From education to employment

GMLPN Celebrating World Autism Awareness Week through the Increasing Apprenticeship Opportunities for Autistic People Project

The 14th World #AutismAwarenessWeek2021 takes place from Monday 29th March – Sunday the 4th April. The week aims to raise awareness of the challenges faced by autistic people and to encourage the world to be a more inclusive place for autistic people.

The Greater Manchester Learning Provider Network (GMLPN), in partnership with education provider NCFE, are well underway with the development phase of the Increasing Apprenticeship Opportunities for Autistic People project.

The project aims to:

  • Raise awareness of the potential of autistic people and provide guidance on how key stakeholders can support those individuals
  • Equip autistic people with the technical and employability skills to progress in to employment.
  • Improve links between schools/colleges, training providers, referral agencies and employers to improve progression routes for autistic people
  • Prove an effective model and evidence base of the impact for learners and employers that can be replicated nationally. This model can then be used to make the case for the level of funding required to ensure an inclusive funding policy that enables progression for autistic learners.

Mari Saeki, Project Lead for the Greater Manchester Autism Consortium at the National Autistic Society, said:

“I’m delighted this innovative programme is launching, and really proud to have been part of the steering group.  

“Recent ONS figures suggest that only just over 1 in 5 autistic adults are in any type of employment, despite our research showing the vast majority want to work. This is a huge waste of talent, and underlines why programmes like this are so desperately needed.

“The crucial thing here, as well as the apprenticeships being paid, is that both the employer and autistic apprentice are supported.

“Autistic people have so much to give, they just need a chance.”

To celebrate World Autism Awareness Week 2021, GMLPN will be sharing resources and case studies through their social media channels and launching a monthly bulletin to keep key stakeholders updated on the project.

Project Groups

To support the development, delivery and quality, an independent Steering Group will support the project. The project will also have three additional sub-groups, which will allow for focused discussions with key stakeholders from:

  • Employers
  • Training Providers
  • Referral Agencies

The initial steering group, training provider sub-group and referral agency sub-groups have met to date and have provided valuable insight based on their expertise and knowledge of supporting the cohort, as well as identifying key gaps and challenges the project can work to address.

Laura Kedward, L&D Business Partner and EMR Group & NW Employer Ambassador Network Chair said:

“As an employer apprenticeship ambassador, I have seen the fantastic opportunities and subsequent benefits that are brought when employers are open to challenging their thinking and exploring news ways of working. Covid19 has certainly changed the way many organisations view the typical working environment and working day and I am delighted to be part of this project that will showcase the neurodiverse talent that can be tapped into, just by thinking a little differently ourselves.”

One key thing from the project steering group that the project will be removing the word “young” from the project title and communications – the group agreed that the project should aim to remove as many barriers as possible.

Danny Wells, Operations Manager at NowSkills says:

“Extremely excited to embark on this project with GMLPN (and others). We already provide a diverse and inclusive environment for all of our apprentices, but keen to expand this further so autistic people can enjoy all the benefits from apprenticeships in the digital sector.”

GMLPN would like to thank the following organisations involved in the steering group for their valuable input:

  • Association of Colleges
  • Aquinas College
  • Digital Advantage
  • Education and Skills Funding Agency
  • The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education
  • Job Centre Plus
  • Manchester Metropolitan University – Employ Autism Network
  • National Autistic Society – Manchester
  • North Chadderton High School
  • NowSkills, EMR Group
  • Oldham College
  • OneFile
  • Positive Steps
  • Stockport Council

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