An Employment Passport to young people with additional needs into paid work

with Richard Lamplough, My Employment Passport

title image showing young people with additional needs who have been helped into work

This autumn, thousands of parents will be waving off or delivering their young people to universities up and down the land (or even overseas). Many teenagers with additional needs will be among them, hopefully with the support they need (although they really need to be able to have the security of an EHCP!)

For many other parents of young people with SEND, however, what happens after school, further education, (or after university for that matter), is approached with trepidation. Life is hard for young adults today as it is but if you’re neurodivergent or have a physical disability you can multiply that many times over.

Some years ago we covered an initiative called A Potential Diamond, created by Richard Lamplough that aimed to help young adults find employment that fits their strengths. Richard has now created another project to help young people aged 14-25 (ideally) with additional needs into paid employment and he’s here to tell us about it…

The course aiming to be a passport to employment, by Richard Lamplough

My Employment Passport is a new initiative that I have created based on my 28 years’ experience supporting young people with additional needs into paid work. Let’s spend a few paragraphs describing the “what it is” bit. This is the type of information I send to a school, college or voluntary sector organisation when they ask about it.

I say to them that the initiative puts education through inspiration at its heart through the innovative use of 30 different modules, using 30 different videos, many of these starring young autistic people and young people with learning disabilities who now have paid jobs. When I first met these young people, they didn’t have jobs as they were still at school or college.

I say to them that the course can be run over an entire academic year or be spread over a number of years, depending on the age (14 - 25 is ideal) and support needs of the participants. I say to them that there are three workbooks (ten sessions per book) and each session uses bespoke printed materials that the young people stick in their workbooks. I explain that activities are structured, so those with relatively high support needs and those with low support needs benefit on an equitable basis.

I usually finish my sales pitch by saying to them that the course is designed to have parents on board from the outset. I don’t go into much more detail because it’s likely that they won’t have the time to read much more than three paragraphs. But I thought I would tell you more about it because, one, you might have time and, two, I think my words will ring true with you.

Logo for My Employment passport

My motivation for creating an Employment Passport support scheme

My first experience of what I call, very loosely, the education to employment sector came about in 1994 when I worked for a small charity called Wandsworth Rathbone. My role, initially as a volunteer, didn’t have a great deal to do with education or employment, but it had everything to do with something that perhaps, these days, we lose sight of: community. We were, above all, a community-led organisation. We believed our members had every right to lead ordinary lives, be given opportunities to participate within their communities and that included having access to paid employment.

I would often drop in to see our members at home and, almost certainly, that would involve getting to know the family. My experience tells me that given the opportunity, most young people with learning disabilities and most young autistic people will want to find out about paid employment. They might have a dream job (mine was to be a pop star) and they might have some ideas about what their first paid job would be (mine was pushing trolleys at Sainsbury’s). They might have no anxieties about getting a paid job (either variety) or they might have plenty of anxieties. More often than not they will be somewhere in the middle. They might have no idea of how to get a paid job or they might have plenty of ideas. More often than not, they will be somewhere in the middle.

The vital importance of families

And how about the families? Well, on both of these issues, the anxiety thing and the ideas thing, they will probably be somewhere in the middle too, but perhaps in a slightly different place than the young person.

Why do parents, families and extended families hold the keys to opening the doors to paid employment? In my experience, there are two main reasons: one, they witness (every day) so many qualities that the young person possesses that could be useful in an employment setting, and two, they have the ability to network. This can be as simple as chatting to a neighbour who has a job at Sainsbury’s. That’s almost how I got my trolley-porter job. When I was 17, my good friend Tim, who happened to be the drummer in my band, also happened to work at Sainsbury’s.

By module 11 of the My Employment Passport course run at schools, colleges and day services, the young people are supported to share the resources (videos and printed materials) with their families. The more families can get involved the more likely employment opportunities will present themselves.

Not now doesn't mean not ever for employment

I recognise, too, that for some young people with additional needs, attending school, college or day services might be challenging. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get a paid job in the future. And that’s why I ensure the My Employment Passport course can be run by a parents’ group from a community venue or by a parent at home, if that’s the best option. Just as all of our young people are unique, all will have a unique way in which they secure their first paid job.

For more information, please register your interest on the My Employment Passport website and I will get back to you.

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Tania Tirraoro

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