Solihull College & University Centre is partnering with leading soft drinks business Britvic for a second year to offer more employment experience to students with disabilities and special educational needs.
The supported internships scheme gives students the skills and confidence they need to thrive in the workplace – and following a successful first year, both organisations are gearing up to welcome the second cohort this month.
Pioneered by the College and B-Seen, Britvic’s employee network for disability and diverse ability, the first year saw three students with special educational needs including autism, selective mutism and ADHD complete the programme and progress to employment or further studies.
At the start of the programme, students are supported by a job coach and, as they become familiar with their working environment and gain more confidence, do more work independently.
The programme, which has been nominated for a Food and Drink Federation award, is designed to place students with local employers where they can receive training and learn about the world of work.
Luca Warman, a student in the programme’s first cohort, said: “It’s been utterly incredible from start to finish, it has allowed me to feel more confident in a place of work.
“The experience gained at Britvic has encouraged me to find something truly special in the place of work. Anyone who wants to consider a placement I would encourage to embrace it – you will soon find out everyone will support you.”
The increased confidence Luca gained from the programme saw him expertly deliver a presentation to the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce alongside college co-ordinator, Sallie Partridge, receiving a standing ovation from the audience.
Sallie Partridge said: “The college is delighted to be working alongside Britvic to deliver a second year of the programme. Britvic has proven to be a highly supportive and empathetic organisation that has supported our interns throughout the whole process and created a provision that meets the needs of our learners and offers them opportunities to progress and develop as individuals.”
Another student who is a selective mute is now openly talking to people, with a parent acknowledging the transformation and grateful for the opportunity and help Britvic has given their child.
Mitzi Waller, Project Finance Manager at Britvic and founder of the supported internships programme, said: “Having two teenage children, one with autism and dyspraxia and one with epilepsy, myalgic encephalomyelitis and autism – I’m always thinking about how they’ll fit into the world of work.
“As a business, it’s so important to recognise that everyone has their own unique abilities to contribute and to understand how we can be more open to people’s differences and be accommodating of others needs and ways of working.
“I am really proud of this fantastic initiative at Britvic and the work the B-Seen network group does, bringing disability awareness to Britvic and building a truly inclusive company.”
Russell Goldman, executive sponsor of the B-Seen network, said: “I passionately believe that as employers, we have an important responsibility to champion ability of all kinds and create the right conditions for people's diverse talents to shine through.
“It’s a privilege to be able to help young people achieve their ambitions to get into the workplace and I’m delighted to see the programme continue to thrive and inspire as we welcome three new students.”
This year Britvic’s B-Seen network has also supported the redesign of the company’s Hemel Hempstead head office – creating dedicated rooms with soundproofing, softer lighting and muted colours to benefit neurodiverse colleagues.
Britvic is a member of the Business Disability Forum and The Valuable 500 – both organisations advocating disability inclusion, and is also committed to supporting young people find employment – recently announcing a three-year partnership between Tango and The Prince’s Trust.
Britvic is also supporting people with special educational needs and disabilities in Ireland by teaming up with the charity KARE to provide opportunities to people with diverse abilities.
Notes to editors
If you are a local company and would like to get involved with the supported internships programme, supporting our students with special educational needs and disabilities, then please contact Sallie Partridge at email@example.com.
About Solihull College & University Centre
Solihull College & University Centre is an innovative college with state-of-the-art facilities including a virtual reality lab, aircraft hangar and flight simulators, industry standard science labs, an animal care centre housing hundreds of exotic species and much more.
With full-time courses, apprenticeship opportunities, and progression routes right up to degree level, the College offers students a route direct to the career that suits them.
The College’s vocational courses and apprenticeships are tailored to industry needs, ensuring students leave ready to launch their career or progress in education.
Find out more at solihull.ac.uk