered a permanent job to have done so well and fitted in to our team beautifully. The work experience beforehand, is very important as it gives them a real insight into the hospitality industry.”

What would you say to another employer who hasn’t yet engaged with MINT or employed a learner with SEND?

“I would say that they have to give them a chance, it may take longer for the young person to train as they may not have any prior experience, but it is very rewarding for us when they succeed.”

“Give them a chance, it’s a good experience for the students to experience different types of work environments, it also helps with their confidence.”

Do keep a watchful eye on the Centres for Excellence area of the SEND site of the Excellence Gateway for resources, webinars and updates.

I look forward to seeing in one of our upcoming webinars but for now, take care and see you soon.

Share this article: