This case study was written with the support of Phil Mark, Head of Post16, Progression and Partnerships at Kirklees Council.
When we were first approached with the prospect of being a host business for DFN Project SEARCH, we immediately saw the value in taking part. Kirklees Council is the largest employer in the local authority, with 4,000 employees and a steady demand. Reducing the number of unemployed people in the area and upskilling the local labour market are priorities for various service areas across the Council including Adult Services, Child Services and Economy & Skills. Phil Mark, Head of Post-16, Progression and Partnerships, said, “It’s also really important that we lead from the front in terms of our place in the local employment landscape.” It is no surprise then that in the first year of the programme, 22 different managers at Kirklees Council signed up to receive interns in their department. There were roles available in data entry, events administration, business support, reception, cleaning, learning development and many others.
Becoming a host business for DFN Project SEARCH has had a huge impact on Kirklees Council as an employer. Working with interns has made hiring managers more aware of the diverse skills and capabilities of people with a learning disability, and/or autism and has got them thinking about how the recruitment process can be tweaked to allow applicants to showcase their skills, job carving, in line with business needs, to be more inclusive, inviting job coaches to support in interviews, giving candidates access to interview questions in advance and guaranteeing interviews for certain jobs. The impact of these changes is evidenced by the fact that six of our seven graduates now work within Kirklees Council.
The Council has been nominated for various awards including the European Diversity Awards, and Social Mobility Initiative of the Year. REAL Employment, the Council’s supported employment provider, has been able to transfer learning from their DFN Project SEARCH programme to their other programmes, which in turn has helped them to win new bids. Heading into their second year, the Kirklees Project SEARCH team now have 41 managers interested in hosting interns in their departments. Phil Mark said, “We’ve actually got more rotations than there is need for rotations.” With this amount of choice, the team are able to pick roles that are best suited to each intern’s job development needs.
Phil is looking to share best practice with local employers so they can start to offer more rotations and jobs outside of the Council. In future years, he hopes that SEND employment statistics and numbers of internships will be seen as crucial indicators of local economy strength and place Kirklees on the map as a place truly inclusive of all our people and their communities.