National Day raises awareness of supported internships

The vital role played by supported internships in helping young people with disabilities to enter the workforce has gained recognition in the first annual Supported Internship Day, which took place earlier this week on Monday, 27th March.

With only 4.8% of people in England with a learning disability in full-time employment, the Department for Education awarded a programme last year to double the number of Supported Internships to 4,500 a year by March 2025.

Led by DFN Project SEARCH, a transition-to-work programme which aims to raise awareness of supported internships and their benefits for young people with disabilities, the campaigns aim is to challenge misconceptions and pre-set work cultures that often unfairly shape the lives of young adults with learning disabilities and autistic people.

Participating already in the initiative is Colchester Institute, with three interns currently completing work placements at the new Marks & Spencer store in Stane Park, Tollgate.

Supported internships are a work-based learning programme that provides young people with disabilities the opportunity to gain valuable real-life work experience whilst receiving on-the-job training and support. With the programme running successfully, the College plans to double the number of internships available each year for the next three years.

“It is wonderful to see our students gaining such confidence and skills during their Supported Internship,” says Silvie Snaselova, Lead Work Placement Coordinator for the programme at the College.

“The team at Marks & Spencer are providing a wonderfully supportive and inclusive environment. As we look to introduce more students and employers, this is a great example of how the placements can work.”

Anna Frost, Section Manager at the Marks & Spencer store, says the opportunity has allowed the three interns to show their true potential. “To see them smile, engage and grow is amazing.”

Events and activities took place across the country as part of the day, with employers, schools, colleges, and other organisations coming together to promote supported internships and celebrate the achievements of young people with disabilities.