From education to employment

College and businesses unite to create careers festival for SEND students in Stowmarket

hands in the middle

Around seventy students from two Suffolk colleges met up with around 20 organisations during a careers festival held at The Mix in Stowmarket.

The aim of the occasion ‘was to highlight the incredible abilities of young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to local and national employers’ according to one of the organisers, Rhian King.

Rhian is the head of supported learning at West Suffolk College and joined forces with her colleague Claire Jones (who works for One Sixth Form College (ONE) and the Eastern Colleges Group)  to create this event for SEND learners based in the region.

Rhian continued: “The idea was to help students to think about their next steps, explore new opportunities and get them to have dialogue with local employers.”

Claire – who is also a head of supported learning at ONE, said:

“The event had an element of wellbeing. We had an artist who came along to demonstrate the health benefits of painting. The hope is that students came out of this with some volunteering opportunities and businesses become more disability confident.

“Essentially, it’s all about inclusion, raising awareness and recognising that disability means ‘different ability’ – from our point of view we want businesses to look at individuals and focus on their positives. This was all aimed at breaking down barriers on both sides.”

During the event – Fleur Patten – a disability, employment and wellbeing advisor for the Papworth Trust gave a talk to businesses about becoming more disability confident.

Fleur explained a bicycle recycling project that the Papworth Trust is involved in (called OWL Bikes) and said:

“Everybody has strengths and the message to businesses is to not judge a book by its cover.  The event was exciting and energising. We had everything from guinea pig to plants via financial services. It had a real corporate feel and it was great that the young people could access such a range of opportunities.”

One of the students who attended was Abbie Smith, 19 from Ipswich. The ONE learner said: “I’ve found it (the event) very helpful and I’ve learnt new things. This will help me in the future.”

Another learner was 22 year old Peter Myhill from Mildenhall The supported internship student who goes to West Suffolk College said:

“I think it (attending the event) will help me get a job or volunteering opportunity in the future.”

Shemal Rajabakse works for Stack Technologies who develop apps for children and parents. He said: “It’s all about giving young people with disabilities an opportunity. It’s been a good event.”

Tim Freathy provides learning and training opportunities for people with learning disabilities at Depden Care Farm. Tim said:

“Everybody has got skills to offer so it’s about finding the right slot for the right person – we need to value what people can do rather than what they can’t do.”

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