Joint co-op youth education project to focus on working with disabilities

The scheme has been developed by the Co-op College, in partnership with Co-op Academy Southfield, with funding from the Co-op Group

The Co-operative College has partnered with Co-op Academy Southfield, Bradford, to develop a pilot project to help young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and autism move from education into the world of work.

Launched this month with funding from the Co-op Group, the pilot Co-operative (ad)Venture scheme was created following research from Mencap which found that only one in 10 people with learning disabilities is in employment – but at least 65% have said they would like a job. The project, for young people aged 16 above, will offer the skills they need to tackle the challenges they face, boosting their confidence. 

Sessions will be delivered twice per week until January 2022. Focusing on co-operative values, co-operative behaviours and how to work together co-operatively, the group of 10 young people will be taught how to set up and run their own informal co-operative, giving them a wide range of experience as they think about their next steps after education.

There will be a focus on work experience, with the Co-op Group providing placements for these young people and offering first-hand experience of what the world of work might look like for them.  

Gemma Obeng, head of projects at the College, said: “We’re delighted to be expanding our Co-operative (ad)Venture scheme into another new area and couldn’t wish for better partners than the Co-op and Co-op Academies Trust.

“We know the impact the scheme can have and have seen how it’s already helped young people right across the UK. We can’t wait to see the difference it will make to the lives of the young people who’ll join us and we’re very excited to see what they’ll achieve.”

Rebecca Birkbeck, director of community and shared value at the Group, said: “Part of our vision of Co-operating For a Fairer World is about building stronger and more resilient communities, so that every young person has fair access to education and employment. 

“That’s why we’re proud to be funding such an innovative scheme that will equip young people with the skills to tackle any challenges they might face. We must continue to ensure that young people have the opportunity to gain the skills and values that will set them up for the future.”

Dominic Wall, executive princiapl at Co-op Academy Southfield, said: “We’re excited to partner with Co-operative College and pilot this unique project here at Co-op Academy Southfield.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our young people and a perfect match for our sixth form, the Pathfinder Vocational Centre. Here we’re developing young adults to have the greatest level of resilience, independence and aspiration. The Co-operative (ad)Venture will build upon the amazing work our colleagues do.”

Chris Tomlinson, CEO at Co-op Academies Trust, said:  “Our Co-op values and behaviours are core to everything we do. This project not only works on these core principles but will bring these to life in meaningful ways for our young people. They’re values that’ll stay with us for a lifetime, so I’m really happy we can continue to provide excellent opportunities like this. 

“These opportunities always highlight to me the benefits that working together can bring, it truly is the Co-operative difference.”