Coventry’s Cadent scoops top autism honour for specialist internship scheme

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  • Cadent named ‘Most Supportive Employer’ at National Autistic Society Awards
  • Cadent’s EmployAbility scheme impressed award judges with its work helping autistic students into employment
  • Cadent and National Autistic Society hope more employers will be inspired to follow suit

An internship scheme run by gas network Cadent at its Coventry offices 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 Exhall Grange in Coventry and Woodlands School in Coleshill. The scheme has been running for several years at Cadent’s Hinckley offices, but last September marked its launch at Coventry.

Students from  Exhall Grange and Woodlands will spend an academic year in Cadent’s Coventry 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,


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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