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More businesses should offer supported internships to young people with special needs

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#SupportedInternship programmes offer valuable work experience to improve employability 

Watches2U has launched a supported internship programme to mobilise young adults with learning difficulties into employment in South London.  

The business has partnered with Carshalton College to facilitate the scheme, which will help young people with a range of learning difficulties, such as autism, Asperger’s, cerebral palsy or medical mental health issues get valuable work experience to improve their employability.  

The scheme is specifically aimed at young people aged 16-25 who have an Education Health and Care plan, and who may ordinarily find it difficult to find work. Interns split their time between college-based learning and a work placement to gain credible experience.

Carshalton College student, James Murfin, joined Watches2U on the scheme in November 2018 on a 6-month internship – and has now secured permanent paid employment with the business.

“As well as gaining the practical skills needed, being part of a supported internship allows young people to experience a live working environment,” James explains, commenting on the scheme.

“Out of the courses I’ve done in the past, I’ve actually found learning as I work and contributing to a team a lot more engaging and motivating. I think there are a lot of people like me who would enjoy actively working while naturally gaining skills, over a more restricted classroom setting.”

“I really wanted to get into an internship placement as soon as possible. But due to a lack of appropriate placements offered by businesses, it was almost 3-months wait for a one, which I found frustrating.”

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James now has paid employment with Watches2U, working as a Marketing Assistant. He is currently contracted to work for 3 days a week but will be raised to 5 as he becomes more comfortable in the office environment. 

“Everyone here has been helpful, supportive and understanding of my needs. Despite coming into Watches2U through untraditional means, I feel very integrated into the business and part of the team. I am also learning skills like website design, digital marketing, SEO (search engine optimisation) and HTML/CSS coding, which are important skills to have in any job role these days.”

Commenting on the success of James’ supported internship, Faisal Bhatti, Chief Operating Officer at Watches2U, said:

“Supporting local colleges is essential for the development of students. We try to do this as much as we can. This programme helps teach life skills and prepare students for working life. It allows students who may struggle with interview processes to show what they can do. We took on three students last year and employed one. James would not have been able to explain his skill sets in an interview environment and we would have missed out on a great member of the team.”

It’s not just supported interns that benefit from the scheme – businesses benefit greatly from moulding job roles to adapt to individuals’ specialist skills.

“I definitely think more businesses should offer this type of scheme,” James comments. “Taking part in supported internship schemes allow businesses to take on young people who may struggle in a more traditional application process, and build on their existing strengths to develop them into skills which would benefit the business the most.”

Thanks to the success of James’ placement, Watches2U is continuing the scheme for the next year and hopes to recruit several new interns through the programme. 

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