Entering the world of employment after study

Post date: 
Thursday, 15 February 2018
Image shows a handshake between two people wearing suits

Moving on from studying to working is a big change and it’s sensible to plan as far in advance as possible. We’ve put together this brief guide for you to share with any young person with vision impairment (VI) who might be thinking of venturing into the world of work.

If you’re nearly completing school, college or university and want to start working, it helps to think about your options and know what support is available to you as a blind or partially sighted person. Dipping your toes into the workplace can take many forms – not just paid employment, but also traineeships, apprenticeships, work experience and volunteering.
 

Thinking of going from school straight into work?

The age when you can officially leave school depends on whether you live in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. In general you must wait till you turn 16. In England, you must stay in full-time education or be in an apprenticeship or traineeship until you are 18, or study part time while working or volunteering the other part of the week.
 

Traineeships

England, Wales and Scotland have national traineeship programmes. A traineeship is a course with work experience that gets you ready for work or an apprenticeship.
 
Traineeships can last up to six months in England, but are not timebound in Wales. In England, traineeships aren’t paid, but you may be given expenses for things like travel and meals. In Wales, you’ll be given an allowance. You may qualify for a traineeship if you’re aged 16 to 24 in England, or 16 to 18 in Wales.
 
RNIB also has a Trainee Grade Scheme, which offers paid work experience to unemployed blind and partially sighted people.
 
You may be ready for an apprenticeship if you already have some work experience. 
 

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships combine practical training in a job with study for a qualification. Apprenticeships can take a number of years to complete depending on their level. As an apprentice, you’ll work alongside experienced staff, gain job-specific skills, earn a wage and get holiday pay.
 
Apprenticeships have equivalent educational levels, for example, an intermediate Level 2 apprenticeship in England is equivalent to GCSE level.
 
Apprenticeship schemes are slightly different depending on whether you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Apprenticeship bodies should be willing to address any inequalities that exist in obtaining an apprenticeship.
 
Disability Rights UK has guidance about applying for apprenticeships in England for disabled people, parents and advisers. My World of Work is also a useful website for those looking for more information.
 

Work experience

Work experience allows you to have hands-on experience of what it’s like to work in different environments. Work experience can be done while you’re still at school, college or university, and may form part of a course you’re doing. Getting some work experience is a great way of showing motivation and initiative on your CV, and will help you decide if you would like to go into a particular area of work.
 
Your school, college or university may have a work experience co-ordinator who can support you in finding potential placements for work experience. If you arrange a work placement yourself, you need to ensure that it is safe, so you should get the advice of your school or parents.
 

Volunteering

Volunteering offers you the chance to help others and become involved with something you really care about. It is also an opportunity to try out something new and can be useful in terms of determining whether you’d like a career in a certain area. Skills and experience gained from volunteering are another way to show potential employers what you can offer.
 
There are lots of volunteering opportunities, including with RNIB. If you’re not sure where to start looking, NCVO, the umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in England, has selection of useful resources and information. Volunteer Scotland is also a great start for those looking for opportunities in Scotland or Volunteering Wales if you're based in Wales.
 

Job hunting – useful things to know

When you’re ready to start looking for paid employment, it’s good to know about employers who are positive about disabled people, how to talk employers about your sight condition and the Access to Work scheme. You can also apply for Specialist Employability Support, which is intensive support and training to help you into work.
 

The 'disability confident' symbol

When you are applying for jobs, look out for employers displaying the disability confident symbol. It shows they have a positive attitude towards applications from people with a disability and guarantees that they will offer you an interview if you meet the minimum criteria for a job vacancy.
 
The symbol is made up of four icons and the words “disability confident” - look out for this on job adverts and application forms.
 

Talking to employers about your sight loss

When you’re applying for jobs, you need to think about if and when you plan to tell your employer about your sight condition. There aren’t any rules about this, and it is up to you to decide at what point in applying for a job you choose to discuss it.
 
There are many benefits to talking to your employer about your sight condition. It means that you have the opportunity to approach the issue in a positive way and allows you to reassure the employer that your sight condition does not mean that you are unable to do the job properly.
 
RNIB has more tips about disclosing your disability to employers.
 

Access to Work

When you’re looking for work, it’s really important that you know about the Access to Work scheme. It’s a government programme and can in some cases fund things such as:
  • specialist equipment you may need because of your disability
  • support with transport costs when you are unable to use public transport
  • access software
  • support workers
  • magnifiers or other equipment to help carry out your work.
The support that you’ll get will depend on the job you are doing and your needs. You might be visited by an Access to Work assessor who will discuss the support you are likely to need and look at the requirements of your job. Read more in RNIB’s guide to Access to Work, or visit the gov.uk website.
 

Further information

  • RNIB has a whole section with advice on finding work, including tips on completing application forms, writing cover letters and CVs, interview skills and job search resources.
  • RNIB can advise you on where to go to for support and advice on finding employment. As you move from school, college or university into work, you may be entitled to different benefits and financial assistance because of your sight condition. To speak an RNIB adviser or to find out what benefits you may be entitled to, contact the RNIB Helpline.
  • Blind in Business is a charity working with blind and partially sighted young people whose aim is to help maximise educational and employment opportunities. It offers specialist workshops and training programmes and specific services to older pupils and graduates.
  • The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has a guide to help young disabled people find and stay in work. It includes advice on: role models, careers advice, Disability Employment Advisers, workplace training, adjustments in the workplace, higher education and work experience.
  • Wales has a scheme called Jobs Growth Wales, which is a six-month paid employment opportunity for young people aged 16-24.

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