We are delighted to announce that we have re-launched our employment initiatives this spring to empower the people we support to find paid work.

We have been able to start up the initiatives again now that we're able to hold in-person activities due to changes to COVID guidelines.

The My Employment Passport scheme, held at our Acorns Day Opportunities centre in Pembury, Tunbridge Wells, aims to equip adults with learning disabilities and on the autism spectrum with a range of skills to prepare them for paid employment.

The 30-week course covers areas such as creating a CV, matching skills with potential jobs, preparing for an interview and guidance on appropriate behaviour in the workplace.

The course is tailored to the needs of each student and features a series of videos which include inspirational real-life stories of people on the autism spectrum and with learning disabilities who have found paid work. Students use workbooks and resources such as skills cards to aid their learning, along with a range of online resources.

We run the City and Guilds Skills for Working Life course alongside the My Employment Passport programme and the two complement each other. The City and Guilds course takes approximately a year to complete and students can focus on areas they are interested in, such as horticulture or hospitality.

On completion of the courses our staff provide support in finding employment, including helping find suitable positions and with making applications. 

Katie and Andrew are both former pupils of our employment skills courses and have been successful in finding paid work positions.

Katie, 27, from Tunbridge Wells, is neurodivergent and describes herself as being autistic. Katie has been in paid employment at our Bluebell Café in Pembury since completing the employment course with 2 years ago.  She said: “My job involves stocking up on drinks and snacks, serving customers and clearing the tables. Working at the café is amazing, it gives me a chance to meet the public. I just love it. It’s changed my life to be paid every month – I can save up for things that I want and buy them. People like me should have the opportunity to have a job and get paid.”

Andrew, 39, lives in Tunbridge Wells and is originally from South Africa. Andrew has a learning disability. Andrew was successful in securing a paid job at B & Q in Tunbridge Wells after completing our employment skills course 2 years ago and is still working there. He said: “I’m very good with my hands and I don’t mind hard work! I love working for B&Q. I have saved up some money to go to South Africa for holiday with my earnings and I’m really looking forward to it!”

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the proportion of disabled people who are in employment has gone down and the proportion who are either unemployed or economically inactive has gone up and the employment gap between disabled people and non-disabled people remains persistently large at approaching 30% (The Disability Employment Charter). Only 6% of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in England are in paid work (NHS Digital 2018).

Eva Medjedovic, Deputy Manager at Acorns said: “We’re so pleased to be able to start up our employment skills course again, which had to be put on hold due to the pandemic. We want to make things better for people on the autism spectrum and with learning disabilities in terms of finding paid employment and I’ve seen first-hand the difference these courses can make to people’s lives. At Aspens we feel passionately that everyone should be empowered to find paid work and we do all we can to support the students on their journey to do this, from when they start the course, to helping them find appropriate jobs to apply for and approach potential employers when they’ve completed it.”

The My Employment Passport and City and Guilds Skills for Working Life courses at Aspens are available to adults on the autism spectrum and with learning disabilities who live in Kent.

For further information contact Acorns Day Opportunities Centre on 01892 820342 or email: [email protected]

Find out more about My Employment Passport here