Supporting apprentices with additional learning needs – 5 tips and ideas for ensuring success

The Team and I have recently been trying to help find apprentices to be part of a campaign promoting the apprenticeship route for learners with ALN. This got me thinking about what can we do to support employers in meeting the needs of apprentices with an ALN or disability.

Apprenticeships can be a great route for learners with additional learning needs and/or disabilities. The vast range of vocational options offered by employers, coupled with the flexibility of study and earning whilst earning, all add up to a viable and sustainable choice. No longer are apprenticeships the sole preserve of traditional crafts or industries. The times they are are a changing – and this makes an apprenticeship an exciting prospect. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these options below;

This innovate and modern approach can be seen here, fancy yourself as budding journalist?

or working in the creative and PR sector –

or, building an iconic British car –

Hiring a learner with an ALN or disability, not only diversifies your workforce and brings new ways of thinking, it also helps create an inclusive culture which helps to empower individuals. Such is the importance of creating an inclusive culture, Microsoft has an entire hiring programme devoted to hiring people with disabilities and many employers have the Disability Confident quality marker. Schemes such as Access to Work and thinking carefully about what reasonable adjustments can be be made, allows for almost all apprenticeships to be undertaken by learners with ALN, allowing them to become skilled and employable people.

So, what can be done to support your apprentice?

1 – Plan and make anticipatory adjustments

Universal design can have a big impact here. Thinking of adjustments in advance and designing systems, processes, practices with an inclusive frame of mind from the start not only benefits the apprentice with the ALN or disability, but everyone in the business. Technologies such as screen readers from companies such as Texthelp allow for text to speech, screen magnification, colour changing backgrounds, and subject specific dictionaries. Learning Tools from Microsoft are not only free, but highly effective in supporting people with dyslexia or speech and language difficulties. Coupled with software such as Seeing AI, Soundscape, Office Lens, Microsoft Teams and Translator, employers have a ready made toolkit which anyone can use. Teams, for example allows you to automatically add closed caption subtitles to any video recordings.  You can learn more about this here,

2. Invest in whole workforce development

In the College I work in, our approach to CPD is to is to ensure that all staff have a set of core skills and awareness in supporting learners with ALN and disability. We are not expecting every member of staff to be an expert in ALN, however, we want them to be confident in speaking to learners about their needs , to make the adjustments which need to be in place, have high expectations of their learners and to know when to ask for more specialist advice if required. We do this with a mixture of breakfast sessions, conferences, e-learning and having conversations (this last one is often the most effective). Essentially, if your employees have an increased awareness of disability and the tools/knowledge to help support, barriers experienced by the apprentice are reduced.

3. Ask what support they need – it’s easier than assuming.

One of the easiest and most effective methods of supporting learners is by utilisng a simple, yet powerful document called a One Page Profile. It is deceptifully simple, yet gives the apprentice and the employer knowledge on how best to support. One Page Profiles contain three elements, what people like and admire about the person. What’s important for the person? And, What’s important to the person? My team use them for many learners we support and there is no reason why managers, HR teams, teams of staff and mentors cannot either. One Page Profiles can;

Help us build better relationships by truly understanding what really matters to the person in their life and the way they are supported to live it.

Providing a record that can move with the person as they transition into the apprenticeship or employment.

Easy to keep updated to reflect people’s changing circumstances and aspirations.

When staff have One Page Profiles, the people being supported feel like they get to know the person, rather than just the job title/

When used at work, they can contribute to more person-centred teams, where individual strengths are recognised and different ways of working are taken into account.

Helen Sanderson Associates

4. Consider offering internships or supported internships – speak to your local College about this.

Supported internships are a great way of giving an opportunity to a young person seeking experience in a workplace. In England, these are available to learners between the ages of 16-24 with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), although no such restriction is in place in Wales. Supported internships usually involve an employer, a employment support agency and a College who work together to provide real opportunity in the partner business. The College I work in was the first in Wales to provide a supported internship, in partnership Cardiff University and Elite employment agency. Many of our learners have gone on to secure jobs from the programme, as their skills were able to shine through to the employer.

You can find out more here-

Some of fantastic learners from our first year of supported internships

5. Create a supportive culture  – everyone will benefit.

The most effective adjustments  are ones that everyone can benefit from. A positive and supportive workplace is what everyone wants, right? Absolutely! For those apprentices who may require additional support for mental health and wellbeing, Remploy offer a mental health support service for apprentices. It is available to any apprentice experiencing mental health difficulties at work, at no cost to the employer.  It complements any existing occupational health services you may have , and is delivered by trained professionals with experience in supporting apprentices with mental health difficulties. Support includes things such as ;

  • Emotional wellbeing support and advice for nine months
  • Advice on simple workplace adjustments 
  • Successful coping strategies
  • A step-by-step support plan.

Thanks for reading.If you like this blog post and my ideas spark with you, you can work with me to help take your business forward.  Start the conversation by getting touch with me.