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Supported Internships for Employers

A Supported Internship is a year’s work experience for a young person with learning disabilities or autism - building the skills and confidence to prove themselves as contributors to your growth and success.

What’s the boost to your business?

  • Your intern doesn’t need a salary. While an apprentice needs paying straight away, an intern is supported by the education system to learn on the job as a stepping stone into paid work. What’s more, working hours can be adapted to suit your business and the intern’s goals.

  • An alternative to traditional, costly recruitment methods.   Avoid the leap into the unknown and deluge of irrelevant CVs that beset most recruitment! A successful internship delivers a loyal team player who knows the job well, filling a vacancy you would have had to advertise. If a paid role isn’t possible, you’ll have helped a young person thrive with skills and confidence - a great achievement in itself. We’ll support them to find work elsewhere.

  • Free access to advice, support and guidance. We match interns to your business needs with no agency fees. For sustained success, we support you and your intern to make a great start together. We then step back slowly, but stay contactable, poised to pick up any concerns. We’re also there for you both if things go wrong, supporting your due diligence and equalities compliance.

  • Promote your business! An intern is great for reputation, especially if they are customer-facing. A business that cares wins customers and their loyalty. Staff will also value your supportive approach. We’ll back this up with press and media promotion to make your reputation boost go much further!

Who are we?

Skillnet Group has provided supported employment since 2012. We worked in partnership with JobCentre Plus in East Kent for four years to deliver Head Held High, a service matching people with learning disabilities or autism with positive, forward-thinking employers. We are currently delivering a supported internship programme in Swale and are branching into Medway with a supported internship pilot starting September 2017.


Our skilled work coaches are serious about sustained success for people and employers alike. This experience is now offered to you free-of-charge through the chance to take on a Supported Intern.


How does a Supported Internship work?

We assign a work coach to support you and your intern on an equal basis. The coach will get to know the job role inside out, and support your intern to do the job as effectively as anyone else could do it. They’ll also be there for you and your team, passing on the skills to supervise someone with support needs and picking up quickly on any problems.


Just like any employee, your intern will attend work at agreed times, request leave days and undertake the duties in their job description.


As a young person on an education programme, your intern’s working hours can be planned flexibly to a maximum of four days per week. We add to this one day a week of tuition in maths, english and IT skills with other young people in our teaching centre, tailored to their working role with you.


Either during, or by the end of the year, you have every prospect of gaining a known, trusted, potential new addition to your paid workforce. If the fit is not right and the intern is not successful in applying to a vacancy in your company we’ll use your intern’s achievements as a springboard to finding work elsewhere.


What they say about us

The recruitment process was very straightforward. Head Held High are very good at placing candidates with the right company. Head Held High stay in regular contact with the employer and the employee to make sure both parties are happy.” Monarch Chemicals, Isle of Sheppey

Head Held High work with the needs of each person on a 1-2-1 basis. If I had access to Skillnet as my first programme all those years ago, I would have been in work a long time ago. Patrick Reed, participant.


Find out more

For a no-obligation chat about how a Supported Internship could work for you and boost your business, please call us or drop us an email!

If you have businesses in Swale, contact Helena Jennings on 07921 040027 or email on

If you have businesses in Medway, contact Gemma Cooper on 07966 017 585 or email on

Frequently Asked Questions. We wanted to address some concerns that employers naturally might have but please do contact us for any other questions you may have. 

I know about internships, but what’s different about a supported internship?  

A supported internship is designed specifically for young people between the age of 16 – 24 who have learning disabilities or autism. With the right support, these young people can make a great contribution in the workplace. At the centre of great support is a skilled work coach whose goal is to promote as much independent working as possible. An intern may need other kinds of support, such as technological aids to help them read a computer screen or remember tasks, which the work coach will identify and implement so you don’t have to.

Who chooses the interns? While we identify candidates and match them to your business needs, you’ll interview them before we all commit. A strong match is essential for success - no square pegs in round holes!

Won’t an intern and work coach disrupt my team and affect productivity? Quite the opposite! Our goal is to add to your resources, not drain them. Our coach complements the line management support you would provide for any staff member, and won’t get in the way. We are skilled at being unobtrusive in the workplace. The internship offers a chance for another team member to develop professionally as a supervisor or mentor and promotes a supportive culture across your team. We’ll back that up with free-of-charge disability awareness training.

An intern could support succession planning, if any staff need advancement or are close to retirement. Your intern could also happily take on routine tasks, freeing up skilled staff to focus on what they do best!

Are there Health and Safety implications? We employ a Chartered Safety Consultant who will assess the suitability of the work placement, don't worry - this is not to find any issues in your company but rather ensure that the placement will be a safe and appropriate one. Think of it as a free Health and Safety *Health Check*!  We then conduct risk assessments for each intern which includes risk management plans for the workplace. We will never place interns in unsuitable environments. If any reasonable adjustments are needed to help your intern work well and safely, we’ll support with identifying and organising them. We’ll also take on funding these through the government’s national Access To Work scheme.

Will my business insurance cover an intern? Yes! Your business insurance will cover an intern just the same as other paid members of staff. If you are concerned that taking on an intern may affect your business insurance claims, remember the Health and Safety checks done by us minimises any risk of things going wrong in the first place!


I have no experience in supporting a person with learning disabilities or autism. What if I get it wrong? If the match with the job is good and the right support is in place, a person with learning disabilities or autism can work as well as anyone else. What’s really essential is the kind of supportive line management you would give to anyone in your team. We’re there for you, at the end of the phone whenever you have any concerns. We’ll complement that with as much guidance and training as you need to understand and work with the support needs of your intern.

What happens if I don’t recruit at the end of the programme? There’s no obligation to employ if your intern is not right for any vacancies you may have and there would be no basis for a legal challenge. Employers are only expected to recruit their intern if there is a vacancy and the intern is the best candidate for the job.

How does a supported internship help me save money with recruitment? Recruiting just one new staff member costs an average of £5,000*, and takes a risk with someone you don’t know well. If your intern is right for the job, you can bypass the crowded jobs market and simply appoint them, saving all that money and uncertainty. Hiring an intern who can do the job is positive action under the Equality Act 2010. They’re also much more likely to stick at the job, having already proved themselves.

A supported internship could fill a post beset by high staff turnover. We select young people who are committed, loyal and motivated. They want to work!


We can also help adapt your recruitment process and policies to make them more accessible, also at no cost.

* Source: Acas

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Tel: 01227 374 285

Skillnet Group CIC
Unit 3, Roper Yard, Roper Road
Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7ER.

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