Preparing For Work

Three years since Royal College Manchester launched our internship programme, we look back at some of the challenges and lessons learned.


Before the internship was created, students were graduating from college having completed a wide range of work experience placements. Links to local businesses through our fundraising department often resulted in placements for our students, and work onsite – in one of the college’s mini-enterprise schemes, vocational taster sessions or on work placements across Seashell’s staff teams – meant that all students learned about supported work and were able to put their learning into practice. While this was resulting in some individual successes, with a number of students progressing into paid employment at the end of their course, college staff knew that we had to change our approach if we were to help more students translate their success in education into employment.


Our previous approach had two key problems: first, that students would find a lack of support systems to help them get into and remain in work, and second, that while Royal College Manchester had current knowledge of each student, we were ending our responsibility for the student at the end of their course, a crucial time for successful transition.


The college set an ambitious target: 40% of all college leavers would enter work.


In order to achieve this, Seashell Trust would:

• Create 10 job-carved roles on our own staff team for employees with learning difficulties and complex needs. These roles are across a number of teams including our maintenance, facilities and Reception posts, with responsibilities including mail collection and delivery, gardening and recycling. Students would see examples of supported work in action and would be encouraged to see employment as an option for their future.

• Recruit a job coach, a specialist role which includes responsibility for preparing training materials for potential employers. Organisations considering supported work experience placements or job-carved roles for people with learning difficulties will benefit from an employment pack with information on job-carving, adapting systems and processes to meet the needs of people with learning difficulties, support at work, etc.

• Crucially, the job coach would continue to support each graduate for an additional six months after graduation, thanks to funding from United Way. The job coach is therefore able to work with the young person, their family, employers and other services to ensure that the job is sustainable.

• Introduced the Work Star progression scale to broaden the vocational curriculum and to support students to focus on develop skills for work

• Create the adapted supported internship for a number of third year students to develop their skills in a local organisation over the course of the academic year. The internship programme combines college-based learning with work at a local organisation and in the community with a focus on communication, functional skills, independence and an understanding of the world of work.


In 2012-13, 40% of all graduating students left college with offers of employment, ranging from work cleaning in a local café to sorting mail in an office. 40% of the 2014 graduating class would start jobs including retail, janitorial and office work, and the class of 2015 saw an impressive 50% (across all leavers; 100% of interns) enter work. Our former interns can be found in all types of work: Georgia now works at a farmer’s market and Ryan received three job offers, including a janitorial role at his favourite football team’s stadium.


Over the next year, we're continuing to grow our internship and work experience programmes, and are committed to working with students to consider work as an option for their future.