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October Meeting 2019

October Meeting 2019

Posted 05-11-2019

As the mornings get colder and winter looms, it wasn’t just the promise of hot coffee and tasty breakfast that caught the attention of our members. Hastings Chamber has always put education at the forefront of its focus, so we welcomed The Careers and Enterprise Company to deliver their presentation on The Open Doors Scheme, in their bid to bridge the skills gap by engaging young people to experience the workplace and have meaningful interactions with employers.

Giving up his morning inset-day lie-in, we had Jack from Ark Alexandra Academy join us at the meeting (as Graham Morris, his mentor and guest speaker from the academy, said, it really is amazing what a free breakfast can do). On the cusp of his GSCEs, Jack gave us a personal insight into his own experience with the scheme. Dedicated to become a future aeronautical engineer, Jack told us about the impact careers fairs and work experience has had on his confidence and motivation to succeed, “Not only has my confidence increased, but my communication skills too and I now know first-hand the reality of working in a fast-paced, hands-on environment which will be valuable preparation for the future”

Many local students have the potential to become future industry leaders, from engineering to tech and everything in-between, the scheme gives businesses the opportunity to inspire and encourage young people in Hastings to follow their desired career paths.

It’s shocking, and maybe somewhat painful to think that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime – just one of the many reasons why it’s important for every person to enjoy the job that they do and that we encourage others to do the same. Local businesses are urged to give an hour of that time to help to shape a young person’s future by giving them a chance to experience a real work environment. It’s not just about giving back to the local community, it will benefit your industry in the long run by increasing the potential talent pipeline in the local area. Valued cornerstone employers and ambassadors participating in the scheme include but are not limited to Let’s Do Business Group, East Sussex County Council (ESCC), Hastings Contemporary, and Marshall Tufflex.

“How many of you, when you were at school, thought you had excellent careers education?” Wendy Gorham, from ESCC and Programme Coordinator asked the audience. Unsurprisingly, no-one raised their hand.  She continued, “Lack of careers advice and knowledge about industries are at the forefront of issues heard by us from local employers when recruiting younger staff. According to recent statistics, 2/3 businesses are concerned there will be a lack of sufficiently skilled people to fill their roles over the coming years.” Therefore, it is increasingly important for more of our local SMEs to get involved so we can retain the next generation of talent in the Hastings area and fulfil the recruitment needs many businesses face. November is the flagship month for the open doors scheme; however, businesses are invited to join all-year-round.

With the meeting fully underway, Henrietta Still, Enterprise Coordinator for SEND, was next to deliver an inspiring presentation, with a particular focus on demystifying common myths and misperceptions about people with special educational needs and disabilities. The shocking reality is just 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment, despite more than 65% wanting to and being able to work (Mencap, 2017).

Challenging perceived ideas about people with SEND in the workplace, employers report cost savings from simplified processes, reduced staff turnover, increased customer satisfaction and improved reputation and image, both internally and externally. Henrietta shared, “I am here today because I love my job and I love waking up in the morning to do so. I strongly believe that this shouldn’t look different for a young person with SEND.”

Pathways into employment for people with SEND include:

  • Work Experience
  • Supported Internships
  • Traineeships
  • Supported Apprenticeships
  • Supported Employment

All of the above routes to employment are designed to best support the sustainability of a young person with special needs into employment and can occur by a relationship with either an educational establishment or training provider i.e. a college or an employer.

The support delivered by the programme includes on-the-job training by experienced job coaches, qualification guidance and support for employers to increase their confidence working with disabled young people and understanding the management of a diverse workforce.

For SEND enquiries and to get involved, get in touch with Henrietta Still at

If you would like more information on how to join The Open Doors Scheme, please contact Wendy Gorham at

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8th Floor, Ocean House, 87-89 London Road,
St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. TN37 6LW

Tel: 01424 205500


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