From education to employment



A Nuneaton social enterprise offering supported internships to young people with special educational needs and disabilities has been named the winner of a national Festival of Learning award at an event hosted at the City Lit in Covent Garden on 5 July.

Since the beginning of their partnership, Nuneaton Signs has welcomed nine students from North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College’s (NWSLC) supported internship programme giving these individuals the opportunity to gain the skills valued by employers and the chance of sustainable paid employment.

The five interns currently based at Nuneaton Signs are working on a range of tasks within fabrication, printing, and dispatch. The business employs 73 individuals of whom 71 per cent have at least one disability and or mental health condition. Twenty members of staff at the Attleborough Fields-based business are trained as mentors to support the interns.

Students have described the life-changing impact of their experiences at Nuneaton Signs which has manufactured road and commercial signs since 1982. Thomas Kitchin said, “Before joining Nuneaton Signs, I was stuck in what felt like a bottomless pit. Joining this scheme has honestly changed my life. From what once felt like a downward spiral, I am now comfortable with myself and more confident than ever before. Working here has given me a different perspective on life and a new attitude towards learning. Nuneaton Signs deserves this award because it doesn’t discriminate no matter what your disability.”

The supported internships programme, the first of its kind in the UK, was launched by NWSLC in 2021 with the placement of nine interns within five different businesses. All college students with an Education, Health and Care plan, four of the interns were placed at Nuneaton Signs. Now the college is supporting eleven interns across seven placements and the scheme is set to grow. Supported internships enable young people to achieve sustainable paid employment by equipping them with the skills they need through workplace learning.

Chris Wilcox, Managing Director of Nuneaton Signs said,

“It’s a great honour to have been singled out for this award and we are grateful to NWSLC for their collaboration on this scheme. Delivering social value is at the heart of everything we do at Nuneaton Signs, and it is rewarding to see students progressing so well. Supporting interns brings benefits to our business by boosting morale, helping with workforce development, and improving all our mental health and wellbeing.”

Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, Principal and Chief Executive of NWSLC said,

“We’re delighted to congratulate Nuneaton Signs on their achievement of this prestigious national award. We are proud of our innovative programme which provides vital opportunities for college students who have completed their programmes and need a stepping-stone into meaningful employment. We are keen to expand the scheme and welcome more employers like Nuneaton Signs who are willing to make a commitment to the community and gain some great potential employees.”

Students who have already been successful on the programme were hosted at a special celebration of achievement event at the college’s creative arts Hinckley Campus on 22 June.

Young people with an Education, Health and Care plans are now being offered a life-changing opportunity to gain Supported Internship placements working at Nuneaton’s George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust thanks to a new collaboration between North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, Warwickshire County Council and DFN Project SEARCH.

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