Supported Internships are employer-based study programmes designed to help people aged 16-24, with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities), learn the skills they need for the workplace and achieve sustainable employment. They were introduced in September 2013, and as they are fairly new you might not have come across them before.


They were created because the Government wanted to change the assumption that young people with severe learning difficulties and/or disabilities cannot work. In fact, the overwhelming majority of young people with SEND are capable of sustainable paid employment with the right preparation and support and this programme has been created in order to ensure that they receive this.  

In 2013, the employment rate for people with moderate to severe learning difficulties, was only 7%. However a report of that year found that 36% of those on supported internships went on to paid employment. Therefore, it is a highly beneficial programme, which helps encourage young people with SEND to live rich and fulfilling lives.


How are they Structured?

Internships normally last for a year and include unpaid work placements of at least six months. Supported internships resemble normal internships in that they must meet a real business need and offer the potential of a paid job at the end of the programme of study. Furthermore, the majority of the young person’s time will be  spent at the employer’s premises and they will be expected to comply with real job conditions, such as time-keeping and dress code.

Supported internships differ from traditional internships because both the young person and the employer have support through a tutor and a formally trained job coach. In line with the National Occupational Standards for supported employment, the job coaches provide in-work support for young people which tapers off as the student becomes familiar with their role, but can always be reached if needed. They support employers by increasing their confidence in working with interns and helping them to understand the benefits of a diverse workforce.

Coaches continue to provide support after the internship finishes, to ensure that young people get sustainable, paid careers, even where the internship was unsuccessful.

To guarantee that the young person makes the most of the experience, learning goals are set in area such as English or Maths, or other relevant qualifications. Different tactics, such as systematic instruction, may need to be used to help the young person gain new skills and learn new tasks.


How to set up a Supported Internship:

If you are interested in taking on a supported intern, there are a variety of ways to develop a programme. The best place to find out more is through the Department for Education. Further support and resources can be found on the website Preparing for Adulthood. You could also engage with local schools and colleges and talk to them about setting up a programme.

Other resources: SI Factsheet, Supported Internship


Back to: Work Experience