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Supported Internships

With the right preparation, the overwhelming majority of young people with special educational needs or disability (SEND) are capable of sustainable paid employment thereby enabling them to reach their full potential. All professionals working with them should share that presumption and provide the career advice and support that help young people to develop the skills and experience that they need to succeed in their careers. 

Supported internships are a great opportunity to improve the life chances of young people with SEND by supporting them into sustained, paid employment. Achieving paid employment not only brings young people financial independence, but it can be key to:

  • building confidence and self-esteem

  • increasing health and well-being

  • gaining friendships and a social life


There are also benefits for the economy, employers, families, the local community and wider society.

How does it work

Supported internships are a structured, work-based study programme for 16 to 24-year-olds with SEND. Supported interns are in full-time education and their supported internship work placements are part of their course. The core aim of a supported internship study programme is a work placement, facilitated by the support of an expert job coach. Supported interns are enrolled and supported by a learning provider like a post-16 school, Soth Devon College or independent provider, and spend a proportion of their time (on average two days a week) in the workplace.

Every young person is supported in the work placement by a trained job coach, put in place by their education provider. The job coach provides in-work support that tapers off, if appropriate, as the supported intern becomes familiar with their role. Job coaches also work with employers, increasing their confidence in employing individuals with additional needs and helping them to create and support a diverse workforce.


There is no legal requirement or expectation that the supported intern will be paid. Supported internships are exempt from the National Minimum Wage regulation.

Supported internships last for a minimum of 6 months, and up to a year. The supported internship will hopefully contribute to the long-term career goals of the young person and match their capabilities. Alongside their time with the employer, supported interns complete a personalised study programme delivered by the school or college, which includes the chance to study for relevant qualifications, if appropriate, and English and maths at an appropriate level.

Supported Internships at a glance

What does it involve?

  • Offering a young person (aged 16-25) with an additional need a work placement for 2 days a week 

  • Supporting the young person to become more work-ready, perhaps offering them paid employment

  • Supplying same uniform/name badges/PPE as other staff.

What doesn’t it involve?

  • Paying the young person

  • Arranging the young person’s transport to and from work

  • A negative effect on any DWP benefits the young person/family maybe claiming

  • Promising a paid job.

Other information:

  • The young person will remain enrolled at an education provider who will provide one day a week of additional learning

  • The education provider will support the young person by providing a Job Coach in the workplace

  • The Job Coach will act as a liaison with the employer

  • Usually, the young person will work term-time/day times hours

  • The job role the young person completes can be very specific, to suit the young person’s abilities

  • The Job Coach can help to ‘job carve’ a role if required

  • A job offer could be made at any time through the Supported Internship

  • Supported Internships are fully supported by the Government who through the DWP can fund additional support for a young person who does become employed.

Think you might be able to help? If so email Nikki Forsyth who will be happy to answer your questions or arrange a visit to discuss the programme in greater detail.

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