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Everyone deserves a chance to work

24 January 2018

People stood in a row

Cardiff Business School’s latest Breakfast Briefing has demonstrated how academic researchers, public sector practitioners and employers are working together to give people with learning disabilities and/or autism the chance to work.

Led by the Engage to Change project, funded by Learning Disability Wales and the Big Lottery Fund's Getting Ahead 2 grant, employers are being encouraged and supported to employ young people with a learning disability and/or autism.

Dr Stephen Beyer, from Cardiff University’s National Centre for Mental Health, started proceedings by sharing research on learning disability employment which highlighted that only 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment in the UK.

Dr Beyer said: “People with learning disabilities and people with autistic spectrum conditions represent a really underused talent pool. And it’s so frustrating because we know that these individuals can work and do a very good job...”

Stephen Beyer

“Our research shows that people with a learning disability can bring real economic benefits which can save employers time and money. This is not to mention environmental benefits including increasing staff morale and promoting diversity within organisations.”

Dr Stephen Beyer, Senior Lecturer
Chris English from ELITE
“We don’t want tokenistic jobs.” Chris English, Operations Manager for ELITE Supported Employment Agency

Independence in the workplace

Chris English, Operations Manager for ELITE Supported Employment Agency who work in collaboration with the Engage to Change programme, followed Dr Beyer’s presentation by outlining the support available to organisations who want to employ people with learning disabilities.

He said: “We don’t want tokenistic jobs...”

“We want to prove, through the support we provide in the workplace, that a person with a disability can do just as well or better than non-disabled workers.”

Chris English, Operations Manager for ELITE Supported Employment Agency

Mr English explained how ELITE remove complex issues that a person with learning disability may have with tasks and put in place systematic procedures that can help the individual become independent in the workplace.

Mr English added: “And, of course, we are also there to support organisations by providing training, assisting with recruitment and identifying any equipment that might be required to ensure that these young people can bring the benefits outlined by Dr Beyer to your organisation.”

Next, Lily Beyer, who leads Engage to Change’s Project SEARCH Team at Cardiff University, shared her experiences working with students from Cardiff and Vale College on this one-year internship programme.

Project SEARCH is a major international project which provides employment and learning opportunities for young people with disabilities and/or autism.

Ms Beyer outlined the scope of the internships at Cardiff University, Wales’ first Project SEARCH employer, which offered job roles across its diverse professional and support services portfolio.

She also fed back testimonials from those who had worked closely with the interns in the project’s first year at the University.

Breakfast briefing panel taking questions

Employing a diverse workforce

Before an engaging closing discussion, Liz Connolly, Cardiff University’s Head of HR Operations, shared the experiences of colleagues from across the University on employing a diverse workforce.

Ms Connolly referred to the way in which participation in Project SEARCH gave University staff an understanding of what employment opportunities meant to the interns and how their experiences reached beyond the workplace and into their family’s lives.

If you were unable to attend, catch up now.

Register now for the next briefing, entitled Digitally Legal, on 8 February 2018.

Led by Richard Moorhead - Professor of Law and Professional Ethics, and Vice Dean Research, UCL Faculty of Laws, London - the session will consider how Lawyers and businesses are changing legal services and legal risk management by embracing innovations in technology.

The Executive Education Breakfast Briefing series is a network that enables business contacts to find out more about the latest research and key developments from industrial partners.

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Enabling our business contacts to find out more about latest business research and key developments from industry partners and practitioners.