Kelly Spence, Careers and Employability Lead, Outcomes First Group ,has scooped the Career Lead of the Year Award 2022 from the Career Development Institute (CDI), for her outstanding programme designed to widen career options within a more inclusive workforce for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The CDI awards aim to identify and promote excellence and innovation in approaches to career development for all pre and post-16 students.

‘I am passionate about careers progression and seeing our young people with SEND gain the skills and work experience necessary to equip them for their future lives,’ said Kelly. ‘We developed careers packages for all of Outcomes First Group’s 52 special schools which include core sessions and work experience for our students and staff training. Every school has an appointed careers leader and all the staff completed CDI’s complimentary training, which sits alongside our own training programme. All our schools provide careers development that is appropriate to the individual needs of each of our students.

‘Work experience is vital for raising our student’s aspirations and supporting their smooth transition into the working world. I identified that although there were opportunities in industries such as farming and beauty, there were no available options for exposure to roles within finance and management.

‘To advocate for the needs of our students I approached companies with the idea of co-creating a careers package to accommodate young people with SEND. REED Recruitment were very receptive, they already had a successful mainstream package, however they had not yet created a version for SEND. The resulting SEND package project has been a remarkable success.

‘It is vital to raise awareness within society of the needs of students with SEND and to further enable organisations to be more inclusive and educated about supporting those with additional needs.’

Commenting on the virtual awards ceremony, Kelly said, ‘It was incredible to hear so many stories about the amazing work that is happening within careers. Over the past 12 months, I have seen first-hand the huge impact that good careers advice has on the lives of young people. I was thrilled when my name was called out.  I am confident that this is just the beginning of my journey, and I hope to continue to support Outcomes First Group in becoming leaders in careers for young people with SEND.’

1, Outcomes First Group (OFG) is the UK’s leading specialist provider of education, therapeutic care and fostering services.