We’re on a ‘roll’: Local school collaborates with Greggs to widen career opportunities for students with SEN

Three students from West Lea School in Enfield, which supports young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), have been offered permanent employment at Greggs following a successful Supported Internship Programme run by the school.

The three students – Daniel, Sam and Valentino – started their Supported Internship in November 2021, completing three to four days a week on-site, as well as classroom training. The Interns were based in the Greggs warehouse and distribution centre in Enfield as Warehouse Operatives.

Using order sheets within the warehouse, Interns were tasked with picking orders, placing them in cages and preparing for them to be loaded onto trucks and taken to local Greggs shops. Due to the successful completion of each internship, the students have now been offered permanent roles at the warehouse, with two being full-time and one part-time.

The leading UK food-on-the-go retailer struck up a partnership with West Lea in 2019, taking on a cohort of students as part of the school’s Supported Internship Programme. The programme is a one-year full-time study scheme for 16-24-year-olds who have SEND or an Education and Health Care Plan. It involves an in-person work placement with a local employer, with one day a week in class to continue working on any areas for development that have been identified in the workplace.

Due to the pandemic, the partnership had to be put on hold but was reinstated for the 2021-22 intake of students. Wanting to be involved in something pioneering and keen to give opportunities to local young people with additional needs, the experience has given these three students opportunities they otherwise may not have had. In turn, it has cemented the business case for Greggs to continue working with West Lea students, due to their consistency and reliability, as well as diversifying the workforce and accessing a pool of hidden talent.

Daniel, one of the students who took part in the Supported Internship and has since received a permanent job offer, said:

“It’s been a really positive experience, where I’ve made some new friends and have received a lot of support from the Job Coaches and Greggs staff, all who have pushed me to become more confident in myself and what I do. I enjoy being with people in this role and feel so grateful for the opportunity. It has motivated me to keep getting better and has given me greater purpose.”

In June 2021, the Government reported that despite there seeming to be greater opportunities for employment for young people with SEND than previously was the case, only a “tiny minority” end up in sustained employment. This, coupled with Enfield being within the most deprived 25 per cent of all districts in England, demonstrates the importance of equipping these students with the skills needed to build community relationships and gain employment. Since 2017, West Lea’s Supported Internship has achieved a 90 per cent retention rate for students who have been offered employment, as well as 90 per cent of interns completing the Supported Internship Programme getting a job.

The programme was originally launched to help provide greater access to jobs for young people who want to work but need a little extra support to do so. Students’ skills, interests, and aspirations are matched to specific roles to give them the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in sectors they are genuinely passionate about, while businesses can benefit from work-ready students with relevant skillsets. Each placement is assigned a Job Coach to help the student settle into the role but also aid the employer in better understanding how to support a young person with a Disability be successful in work.

Emma Walton, People Director at Greggs said:

“At Greggs, we’re proud to be an inclusive employer and working with organisations such as West Lea School ensures we provide the necessary support for people who might face challenges when looking for employment. It’s been fantastic to support these three excellent students through their internship and we now warmly welcome them to Greggs as colleagues in our Enfield Warehouse.”

Jack Kelley, Independence, Business and Partnerships Manager at West Lea, said:

“At West Lea, we aim to equip our students with the skills and opportunities that enable them to achieve anything, regardless of their needs. It’s important for us to work with the local community, not only for the benefit of our students, but also to bolster productivity and work opportunities in Enfield.

“We are so grateful to Greggs for continuing to support our students. Every young person has the potential to contribute, and examples like this prove that with the right support and encouragement, we can help more young people find permanent employment while helping organisations diversify their workforce and increase productivity.”

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