Trail-blazing scheme sees Hinckley business community rally round to give youngsters with learning needs the chance to shine in the workplace

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  • Hinckley businesses and organisations are stepping up to offer work experience opportunities to students with learning needs and autism – thanks to Cadent’s ‘life-changing’ EmployAbility internship scheme 
  • 70% of students on the scheme land jobs compared nationally with just 6.8% of people with learning disabilities
  • Students graduating from this year’s scheme land work and college places
Businesses and organisations in Hinckley are stepping forward to give young people with learning needs the chance to shine in the workplace – thanks to a trail-blazing scheme run by local gas distribution company Cadent.
‘EmployAbility – Let’s Work Together’ – now celebrating its fifth year – is Cadent’s award-winning supported internship scheme. It gives students from Hinckley’s Dorothy Goodman Academy and Nuneaton’s Oak Wood School the opportunity to prove themselves in the workplace, with the aim of landing a job or a further education place.
In addition to Cadent and its own service providers, 14Forty and CBRE, this year has seen two more organisations joining the scheme – Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council and Neovia Logistics. And now Dorothy Goodman Academy have formed their own partnerships with five more local businesses to offer yet more opportunities to their students.
Cadent’s EmployAbility champion, Dave Tilley, said: “It is fantastic to see how EmployAbility is taking on a life of its own. It is inspiring the business community to create life-changing opportunities for more young people, as well as benefitting itself from a previously untapped talent pool.
“We have been working with Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council’s Employment and Skills Task Force which is bringing our business community together to do some great work for the borough.
“Over the last five years, 28 interns have passed through our doors in Hinckley. Of those, nearly 70% gained work at the end of the scheme, compared with national figures of just 6.8% of people with learning disabilities and 16% of people with autism.”
Bill Cullen, Chief Executive of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, and Chair of the Hinckley and Bosworth Employment and Skills Task Force, said: “The objective of the Task Force is to improve pathways into work for local people.  The Task Force is represented by a range of local businesses and other key agencies.  EmployAbility is a really positive initiative and inspired by Cadent. 
“We have had a brilliant experience with our first EmployAbility intern, Karl Beardsley, which has inspired us to  commit to hosting future interns via this programme. We would like to see this fantastic initiative expanded across the Borough, with more employers providing similar opportunities and engaging with our Employment and Skills Taskforce.”
Karl Beardsley, 19, is one of three EmployAbility interns who are celebrating landing work and college places after graduating from the scheme this week.
Karl and Callum Randle, 18, from Hinckley’s Dorothy Goodman Academy, have gained college places, while Lewis Smith, 18, from Nuneaton’s Oak Wood School has landed a full-time job at Perforated and Stamped Products Limited, Coventry, as a general operative.
Karl is looking forward to starting a course in IT and business administration at Rugby College, while Callum will be studying Uniform Services at North Warwickshire and Hinckley College.
He said: “The best part of the internship was being able to expand on my IT skills and expertise and apply what I’d learnt in the classroom in real life. I’m looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Janet Thompson, Headteacher of Dorothy Goodman Academy, said: “EmployAbility complements our work to help our children and young people to become more independent and prepare for their future lives. It gives our young people the chance to try lots of different types of work and to be really secure in the career choices.
“Now we are expanding the programme to give our students a greater choice of placements. We are working with other organisations who are taking the EmployAbility model and adapting it for their own industries.”
Sophie Woolham, who leads the implementation of the scheme at Hinckley, added: “Over the last five years we’ve had some amazing successes. Nineteen of our 28 interns are in paid work and 12 of them work at our site in Hinckley. A lot of them have been promoted and they are doing a really good job.
“Cadent is benefiting from skills that we don’t often find in our usual talent pools, as well as developing leadership qualities and improving disability comfort amongst our colleagues. EmployAbility gives young people the confidence to follow their dreams – whether it’s a job, an apprenticeship or a college course.”
Cadent is one of only a handful of UK companies with a specially designed strategy to help students with learning disabilities. However, the company is aware that there is a limit to how many opportunities it can offer and more companies are needed in Leicestershire and the East Midlands to join EmployAbility and build on its achievements.

Pictured left to right, 2019 Hinckley EmployAbility graduates Lewis Smith (of Oak Wood School , Nuneaton) and Dorothy Goodman Academy students Callum Randle and Karl Beardsley.


Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy.  We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change.  Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency.   Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing. 

Future of Gas: Here at Cadent we support the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. That means we’re backing the introduction of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative to natural gas for the future. We know people love the controllability of gas and, with our network already in place, it makes sense to switch to the lower carbon alternative offered by hydrogen, which we believe can keep homes and businesses warm for generations to come.

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