College and Crowne Plaza develop new student internship programme

Solihull College & University Centre and the Crowne Plaza in Solihull are currently running a new supported internship partnership.

The supported internships are structured study programmes based primarily at a local employer.  The programme is designed to enable young people with special educational needs and disabilities to achieve sustainable, paid employment by equipping them with the skills they need for work through learning in the workplace. The roles available are varied and include hospitality, catering, office work and warehousing. Each young person will have access to a job coach who is fully trained to support on the job training as well as deal with any concerns the employer or young person may have.

 Students spend 3 days a week, 6 hours a day working at their jobs in the academic year period. The College supports them with an interview process at the end. On their College study day, they study Maths and English, employability skills and CV writing. Currently, there are 3 students with special educational needs working on the supported internship with the Crowne Plaza; Ilma, a deaf student who works in Housekeeping, and Declan and Shane, with learning difficulties, working in Food & Beverage and the Kitchen.

 Job Coach Jean is on hand to support the students whilst they are working. ‘It has been a learning curve for everyone’, Jean comments. ‘It has been so wonderful to see the students grow and thrive in the working environment. For employers, this is a way to recruit a reliable employee’.

 Supported internships are open to any learner between 16-24 years old with an education health and care plan.

 Natalia Dainty, HR Manager at the Crowne Plaza, has been impressed with the programme. ‘We were interested because we have an array of team members with additional or mental health needs. Bringing people into the hotel with additional needs is good for the local community. We feel this is hugely important. We have a deaf worker at our hotel and to see her journey over 15 years has been amazing, she is now a chef. Partnering with Supported Internship programmes is a chance for employers to give something back to the local community and working with the College, we have also found a great recruitment partnership’. 

 Ilma, Declan and Shane had a tailor-made programme built which involved an interview and a visit. Ilma had been a student at the College for 5 years. Declan and Shane came through the Internships straight from school.

 Sallie Partridge the Lead Co-Ordinator for Supported Internships at the College said, ‘The Crowne have been incredibly supportive. They have been open to changing their way of working to fit the learners. It’s the first time this programme has been done and it is a real joint effort. In the hospitality industry, there is a need to be versatile, and flexible. The business is about adapting. This is good for business, we have a social responsibility, and we found out that organisations involved in internships were happier. Seeing the progress and development of an intern, supporting them and helping someone who wouldn’t have had the opportunity can bring employees job satisfaction. ’

 Head Chef Ian who works alongside Shane stated, ‘Shane is really enthusiastic in the kitchens and has a positive attitude. Jean helps to break the job down for him. He’s able to interact much more competently now. It takes a bit of time to support somebody but it is rewarding as you watch them grow in confidence. He organises deliveries and breaks and is an asset to the team.’

 Edward Holland, General Manager at the Crowne, concurred with Ian, ‘I’ve seen the students get involved and integrated. The programme gives them much more than work experience which is just a toe in the water, this is a yearlong process and is invaluable.’