Podcast Episode 45. Successful sustainable employment opportunities for young people with additional needs comes when support is provided for not just the young person but also for their employer too.This is the message in this week’s podcast with Lisa Campbell-Squires from Team Domenica. Team Domenica is a social enterprise charity with a vision to help people with additional needs reach their full potential in the workplace.

Lisa explained how Team Domenica was started by Rosa Monckton in response to her own daughter’s lack of training and employment opportunities. They now operate a café (Café Domenica) as well as training facilities and work with local employers using a supported internship model. Lisa also spoke of her own journey and why she had been inspired to get involved with helping young people with additional needs access employment opportunities.

Lisa explained the various programs on offer at Team Domenica, which includes a first-year introductory program that works on developing communication skills, social skills and general employability skills. This involves all the young people working in Café Domenica as well as work placements with local employers. This not only helps develop skills around teamwork and problem-solving but also allows the young people to experience different work environments, which helps them identify what types of job role really interest them.

When candidates reach the second year, they begin the Supported Internship Program. This program is based in a workplace with a specialist job coach who works with the young person and the employer. The job coach helps them work on the skills they need in their new roles which might also include how to manage their time in the workplace or travelling to and from work. The “end goal” of the Supported Internship Program is to move the young people into paid work. The success rate for doing this is very high and the team are justifiably proud of this. However, it’s not just about finding each candidate paid employment. It’s about finding them a job that they enjoy within a supportive and positive work environment.

The support from Team Domenica does not end once a young person has found paid employment. The support continues and then focuses on helping the employer deal with any issues that may arise in managing the young person at work. Lisa talked about the high numbers of young people who having completed a supported internship program and found paid employment are not in that paid role after 6 months. Lisa suggested that a reason for this was often to do with a lack of understanding when things “don’t go according to plan”. The young person may be struggling in the work environment and the employer may not have the knowledge or experience to manage the situations. To help combat this issue, Lisa and the team at Team Domenica, continue to provide long-term support for each of their candidates long after they’ve completed their supported internship.

Team Domenica has developed a very successful model for training young people with additional needs. This is clearly down in part to the focus on ongoing support for not just the young person but for everyone that is involved in helping that young person keep a job they enjoy and feel valued in.