Somerset County Council picked up two honours at the recent Somerset Education Business Partnership (SEBP) Awards held in Bridgwater.
Somerset County Council collected one award for its work supporting young people faced with disadvantages in getting work opportunities, and another for the way the Highways team delivered social and community benefits throughout the pandemic.
The Council’s Pathway to Employment Scheme was the winner in the ‘Removing Barriers’ category at the SEBP Awards, recognising organisations that have worked to remove barriers to progression for disadvantaged young people.
The Pathway to Employment initiative is designed to help young people from vulnerable backgrounds into work and education, and over the past five years this work has supported 20 Care Leavers into apprenticeships with the authority studying subjects from Business Administration to Children, Families and Young People.
Reflecting upon successfully completing their Level 3 apprenticeship, one of the SCC Care Leaver apprentices said: “I have really enjoyed my Apprenticeship and the experience, confidence, and drive for the future that has come with it. Being in an environment which understands Care Leavers has helped me to feel supported on my best and worst days; and allowed me to grow as both a person and a professional.
“Looking forward, I’m excited to continue to use my views and experiences to support positive changes within the service. I have been successful in securing my Level 4 Apprenticeship. This year is looking bright, busy, and filled with new challenges already!”
The Pathway to Employment budget has also been used to support more than 200 young people in accessing college courses and first-time employment. The funding can be used to cover costs as large as qualifications or as small as clothing or bus passes for interviews.
Cllr Liz Leyshon, Somerset County Council Lead Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources said: “We are determined to lead the way as an inclusive employer and it is lovely to see that reflected in winning this award.
“The aim of this initiative is to remove barriers preventing our most vulnerable young people accessing educational or work opportunities. We strive to enable them to have the same opportunities as all other young people across Somerset and endeavour to support them to achieve their potential.”
SCC has also recently launched a Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Apprenticeship Programme in partnership with the Royal Mencap Society and have supported four apprentices with SEND backgrounds into apprenticeships so far – with two more due to begin later this year.
Meanwhile SCC also picked up the ‘Continuing through Covid’ SEBP Award alongside partner organisation Milestone Infrastructure for the work of the Highways Maintenance Social Value Group.
The Group was recognised for its innovation in delivering social and community benefits targeting vulnerable groups throughout the pandemic. The Social Value Plan is delivered as part of SCC’s Highways Term Maintenance Contract.
This work has included educating the workforce on how their actions impact on vulnerable people in the community, developing opportunities for those with learning difficulties to work and gain experience with Somerset Highways, and undertaking educational visits to schools and colleges promoting site safety and working in the construction sector.
Cllr Mike Rigby, Somerset County Council Executive Lead Member for Highways and Digital, said: “It is fantastic that this work has received recognition. Throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Somerset Highways Maintenance Social Value Group have maintained both drive and determination to establish links with further key partners to allow social benefits to be realised across the county of Somerset even with social distancing restrictions in place.”