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A programme to help young people with special educational needs and disabilities into work with wind power business Siemens Gamesa has achieved remarkable results within just a few months.

Ann Harrison is congratulated on gaining a permanent job by Jo Taylor from Pathway Plus, left, and Siemens Gamesa’s Carolyn Woolway, right, with fellow programme participants, from left, Jack Smith, Alex Storey, Jack Cuthbertson, Chris Bastiman and Daniel

The unique, long-term project aims to support students from work placement through to supported internship, with the ultimate aim of securing employment at the Siemens Gamesa site in Hull, UK.

Now one of the first participants has gained a permanent job, while five more young people are set to begin supported internships with the company and its service suppliers.

The global wind power leader has worked with Hull’s Pathway Plus project to develop a pioneering programme aimed at enabling young people with special needs to build independence and confidence through work.

Typically young people with special needs face the prospect of a lifetime of unemployment and reliance on carers and the welfare state. The programme aims to change that by enabling progression from special school to fulfilling employment.

The programme began in January with the first participants spending one day a week at the Hull wind turbine blade factory on work placements in a variety of reception, office, catering and cleaning roles, either directly with Siemens Gamesa or with supplier businesses over the past six months. The placements formed part of a structured Pathway Plus programme to develop skills and capability for independent living, including adapting to the world of work.

The project aimed to support the young people through to internships from September this year, with the ultimate prospect of full employment from September 2018.

But now partners in the project are celebrating the first young person to get a job as a result of the initiative, with 18-year-old Ann Harrison, from North Bransholme, Hull, having secured a permanent, paid role with cleaning services provider ISS. Ann will begin her job on July 24, working 10 hours a week, with the prospect of more hours in future.

She is only the fourth student from Hull’s Ganton Special School to gain paid employment in the past 20 years, illustrating how difficult it is for young people with special needs to break into the world of work.

In addition, the project has enabled five young people to move on to supported internships from September, while two other participants will progress to college courses.

The programme has involved disability awareness training for Siemens Gamesa employees who have become workplace champions for the programme, while students from the University of Hull studying towards careers in social care and special needs education have acted as mentors for the students.

Carolyn Woolway, Siemens Gamesa’s Head of Human Resources in Hull, said: “We’ve been very encouraged by the progress of the programme and delighted with the positive impact it has had at this early stage.

“We’ve seen the students grow in their capability and confidence as a result of the valuable work experience opportunities in various parts of the business and our employees and those of our suppliers have committed very strongly to helping the young people to succeed.

“Everyone involved has found it highly rewarding to support the students to become integrated within the workplace. All of the young people deserve so much credit for what they have achieved.”

Pathway Plus Employability Coach Jo Taylor said Ann Harrison had earned her job on merit, while all the young people had become more confident, independent and employable as result of the programme.

She said: “Ann has proven herself. She gets on with whatever she is asked to do and doesn’t skimp on the job. She gets on well with the other staff and has shown herself to be capable, trustworthy and self-reliant.”

The young people progressing to internships are:

  • Alex Storey, 18, whose internship will be in the blade factory, working three days a week, with the aim of him progressing to a production operative role.
  • Sixteen-year-old Jack Smith, who will spend three days a week with workwear company Berendsen and two days in a support role in the factory office.
  • Jack Cuthbertson, 17, who will divide his four days a week internship between Berendsen and reception services provider Swiss Post.
  • And Chris Bastiman, 20, and Daniel Smith, 18, who will both divide their three days a week internships between the Siemens Gamesa office and working with ISS.

Mrs Taylor said the progress of all the young people was due in large part to the friendly and supportive environment.

She added: “Everybody at Siemens Gamesa has been fantastic since day one. They have been so welcoming and supportive. They have really made the students feel part of the team and that they are making a valuable contribution.”

The project is part of Siemens Gamesa’s commitment to develop a diverse and inclusive workforce at its wind power manufacturing, assembly and logistics operations at Hull’s Alexandra Dock, where more than 1,000 people are now employed. It is thought to be one of only two structured initiatives in the UK which involve major private sector employers supporting young people with special needs to gain employment.

Pathway Plus involves Hull’s four special schools – Ganton, which is the lead school for the project; Frederick Holmes; Northcott; and Tweendykes – and is part of Hull’s first multi-agency strategy to support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Pathway Plus Manager Sam Chegwin said: “Our supported internship model is helping to address the multiple barriers to employment for young people with disabilities, providing the necessary support directly within the workplace.

“For our students, this offers an opportunity for a better life – one in which they can prove they have talents and potential which would otherwise be ignored, overlooked and untapped.”