By Daniel Hunter
Leonard Cheshire Disability is urging CEOs of the UK’s leading FTSE 100 companies to pledge their support to bring disabled students into the workforce.
The charity is contacting the companies that make up the FTSE 100 to join its Change 100 programme by providing work placements for disabled undergraduates and giving them an opportunity to get their first introduction to work.
Speaking at the UK’s first national disability employment conference in central London - which brings together 300 employers, government and charities - Clare Pelham, Chief Executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “We know that our best companies value talent. We also know there are tremendously talented disabled people searching for work and they could be our country’s future leaders or entrepreneurs if they are given the chance.
"That is why we are launching Change 100 to bring the two together. By providing a 100 day summer work placement, alongside mentoring and other support, we hope that both employers and undergraduates will have an experience valuable in itself. And importantly it would be the start of a different world of work in the future.
“We know many disabled people do wish to work. We know also that customers of large and small employers welcome diverse workforces, whether in their local bank branch or their corner shop.
“We know that companies wish to employ talented people. It’s time for us to bring them together and create a world of work that looks like our street, our village or our town, with no one left out. We hope companies will take up the help we are offering with Change 100.
“We know that many employers are anxious about employing disabled people and uncertain how to make it work. The fact is disabled people are far less likely to be in work than non-disabled people and we know that many of them would like to be. We know that only 50% of working age disabled people are in employment. This compares to 80% of non-disabled people
“This is why we are launching Change 100 to provide life-changing opportunities to at least 100 disabled undergraduates to experience the world of work.”
Recent research by Leonard Cheshire Disability has revealed that 77% of disabled people have not received any help finding work. In an experiment using similar CVs of disabled and non-disabled candidates, the charity found that a non-disabled candidate was TWICE as likely to be invited for interview as one where a disability was declared.
The charity has been supporting disabled people into work for many years and has close knowledge of the many issues they face. Specialist training, expert accessibility advice and a wide range of schemes, including shadowing and work mentoring, are on offer from the charity to support companies and disabled people at work.
Clare Pelham added: “If companies take up this challenge, we can end this unacceptable situation now.”
The Open University has linked with the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity to foster wider participation in adult education amongst disabled people.
Julie Gowen, Head of External Development at the Centre for Inclusion and Collaborative Partnerships at The Open University, said: “As our economy shows the first signs of recovery, it’s more important than ever that people can develop their skills alongside their work. 44% of our 15,669 currently registered disabled students are in employment either part or full time and are able to bring their new skills and learning directly into the workplace. Schemes such as Change100 are a great way to open up the world of work to disabled students and enable them to play a full part in our country’s economy.”
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