An internship scheme run by Hinckley-based gas network Cadent for students from two local special schools has won a prestigious accolade at the National Autistic Society's Autism Professionals Awards.
Cadent was awarded the ‘Most Supportive Employer’ accolade at a special ceremony in Harrogate on Wednesday (7 March) for its EmployAbility scheme.
The annual event, supported by headline sponsor Axcis Education Recruitment, was hosted by Jane Asher, president of the National Autistic Society, and award-winning stand-up poet Kate Fox. The ceremony is part of a two-day conference for autism professionals.
Sophie Woolham, EmployAbility Strategy Manager, at Cadent, said, It’s a huge honour to win this award, and for our scheme to be recognised nationally.
“The hope is that eventually the interns can get a permanent role with our company or other local employer, but if that’s not possible they will have gained a wealth of works skills and personal confidence that boosts their job prospects. We are immensely proud that to date 74% of our graduated interns have gone on to employment against a national average of just 6%.
“We are now working closely with our local councils and businesses to share our experiences and hope to create many more placement and job opportunities.”
Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society's Centre for Autism, said: "Huge congratulations to Cadent and the EmployAbility team. They should be very proud for standing out among so many high quality nominations and impressing the judges with their work helping autistic students into employment.
"Support and services in the UK are still far too patchy. We hope that sharing the stories of our winners and finalists, including Cadent’s, we will inspire other people and organisations - and give them some ideas about how they can make a real difference.”
Cadent launched EmployAbility in 2014, a supported internship programme for students with special educational needs and disabilities, in their final year of education. According to the National Autistic Society just 16% of autistic adults are estimated to be in full-time employment, so schemes like this are extremely important.
Cadent has partnerships with four specialist schools, including Dorothy Goodman Academy in Hinckley and Oak Wood School in Nuneaton.
Students from Dorothy Goodman and Oak Wood spend an academic year in Cadent’s Hinckley offices where they work towards a BTEC qualification and complete three varied work placements.
Job coaches from the schools work with Cadent to learn the roles, then support the students to do the work, before gradually stepping back and letting the interns do the job for themselves. Cadent’s recruitment partners Pertemps also work with the interns to prepare them for employment so, at the end of the internship, they all have fantastic CVs, portfolios of work completed and interview skills.
Cadent’s accolade was one of 15 awards presented to individuals and teams involved in education, health, social care, employment, community projects and volunteering. The winners were chosen by an independent panel of 10 autism experts who judged each nomination on their innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability.
For more information about the winners and the awards, visit:www.autismprofessionalsawards.org.uk