Leonard Cheshire Disability has just launched 'Change100', a national campaign to find talented disabled undergraduates to work in some of the UK’s leading companies as paid interns.
Research from the Department for Work and Pensions shows that just over half (54%) of working-age disabled people are currently not in work. By launching Change100, Leonard Cheshire Disability wants to address the under-representation of disabled people in the workplace.
The scheme aims to broaden the public’s understanding of what disability is, as well as highlight the fact that many disabled students are talented, ambitious, and would thrive in the business sector.
Students now have until 10 March to apply for the scheme. Successful applicants will get mentoring and guidance throughout their paid, three-month placement to support them to excel and thrive within the workplace.
The scheme also supports businesses to become more confident about disability by giving advice and guidance about how to support employees with disabilities and long-term health conditions.
The scheme has engaged with some of the UK’s leading companies and employers, including Experian, Prospects, SABMiller plc and Standard Life. They will all be taking students from summer 2014.
Clare Pelham, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: ‘We 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. We also know that our best companies value talent. That is why we have launched Change 100 — to provide life-changing opportunities to disabled university students to experience the world of work.
‘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.’
Geraldine Percival, talent and development manager at the corporate offices of SABMiller plc said: ‘At SABMiller, our values espouse that people are our most enduring advantage. We aim to attract, acquire and develop the highest calibre people with the skills, behavioural characteristics and drive to help SABMiller achieve its strategic objectives.
‘We are therefore delighted to be involved in Change100 in partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability. This initiative offers internships to talented young people with disabilities. At SABMiller, we value and encourage diversity and participating in an internship scheme which supports disabled students on their journey to a successful career reinforces our commitment. Leonard Cheshire Disability has a wealth of knowledge and expertise on disability issues and employment, so we know we are in safe hands.’
The National Union of Students (NUS) has also shown its support for the scheme. Hannah Paterson, disabled students’ officer at the NUS, said: ‘The high number of young disabled people that are unemployed is totally unacceptable. To date there have been very few workable solutions to improve this situation. A scheme like Change100 provides a real opportunity to get young disabled people into work, giving them the chance to develop their skills and grow in confidence. It also allows employers to benefit from the strength and resilience disabled people can bring to their workforce and dispel some of the preconceptions that exist around disability.’
In order to deliver Change100, Leonard Cheshire Disability will be partnering with Vanilla, a social enterprise also responsible for the non-profit sector graduate scheme Charityworks.
Rachel Whale, managing director of Vanilla, said: ‘The initial response to Change100 has made clear the terrific appetite and enthusiasm for this idea among not only employers, but also universities and students. We think disabled students coming to the end of their degrees have already demonstrated a great deal of talent and resilience, and we are excited about the opportunity Change100 offers for them to take those skills into the world of work.’
Change100 is engaging with universities across the country, including student representatives acting as disability champions on campus. Leonard Cheshire Disability is also working with a number of disabled role models, who have overcome numerous challenges to secure successful careers in the corporate sector. They have launched an inspiring marketing campaign to reach out to students and potential employers, challenging preconceptions about disability in the workplace.
Change100 has placements across the UK and is open to anyone with a long term health condition or disability, including physical, visual or hearing impairments, mental health conditions and learning disabilities like dyslexia and dyspraxia.
Students and businesses can now enrol or find more information about how to get involved at www.leonardcheshire.org/change100
The deadline for student applications is 10 March 2014, with internships taking place during the summer of 2014.