How Do I…Find A Supported Internship by Kathy Melling

Supported internships are very different to other college courses. They are for young people who find it best to learn by doing. They are all about learning about work by being in work, and the aim is that the internship will turn into a paid job at the end.

Supported internships are also about young people gaining qualifications that are important to employers and relate to particular jobs. Interns continue to learn English and Maths, but in terms of their application in the workplace. Most supported internships are full-time programmes, offering four-five days of unpaid work experience a week, and lasting one academic year.

Supported internships really work. While there are no central statistics, it is estimated that more than 50% of those on supported internships continue into paid work.




  1. Check your son or daughter’s eligibility

Supported internships are for high need learners. In England, they are for young people who have an education, health and care plan. There are supported internships available through Project Search in Wales, but no similar provision at present in Scotland. They are for young people in their last year of education, up to age 25.

  1. Do some essential preparation

Before going on a supported internship, it’s really important that the young person has already had quite a lot of work experience in typical workplaces outside of their school or college. This will help them understand what being in work is like, what jobs they might like to do and what their skills are. This is vital, as the aim of the supported internship is to lead to the young person’s first paid job.

  1. Check your council’s local offer for availability

Your first port of call to find a supported internship is your local authority’s local offer, available online. The local offer is a guide to services in your area for children and young people with special educational needs aged from birth to 25. At school, young people and their parents should also be getting careers guidance, and the careers advisor should know the availability of supported internships in your local area. Parents can also find out about them through their local parent-carer forum. Supported internships may be offered by a school, college, training provider or by a community organization such as Catch-22. Availability does vary across the UK. A lot of hospitals and NHS employers offer supported internships, as well as large employers such as National Grid and Marriott Hotels.

  1. Ask for job coach support

It’s really important than an autistic young person on a supported internship has a job coach. As well as supporting the young person and asking for any adjustments they need, job coaches are there to help the employer understand the needs of autistic young people and how best to assist and line manage them.

For instance, if the young person does not want to do a traditional interview, their job coach could advocate for an interview where they demonstrate their skills on the job, rather than talking about them. A job coach can be from the education provider, employer or be independent.

  1. Access funding

The availability of funding for travel and living costs while on the supported internship varies. Young people may, depending on their circumstances, be able to apply for a travel card which allows them free travel. Again, that varies between local authorities. There are bursaries available which are at the discretion of the local education provider. Employers or education providers can apply for Access to Work funding from the Department of Work and Pensions to pay for job coaches or any specialist equipment required.


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Source: Author Kathy Melling. NAS Magazine, Spring 2018.