From education to employment


Claire Cookson, DFN Project SEARCH CEO

DFN Project SEARCH (@dfnsearch) is reaffirming its commitment to building a more inclusive society this National Careers Week #NCW2021 (1 – 6 March) as the charity continues to help young people with learning disabilities and autism to access high quality work-related learning through immersive supported internships. 

The aim of National Careers Week is to promote the importance of good careers education in schools and colleges and is well-aligned with the objectives of DFN Project SEARCH programmes to create much improved opportunities for young people with learning disabilities and autism to access long-term, full time paid employment. 

There are currently 70 DFN Project SEARCH schemes across the UK creating life changing opportunities and offering young people a one-year transition to work programme in their final year of school or college to enable inclusion and empowerment. 

The charity has so far helped more than 1350 young people to transition into full-time employment across an array of sectors and roles, from food service to office administration and patient care to customer service, demonstrating the powerful impact of strong job coaching and targeted job development, aided by a highly developed professional vocational profiling tool, Voc Fit. 

Claire Cookson, DFN Project SEARCH CEO said:

“Everyone has the right to aspire to their very best future, yet so often this is taken away from people with learning disabilities and autism spectrum conditions. National Careers Week is all about raising ambition and enabling young adults to explore their different pathways into employment. The DFN Project SEARCH model does exactly this whilst equipping learners with the skills, experience and confidence to secure exciting and meaningful careers, not just a job.”

Evidenced-based and outcome driven, DFN Project SEARCH programmes are a proven way of helping people with learning disabilities get long term careers as well as helping businesses employ a more inclusive workforce. 

Latest data from DFN Project SEARCH shows that in the past 12 months, 64 per cent of its 477 interns secured a paid job with 262 of those young people moving into full time, well-paid work. Additionally, 32 DFN Project SEARCH interns secured a job when the country was in full lockdown and all of the roles were classified as key workers.

These outcomes are well beyond the national statistics which show that just 5.6 per cent of people with a learning disability or autism who are known to local authorities are in work. Additionally, the national average wage for its graduates is £8.71 which is well above National Living Wage for 25+, despite the fact that the majority of graduating interns are under 23.

DFN Project SEARCH data also shows that interns from BAME backgrounds perform in line with their White European peers, earning on average as much as the White interns and working in the same type of jobs and sectors. 

While across the UK ethnic White earn on average 2.3 per cent more than non-White, interns from non-White background earn 0.7 per cent more than their White peers. 

UK statistics show that the ethnicity pay gap is largest in London, where White employees earn 23.8 per cent more than non-White, however, DFN Project SEARCH non-White interns are earning 4.7 per cent more than White interns in London. 

Looking ahead, DFN Project SEARCH has ambitions to get 10,000 young adults with learning disabilities and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade and 20,000 in the next 15 years. 

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