National Supported Internship Day 2023

Monday 27 March is National Supported Internship Day and The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust (TRFT) is celebrating its interns – past and present! 

Lewis Willis, Gardener; Vicky Longley, Supported Intern; Emily Wraw, Head of EDI; Munazza Shah, EDI Advisor; Robyn Layton from Landmarks College; Laura Allwood, Service Manager

Since late 2021, colleagues at TRFT have welcomed five supported interns to their teams, with some even going on to gain substantive employment within the Trust.

A Supported Internship is a form of supported work experience for people aged 16-25, with a learning disability or autism. It is a one year programme, where individuals spend two days a week working with an organisation and one day a week in college, helping them to develop skills for employment. For this, TRFT work in partnership with specialist employment service, Wayfinder, part of Landmarks Specialist College. Wayfinder provide job coaches who support the interns until they are able to work independently. 

According to the charity, DFN Project SEARCH, only 4.8% of people in England with a learning disability and/or autism, who are known to local authorities, go on to secure paid employment, compared to 80% of their peers. For autistic adults, the employment figure is 22%.

To help combat this, they have launched the first ever National Supported Internship Day. The aim is to raise awareness of the huge impact that a supported internship can have, not only on the interns who take part, but the organisations who host them, and wider society too.

So far, the Trust have welcomed five interns. Four students have already completed their internships, with two of them, Oliver and Lewis, going on to take up permanent roles, and one student, Vicky, starting her placement in January. 

Lewis Willis, joined the gardening team in December 2021, helping them keep the hospital grounds clean and tidy. Estates Officer, Chris Donks, said: “Lewis came as an intern to learn more about gardening and ground care. During his internship, he enthusiastically carried out any tasks which helped the garden team keep site in a tidy condition. He started to proactively carry out jobs with little prompting and every time I spoke to him, he was excited and happy to be able to help out as much as he could.

“After his internship, he was offered the position as his enthusiasm was still showing and [he] had become even more confident in his role. The team enjoy working with him and are just as enthusiastic in training him on the different equipment they use. Lewis is now a key part of the team and we thoroughly enjoy having him working with us.

Lewis has enjoyed learning the health and safety rules and is looking forward to using the leaf blower in the autumn. He gets on really well with the team, saying: “They are kind gentlemen and good friends.”

Vicky Longley is two months in to her placement with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team, and is already gaining more independence and seeing her confidence grow. She has written blog posts, updated the intranet, joined staff network meetings and demonstrated a new initiative to colleagues. She’s already come a long way from the shy girl who joined the team in January. 

Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Emily Wraw, is delighted with Vicky’s development and is proud of all the students who have taken part so far, saying: “we learn as much from our interns as they learn from us.”

It’s not just workplace skills that the interns learn through the programme, they are given the tools to become more independent, learning how to travel to and from work, manage money, open bank accounts and develop their communication skills.