If you ask a young person why they want to find a job and go out to work, they’ll probably tell you that they want to earn money, learn new skills and become more independent. However people who have Down’s syndrome often face barriers to gaining employment, such as a lack of opportunities, low expectations, stereotyping and other negative attitudes. To help overcome this situation, the Down’s syndrome Association has developed the WorkFit programme. WorkFit aims to support both job seekers who have Down’s syndrome and employers. Job seekers are provided with help finding the employment they want and given support through the application process. WorkFit then trains employers about the way people with DS learn and how they can successfully integrate their employee into the workplace.
How it works
WorkFit matches people who have DS with inclusive employers and supports both parties at every stage of the process. Support from WorkFit is ongoing and can be accessed for as long as the candidate, their family and/or the employer, needs it. There is a team of WorkFit Officers specially trained to support the process.
Initially, the WorkFit Officer will have a discussion with the candidate about their interests, skills and what kind of work they would like to do. WorkFit Officers can also help with creating CVs. They will explain about the different types of work available, such as an internship, work experience, volunteering or paid work and support the candidate in deciding which would suit them best.
The next stage is finding and approaching employers. The WorkFit Officer will work with an employer to develop and tailor a suitable role for the candidate they are working with. The employer will be provided with a bespoke training session and given support and advice on any reasonable adjustments to ensure that they are confident to support a person with DS in the role that is offered.
Once a role has been found, the candidate can go along to meet the potential employer and have a tour of the workplace before starting work. When the job starts, the employer will train and support their new employee with advice from their WorkFit Officer. The candidate will also have a work buddy to help them settle in, learn the tasks and get to know everyone.
The WorkFit programme has been a great success so far, opening up opportunities for people with Down’s syndrome and bringing them into the workforce. WorkFit enables people to do work that interests them and fits their skills and aptitude. It supports people in their professional and personal developmentso they can understand their work options and progress their career. Through WorkFit, people with DS can enhance their confidence and independence, learn new skills, meet new people and really feel part of a team. Earning a wage gives the employee more spending power and promotes independence and choice making. Check out the Down’s syndrome Association YouTube channel to see the impact WorkFit is having on people’s lives and on their workplaces!