Trail-blazing scheme sees Nuneaton businesses rally round to give youngsters with learning needs the chance to shine in the workplace

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  • Nuneaton businesses are stepping up to offer work experience opportunities to local students with learning needs and autism – thanks to Cadent’s ‘life-changing’ EmployAbility internship scheme 
  • 90% of students from Nuneaton’s Oak Wood School on the scheme land jobs
  • Oak Wood School EmployAbility intern Lewis Smith celebrates gaining a job with Perforated and Stamped Products Limited, Coventry
Businesses in Nuneaton 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 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.
During the nine-month scheme, interns take part in three-month work placements, provided by Cadent, its service providers, 14Forty and CBRE and by Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council and local firm Neovia Logistics.
And now Oak Wood School have formed their own partnerships with three more local businesses – Dairy Crest, RS Components and Best Western - 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.
“Over the last five years, 28 interns from Nuneaton’s Oak Wood School and Hinckley’s Dorothy Goodman Academy have passed through the doors of our Hinckley site. 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.”
Rachel Day, Assistant Headteacher of Oak Wood School, said: “We have had some real successes on the EmployAbility programme. Some 90% of Oak Wood interns get a job; without the programme this just wouldn’t have happened.
“Now we are hoping to further expand the programme through forming partnerships with local companies Best Western, Dairy Crest and RS Components. This will offer our students a wider range of work placements and experiences.”
Oak Wood School student Lewis Smith is celebrating landing a full-time job after graduating from the EmployAbility scheme this week. Lewis, 18, will be starting work at Perforated and Stamped Products Limited, Coventry, as a general operative.
Lewis, who spent one of his three work placements on the scheme with Neovia Logistics in Hinckley, said: “I have learnt the importance of time-keeping. I have learnt about health and safety and I can work both on my own and as part of a team.
“I want to thank Cadent for giving me this opportunity, my placement managers for making the placements so enjoyable and my mum and dad for giving me the chance to prove myself.”
Lewis’ success follows hot on the heels of last year’s Oak Wood interns, Natasha Hope and Alix Wildbore. Natasha landed a full-time apprenticeship with Nuneaton-based British Forces Resettlement Services, while Alix was offered a full-time post with Cadent contractor Pertemps, working in Cadent’s Street Works Administration Department at its offices in Hinckley.
Cadent’s 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, Oak Wood School EmployAbility graduate Lewis Smith, with Cadent’s Dave Tilley and Neovia Logistics’ Justin Collingwood.


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. 

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Rebecca Wright

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