We can all remember our first experience of work. Mine was a Saturday job in a hairdressers at the age of 13. I can still remember how dauting it felt working in a busy salon and how patient the full-time staff wereand I have to say the customers, as I learned the job.  

Starting a job or work experience placement is daunting for able bodied people. For young people with Learning difficulties or disabilitiespaid work can seem like a distant dream. The hopes and aspirations of these young people and their parents are the same as for all of us: to be a valued member of society, to do something meaningful, to be independent, to have friends and to stay healthy.  

Work experience can be really beneficial to SEND young people, but what is needed are sympathetic employers, who will take the time to get to know them and provide them with a supportive environment and allow them to participate in work tasks they can manage.  

Inspira is working with the Careers Enterprise Company (CEC) to organise a mentoring scheme for students who have an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and who attend the Lakes College and Mayfield Special School.  

The employers we have on board are committed to giving up an hour of their time each month to meet with the student they have been matched with to discuss the world of work; the ultimate goal  is to organise a tailor-made, work experience for the student which matches their interests and needs.  

The feedback from the mentors taking part so far has been very positive, Tricia Poole who manages the Helena Thompson Museum in Workington said that she is really looking forward to spending time with her mentee in the work-place and showing him the ropes. 

 Young people with special educational needs have similar ambitions to those of their non-disabled peers: to get a job; have their own home, perhaps a car and a full social life. We really hope that our mentoring programme which incorporates an experience in the work-place, will not only benefit the participants, in terms of helping them to gain skills and confidence but also educate the employers so that they focus on what young people  can rather than can’t do and  we have a good feeling that they will be pleasantly surprised at what they can achieve.