LEARNING DISABILITY WEEK: Skills competitions are kickstarting careers for young people with additional learning needs

Bluestone is just one business in Wales giving competitors paid job placements

Young people with additional learning needs are being given a platform to showcase their skills in a competitive environment to help secure placements in the working world.

King, Morgan and Cecily, from Pembrokeshire, are just one group of learners whose performance at Skills Competition Wales and WorldSkills UK has helped them land paid work experience.

They are currently on a supported internship programme with major Welsh employer, Bluestone National Park Resort, having impressed the award-winning resort destination after their triumph in skills competitions.

The trio, who started out at Pembrokeshire College’s Life Skills Academy, are now gaining real work experience in a range of placements within the IT, food and beverage, retail, and housekeeping industries.

King Khamhanphon, who works at Bluestone’s café, said: “I work at the café at Bluestone and really enjoy it because of the team. I feel very supported and am currently a semi-finalist in the inclusive competition Restaurant Service category for WorldSkills UK’s National Finals. The competitions and my internship at Bluestone have helped me to develop my skills and confidence a lot.”

King Khamhanphon

In Wales, inclusive competitions are funded by the Welsh Government through Skills Competition Wales and are delivered by the Inspiring Skills in Wales project. Promising competitors often go on to compete in the national competitions at WorldSkills UK.

Those interested in competing in inclusive competitions can choose to compete from a selection of 12 categories including Automotive Technology, Woodwork, Childcare, Life Skills and more.

The competitions aim to not only help improve young people’s confidence and employability skills but seek to break down barriers and help learners reach significant milestones in their personal life such as securing a job and gaining financial independence.

Emma Jones, Curriculum Manager at the Life Skills Academy, said: “We’re so proud of all our learners. It’s fantastic to see how far they’ve come since starting at the academy and at their supported internships. Learners are sometimes nervous about participating in skills competitions, but it really helps to build their confidence and often gives them the boost they needed to transition into real working environments.”

“The pride that our learners have in being an authentic contributor to their community has been truly overwhelming and we are experiencing such growth in this area of our curriculum.”

Helen John, Bluestone Academy Manager, said: “We’re committed to providing opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities through workplace learning and training. The Life Skills Academy supported internship initiative is one of which we’ve had particular success and was brought to our attention through the learners’ success in several skills competitions.

“Inclusive skills competitions are a brilliant way for young people who might not otherwise have had a chance to perform under pressure in a working environment before, and as a business, we have experienced first-hand the benefits of hiring people who have a fresh perspective and varied and talented skillset.”

Welsh Government Minister for Economy, Vaughan Gething, said: “Wales is showing itself to be a leading force in paving the way for opportunities for young people with disabilities and additional learning needs. I’d like to thank the learners, tutors and organisations involved in these initiatives for their hard work in helping to transform the expectations, experiences, and outcomes for so many children and young people in Wales.

“The aim of Skills Competition Wales and WorldSkills is to celebrate learners’ skills and achievements while raising their employability skills, so it’s fantastic to see reputable organisations such as Pembrokeshire College and Bluestone launching these sorts of programmes together.”

For anyone interested in getting involved in skills competitions, they can visit https://inspiringskills.gov.wales/ for more information.


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