A new employability programme is helping teenagers in Manchester aged 16-18 with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to get digital jobs.
‘Digital Inc.’ will provide 10 days of employer-led support in sixth forms and colleges, with experts from local digital companies coming in to classrooms to take students through a business start-up process and talk about how they themselves got a job in the creative digital sector.
A total of 80 students will take part in the programme and 16 will then be offered a supported internship at a newly created agency - ‘Digital Inc.’ - where they will work on real life digital briefs. The scheme aims to increase employer confidence, supporting digital businesses in Manchester to provide meaningful opportunities and progression to students with special educational needs and disabilities.
Funded by the Careers & Enterprise Company, Manchester City Council, and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Digital Inc. was set up to plug the digital skills gap in Manchester and address issues around employing people with disabilities.
Recent research from the Office for National Statistics shows that the UK employment rate for people with disabilities is 51.3% - significantly lower than the employment rate for people without disabilities, which is 81.4%.
Despite this, the Department for Education admitted in their recent Careers Strategy that ‘Careers advice for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can often be poor and lacking in aspiration.’
Digital Inc. hopes to change this. In the past, students with special needs have taken part in its sister scheme, POP (pop-up digital agency) - a flagship 5-day Digital Advantage training programme - working alongside students from mainstream colleges and sixth forms, with great results. But this is the first time a dedicated employability programme for SEND students has been set up.
Andy Lovatt, Managing Director of Digital Advantage, which delivers Digital Inc. said:
“People with special educational needs experience significantly lower employment rates than mainstream students. At the same time there is a digital skills crisis which is costing Manchester’s economy millions every year. I’d like to ask the city’s digital sector whether they are looking hard enough for talent? What percentage of their workforce has special educational needs? Digital Inc. seeks to help talented teenagers with special needs from colleges and schools to get great digital jobs and also support employers that are keen to find the best recruits.”