Social enterprise sets example by recruiting 28 disabled apprentices
Breaking down the barriers blocking job opportunities for young, disabled people is the top priority for Merthyr Tydfil-based social enterprise that has just recruited 28 apprentices with Welsh Government support.
Legacy International Group, which includes sister companies LIG Enterprise and ENW, has received Welsh Government Employer Incentive Scheme support of £4,500 for each disabled apprentice recruited.
The group works to break down barriers preventing young, disabled people from being employed and provide specialist support to employers to help them deliver equality and inclusion in the workplace.
Chief executive Sara Flay and business partner Leighton Morris have launched the #IAM1IN21 campaign – https://iam1in21.bitrix24.site/ – to encourage 300 employers across Wales to each pledge to employ one disabled person by the end of 2021.
Included in the package of support provided by Legacy is a job coach for each disabled apprentice recruited to help overcome any potential barriers for both the employer and the apprentice.
“We couldn’t expect other employers to support the campaign unless we recruited apprentices ourselves and showed them how it’s done,” explained Sara, who has overseen the remarkable growth of the social enterprise to 90 staff in just five years.
“Most of the time, people are shown how to do something rather than how it works. People come to visit our facilities to see our disabled staff in real, not tokenistic, jobs.
“Many employers don’t feel confident about employing disabled people. Likewise, a lot of young, disabled people struggle to find employers that can accommodate what they need to be able to work. We are trying to be the middle man in this process.
“When an employer is given a £4,500 incentive by the Welsh Government to take on a young, disabled person as an apprentice, the risk lowers dramatically and our job coaches are there to help them settle in and find their confidence.”
Disabled people and those with long-term health conditions make up 75% of Legacy International Group’s workforce. Sara, 40, herself has a neuro muscular condition and sometimes uses a wheelchair.
“Finding employment opportunities for young, disabled people is the number one reason I get out of bed in the morning,” she said. “The world can be completely inaccessible to disabled people and I very much plan to do something about it.”
Sara has worked closely with National Training Federation for Wales’s (NTfW) Apprenticeship Team, which handles all apprenticeship enquiries from employers that come through the Welsh Government’s Skills Gateway for Business, and Humie Webbe, Apprenticeships Strategic Equality and Diversity Lead.
Joanne O’Keefe, the NTfW’s Apprenticeship Programme development manager for South East Wales, has helped Sara find the right Apprenticeship Framework and learning provider for each apprentice.
Apprenticeships ranging from Levels 2 to 4 in Business Administration, IT, Marketing, Social Media for Business, Leadership, Digital Application and Customer Services are being delivered by ACT and ALS in Cardiff.
“The support we have had from Jo and the Apprenticeship Team has been incredible,” said Sara. “We couldn’t have done it without them. It has taken every penny of our resources and then some to take on these new apprentices and job coaches, so we couldn’t afford to make mistakes.”
Jo said: “We are delighted to have been able to help Sara. It’s such a positive story about a group of companies providing apprenticeship opportunities to young, disabled people who might otherwise have struggled to find alternative employment.”
Humie Webbe applauded Legacy International Group for presenting disability in such a positive way. “Sara is such a dynamic and positive person and promotes young, disabled people as the next generation of employees,” she said.
“She is encouraging employers to see the talent and possibilities before they consider a young person’s disability, which is only one aspect of their character.”
Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates, said: “I am delighted that Legacy International Group has recruited 28 disabled apprentices with support from our Employer Incentive Scheme.
“Apprentices make a huge contribution to our economy and provide people with a crucial opportunity to learn new skills, gain valuable experience and confidence, and enhance their knowledge.
“We have already achieved our target of creating 100,000 apprenticeships in this Senedd term and we are striving to drive inclusivity further. Diverse working environments which are representative and open to all can give a business an additional competitive edge.”
The NTfW’s Apprenticeship Team and Wales’ Apprenticeship Programme are both funded by the Welsh Government with European Social Fund support.
The Apprenticeship Employer Incentive Scheme, which runs until September 30, 2021, helps businesses to recruit apprentices, supporting the development of a workforce that is able to meet changing business needs. Payments are limited to a maximum of 10 apprentices per employer.
To find out more, contact the NTfW Apprenticeships Team at https://businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/apprenticeships.