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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 our aim is 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 our well-established external work experience programme, new community work experience plans and general restrictions on contact with others in the community. We have endeavoured where possible as a staff team to keep these careers connections alive and further develop these through meaningful virtual means with a range of both new and existing connections we have and through volunteers through work experience and employer contacts and other connections through our staff, parents and our TVCA Enterprise Advisor Victoria Jones.

Victoria is a local autistic IT professional, keen to support our 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 our students and staff and has been so beneficial as her experiences have often resonated with our students and their own real experiences and feelings young adults.

During National Careers Week one of the aims was to focus on the development of student’s individual employability and personal skills, developing self-advocacy and critically, self-confidence. Victoria supported us with 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.

The students did find the thought of interview experience somewhat anxious, who wouldn’t, that is a normal response to an interview. However, with good preparation, coaching and support from both staff and parents, even the most apprehensive student 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 then 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. As a Careers Lead it is perhaps the most powerful careers opportunity we have enabled for our students this year and I also learnt from Victoria that as staff we need to continue to provide even more opportunities for students to confidently articulate their strengths and experiences to others. The students themselves, albeit it nervous initially, found the experience ‘very real’ and were appreciative that they were ‘treated like an adult at a real interview’. The students really came to the fore and we were all very proud of their articulation, confidence and ability to talk about themselves and their positive qualities in quite a pressured situation.

Karen Revill, Careers Lead, Beverley School