Unemployed people with disabilities are being helped into work through an innovative £900,000 programme, piloted in Scotland by Mitie and CITB.
The ‘Think Differently’ initiative is designed to encourage employers to actively recruit candidates with autism, learning disabilities physical disabilities and mental health problems.
It will enable a minimum of 60 candidates across the UK, to take part in a 12-week training programme designed to gain real life work experience and a recognised industry qualification.
It is currently being piloted in Glasgow and Airdrie in Scotland. Ten candidates are on placement with Mitie in roles including quantity surveying, electrical engineering, painting and decorating and administration.
The project has received almost half a million pounds in funding from CITB, with a further £400,000 investment from Mitie and partners, and is supported by disability recruitment partner Remploy, The National Autistic Society, and construction training organisation, Geason Training.
As part of the initiative Remploy and The National Autistic Society will refer candidates to the programme and deliver disability training to Mitie employees.
This Disability Coaching Model will up-skill existing staff and enable Mitie to offer inclusive work placement opportunities across its business. Geason Training will deliver training qualifications to all participants.
Mark McCafferty, Regional HR Manager at Mitie Property Services, said: “We are delighted to have been provided the opportunity to develop the Think Differently concept into an innovative partnering programme. We are certain that it will provide an excellent opportunity for participants, who may have encountered significant barriers to employment, to enhance their skills, confidence and provide an alternative “job interview” model.
“It is widely accepted that disabled job seekers can be disadvantaged by traditional recruitment methods and that work trials can provide an effective alternative route to finding employment, so we are excited at the prospect of identifying future Mitie talent throughout the duration of the project.”
Ian Hughes, Strategic Partnerships Director at CITB Scotland, said: “CITB is proud to be involved in the Think Differently programme. Construction needs to work harder to diversify its workforce, and initiatives such as this will encourage more employers to think about the benefits of a diverse, pro-disability working environment.”
James Rowley, Remploy National Account Manager, said: “This is an innovative project which brings together the expertise of industry leading organisations and will have a positive impact throughout the construction industry.
“Its aim is to not only provide disabled talent with the opportunity to pursue a career within the construction industry, but also to help Mitie build disability confidence, and internal capacity and capability, through a variety of disability training and support packages. We are excited about the prospect of challenging and changing perceptions and making the construction industry a great career option for disabled people.”
Jenny Paterson, Director of The National Autistic Society Scotland, said: “Recent research by our charity revealed that just 16 per cent of autistic people in Scotland are in full-time employment. The vast majority want to work, and we know that they have strengths which are hugely beneficial to employers, but they often face many barriers to securing work – such as unclear application processes and high-pressured interviews.
“Think Differently is such an important project because it gives autistic people hands-on experience in a sector that has been difficult to access in the past.”
Robert Kilpatrick, Director at Geason Training said: “The Think Differently programme is a huge opportunity to progress with a learning and development area which has been sadly missing in the construction sector. We believe this programme will be emulated within other organisations and will truly make a difference for people with disabilities in the sector in future.”
Case studies - Connor Cusack and Lynn Paterson Elliot
In May 2016, Connor Cusack was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism which can make social interaction more difficult.
Through the Think Differently programme, Connor commenced an eight week placement with Mitie Property Management’s Painting team.
Connor has since been offered a full time apprenticeship with Mitie that is due to start in the coming weeks.
On his Think Differently experience, Connor said: “It’s been really good for me. I’ve learned so much and I already feel so much more confident.”
Christine Cusack (Connor’s Mum), commented: “Prior to taking part in Think Differently, Connor had very low confidence.
"His line manager and colleagues have made him feel so welcome and part of the team. I have noticed a huge difference since he started the project; he is now showing increasing confidence in all aspects of his life.”
Lynn Paterson Elliott, 49 years old from Johnstone, was diagnosed with a rare form of dyslexia only five years ago which she says “held her back”.
Thanks to support she received from Remploy, specialists in disability employment, she is now taking steps towards a career as an electrician and is undertaking a work placement within Mitie’s Electrician’s department.
On her Think Differently experience, Lynn said: “At the moment I’m shadowing the electricians at Mitie and learning a lot from this experience but I’d love to be able to use my tools soon.
"Things are looking promising and my confidence has been boosted by getting a foot in the door of my industry. My manager at Mitie has been very supportive and understanding”.
On living with Dyslexia, Lynn said: “Although I am intelligent, having dyslexia has held me back in almost every aspect of my life.
"In day-to-day situations I often find myself frustrated with not being able to express myself or explain things clearly to other people. Filling out forms or writing applications can also be difficult for me.
“I would definitely recommend Remploy to others like myself as they have been very supportive and have given me this opportunity with Mitie which I would never have found on my own, I’m putting in 110% and it’s very rewarding.”