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Beverley School and their Enterprise Adviser – developing autistic students employability skills

Beverley school caters for educating and supporting autistic young people and aims to provide them with the skills, knowledge and personal qualities needed to lead fulfilling and independent adult lives with the realism of meaningful paid employment.

During the pandemic, employer engagement has been a challenge due to the curbing of their well-established external work experience programme, however they have endeavoured where possible to keep these careers connections alive and further develop these through meaningful virtual means with a range of both new and existing connections through volunteers including their TVCA Enterprise Advisor Victoria Jones.

Victoria is a local autistic IT professional, keen to support students with her insight and experience and further their opportunities for employer engagement and employability skills development.  Victoria was diagnosed late in life as she was seeking support and a diagnosis for her son who is also autistic. Her diagnosis was a revelation and an affirmation of both her strengths and the challenges faced in her life to date.  Sharing her story, especially challenges faced as a young adult embarking on independent life with students and staff and has been so beneficial as her experiences have often resonated with the students and their own experiences and feelings as young adults.

During National Careers Week, Beverley School together with their Enterprise Adviser, Victoria Jones, developed student’s individual employability and personal skills, self-advocacy and self-confidence. Victoria supported by giving students mock interviews via TEAMs which was an invaluable experience for sixth form students, some of whom were moving on to their next phase of education and training at the end of this academic year.

Although the students were anxious at the thought of an interview, with good preparation, coaching and support from both staff and parents, even the most apprehensive students developed the resilience and confidence to participate. Victoria was patient, insightful and an excellent interviewer, teasing out from all the students their positive qualities and creating opportunities for the students to relay their employability experiences and help develop their ability to self-advocate. Victoria also took time to give personalised and supportive yet critical feedback back with sound advice on how to improve these skills for any future interview situations. Staff, students, and parents fed back that they really valued the experience. The students found the experience ‘very real’ and were appreciative that they were ‘treated like an adult at a real interview’. The Career Leader at the school said it was a powerful careers opportunity and that the staff also benefitted from the experience.