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College hosts first Accessible Employment Event

27th Jan 2023

On Wednesday 18th January 2023, Abingdon & Witney College held a combined Disability Confident Employer Careers and SEND Transition Event; in partnership with Witney’s Job Centre Plus and other SEND provisions aimed at supporting progression into adulthood. The event showcased local employers who have signed up to the Disability Confident Scheme and offer accessible employment opportunities to our students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). This was our first Disability Confident Careers event, and it was designed to complement our main Careers Fairs which are open to all students.

Our College Career’s Fairs are known to be lively and bustling events, with hundreds of dedicated students attending with families; ready to find out more about the latest career and post-16 options. Our campuses are filled with employers, universities and apprenticeship providers; all waiting to share what is on offer, with students discovering new opportunities in every corner. For some of our students with SEND, this environment can be overwhelming; and it is not just the potential suitability of the employers that can leave students feeling apprehensive about attending.

This year, Abingdon & Witney College’s Careers and SEND teams were dedicated to addressing this. They worked proactively alongside Witney’s Job Centre Plus to create an accessible solution, offering our SEND students and local young people access to employment opportunities, with far fewer environmental barriers. The Witney Job Centre Plus team and Oxfordshire Disability Confident Champion organised a vast quantity of employers to attend and our SEND team invited transition support organisations to share their expertise and placement opportunities in the afternoon.

Following the event, the Disability Employment Advisor for Witney JCP and Disability Confident Champion for Oxfordshire, shared why the project was so important to them:
“I’m very passionate about promoting the support available for people across Oxfordshire with health conditions and disabilities. I wanted to organise this event to highlight Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in the workplace with Abingdon & Witney College. I remember being a young adult with a disability, and how scared I was about entering the wider world of employment. I believe we inspired these young people to realise sooner than I did, that a health condition isn’t a barrier, and that there are loads of local employers who will support them to achieve their professional goals.”

The floor plan enabled multiple students with physical disabilities to browse the stalls at any given time; and environmental considerations were taken to reduce sensory overload for students. Quiet spaces were provided for students to step away as and when it was needed, and students were given a booking slot to ensure a maximum of twenty students attended each hour. This enabled our team to carefully manage the capacity of the event, preventing crowding and challenging volumes of noise.

Many students had not attended an event similar before so making sure the environment felt welcoming and comfortable was a priority for the team. Our SEND team were on hand throughout, providing a known and welcoming face at reception, alongside support for students as and when it was needed. Pathway students within the College attended with their tutors, and both attending companies and students were given prompt questions to help spark their conversations.

Cheryl Jones, Careers Adviser for Common Leys Campus and Pathways students, shared:
“We had an amazing day at our first 'Disability Confident Employer & Transition Event'. It was brilliant to see employers, transition organisations, students and staff working together to make sure our young people with SEND have the opportunity to explore their future careers and aspirations!”

The event provided a brilliant opportunity for our students to discover all that is possible for them after college. It encouraged them to build confidence to interact with unfamiliar people, discuss their skills, experience and career aspirations. It could not have happened without the work of the College’s brilliant Careers Team, the partnering support of Witney’s Job Centre Plus and the attending Employers and Transition organisations.

Thank you to Better Leisure (GLL), Farm Ability, Guideposts, Home Instead, Medical World Care, Meech, National Careers Service, OCC Smart and Supported Internships, Oxford Direct Services, Oxfordshire Employment, Send it to Alex, Social Care, South Central Ambulance Service, Special Effect, Style Acre, Synolos, Yellow Submarine and Zirotec.