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Leeds law firm offers students with learning difficulties a bright future

A Leeds law firm is offering young people with learning difficulties a fresh start on the career ladder as part of a positive internship programme.

Ison Harrison has struck up a partnership with Shipley College offering student internships designed to build confidence and improve life skills. The scheme has proved such a resounding success that the firm is encouraging other local businesses to do the same.

The law firm, which has 12 offices across the region, agreed to take two students as part of the college’s supported internship programme, an innovative scheme that offers students on the job mentoring with one to one job coach support from the College in real commercial environments. Ison Harrison’s facilities manager Paul Allinson agreed to mentor two students from Shipley College despite having no prior experience.

One student, Jack Driver, 21 from Keighley, impressed so much that he is now working at the firm’s Leeds city centre head office as an admin assistant. Jack was on the Supported Internship Programme at Shipley College and was closely mentored for three months by Paul and a job coach before being taken on permanently.

Following in Jack’s footsteps, 19-year-old Sumaira Yasmin, from Bradford was also recently offered a full-time role as an admin assistant at the Leeds office after making such a good impression during her internship.

The pair have now taken starring roles in a new video produced by Shipley College which provides an insight into how their internships led to permanent, life-changing roles.

Facilities manager Paul Allinson, commented: “Jack and Sumaira had never had jobs before so this is a major achievement for both of them. Jack is on the autistic spectrum and when I first met him he was extremely quiet and lacked confidence. Since joining us he has blossomed – he enjoys interacting with other members of staff, his confidence has grown massively and he is very independent, travelling to work on the train by himself which is a daunting challenge. He’s even passed his driving test recently so this just proves how far he has come.

“Despite having learning difficulties, Sumaira settled into the role from the outset. She has a tremendous attitude, an infectious smile and is eager to please. Her computing skills are really good and one of her main responsibilities is data inputting for the firm. Mentoring these young people has been very rewarding for me as I’ve never done anything like this before and to see the end result makes me feel proud of everything we have achieved together.”

Managing partner at Ison Harrison, Jonathan Wearing added: “I was approached to support Shipley College and I wanted the business to be more involved and to provide real hands-on support that would make a difference to peoples’ lives. The whole process is very rewarding for both parties – the business benefits from gaining enthusiastic new team members and the individuals themselves are provided with a good career and real prospects. I would love to see other local businesses get involved by providing the same opportunities for youngsters with learning difficulties and they will discover what a rewarding and worthwhile experience this can be. We have seen first-hand the difference simply giving someone a chance can make to their life.”

Attila Darvasi of Shipley College – Supported Internship Programme Co-ordinator, added: “The success of Jack and Sumaira’s internships prove that workplace mentoring is an effective and rewarding experience for both mentors and mentees. We already work with many local businesses who are offering young people on this programme the opportunity to join their workforce and have had very positive feedback about the value of this for their business as well as for the interns. We are always looking for supportive local businesses to provide real job opportunities and would urge them to follow Ison Harrison’s lead.”