By Daniel Hunter

Young people who are disabled will be given help to find sustainable paid employment through a new Supported Internship programme and a new Traineeship programme, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced today (Thursday).

The Department for Education funded Supported Internships will offer specialised employment-focused study programmes for young people aged 16 to 24 with complex learning difficulties and disabilities.

Offered through Further Education Colleges, they will help trainees learn from expert career coaches while doing real jobs for a minimum of six months.

Employers will also receive support from the coaches, increasing their confidence of working with disabled young people and helping them to understand the business case for employing a diverse workforce.

The new mainstream Traineeships programme will give 16 to 24 year olds the workplace experience and job skills that employers require and will be open to disabled young people with less complex needs. The Traineeships programme will available from August this year.

Speaking at the UK’s first National Disability Employment Conference Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Disabled people have a lot to offer British businesses but often their potential is largely untapped. If their employment rate matched that of the rest of the population, an extra two million people would be working.

“The Internship and Traineeships programme will help create a fairer society by putting young people with disabilities on meaningful career paths and give employers the opportunity to see what they can offer.

“With the 'disability pound' worth £80 billion to the British economy, there is a strong financial as well as social incentive for employers to recruit a more diverse workforce that understands the needs of all its customers.”

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson, who is responsible for Supported Internships, said: “Through the Children and Families Bill, our Special Educational Needs reforms will give children, young people and their parents much greater control over the support they receive from birth to 25 — allowing them to focus on their aspirations.

“We want to help young people with complex learning difficulties make a successful transition into employment. Supported Internships, like the one I visited at Mid-Cheshire College, provide a fantastic opportunity to learn the skills they need for the workplace whilst working in a real job”.

Supported Internships have been trialled over the last year in 15 Further Education colleges for 16 to 25 year olds with complex learning difficulties and disabilities.

The £3 million pilot was announced as part of the government’s formal response to the public consultation on its Green Paper, Support and Aspiration.

The Conference at the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster will include keynote speeches from Business Secretary Vince Cable, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Barclays’ CEO Ashok Vaswani and CEO of GSK Sir Andrew Witty.

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