employed Representatives from nearly 50 major businesses have come together to discuss how to get more young people with learning disabilities into meaningful paid employment.

Delegates from companies such as the Royal Mail, Big Lottery Fund and Ernst & Young heard about the National Grid’s ‘EmployAbility – Let’s Work Together’ programme. EmployAbility takes students with learning disabilities and places them in internships that expose them to a business environment.

Representatives and interns from National Grid described their experience of setting up the EmployAbility programme, and discussed the benefits of helping disabled people into work.

Currently just 7% of people with learning disabilities are in paid work. They often find themselves locked out of paid employment by a possible lack of qualifications or because they don’t have the communication skills to succeed in a job interview.

Mark Pickles, EmployAbility co-founder, National Grid, said he was “delighted” that so many businesses had signed up to hear about EmployAbility. “We’d encourage all businesses to sign up and run schemes like EmployAbility,” he said. “Colleagues with disabilities add real value and, with many having often overcome significant barriers in their personal life, demonstrate perseverance and a strong ability to manage challenges in the business environment.”

Taurai Horton, who graduated from the EmployAbility scheme and spoke at the event, said: “Through the EmployAbility scheme I realised I could achieve much more than I ever imagined.  

“If it wasn’t for people believing in me, I would never have had the chance to prove myself. Now I’m playing an important role in the Sustainability & Climate Change team at National Grid.”

The EmployAbility scheme has also received government approval. Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP, said: “The EmployAbility Programme is an excellent example of how a business can build a strong and talented workforce while giving opportunities to young disabled people.

“By encouraging others to set up their own schemes we can continue to break down career barriers for disabled people and support them to fulfil their potential.”