The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) has assembled a toolkit aimed at helping employers take on apprentices with disabilities.

The online employer toolkit was developed in consultation with a range of businesses and education providers as well as the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS). It follows the NAS’ action plan Creating an inclusive apprenticeship offer for learners with learning difficulties or disabilities launched in 2012.

Numbers of learners starting an apprenticeship have risen sharply in recent years in the UK. Numbers of apprentices specifying a learning difficulty or disability have also increased. Some 20 000 apprentices with a learning difficulty or disability started in 2006/07 and nearly 43 000 started in 2012/13. However, while this group represented 11.1% of all apprenticeship starts in 2006/07, the percentage of apprentices with a learning difficulty or disability had fallen to 8.4% in 2012/13.

The toolkit contains information, links and case studies that explain why employers can benefit from hiring a disabled apprentice. Reasons include that making a business accessible to staff also makes it more accessible to disabled customers. Costs could be covered by the government’s access to work scheme. Furthere, on average, apprenticeships have proved to increase productivity for businesses in the UK. Attracting the widest possible range of applicants for apprenticeships also increases chances of finding the most suitable candidate for a position.

Advice regarding recruitment and support with induction and progression of disabled apprentices are provided on the website through hints and tips and best practice examples. Support can include financial incentives in addition to support from agencies with experience in assisting disabled people. Several case studies of employers of various sizes, ownership and sectors describe how disabled apprentices benefit businesses.

The brochure Into apprenticeships: the guide for disabled people was recently produced by Disability Rights UK. It provides guidance to disabled people, parents and advisers searching for apprenticeship opportunities, application and advice on whether accessible training and support is available during apprenticeships. In the brochure disabled apprentices share their experiences and challenges. The brochure has been distributed to secondary schools in England.

Funding for the employer toolkit was provided by the Skills Funding Agency. Barclays bank sponsored production of the Into apprenticeships brochure.

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