New partnership launched to break down barriers for young people with a learning disability

The first cohort of Breaking Barriers students at Edinburgh Napier University

A NEW partnership between ENABLE Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University and global professional services firm, EY, has set out to create equality across those accessing higher education opportunities.

Whilst 45% of all Scotland’s school leavers go to university, only 8.6% of school leavers who have a learning disability go on to higher education. Now, ENABLE Scotland’s Breaking Barriers programme is working with young people who have a learning disability to ensure they have the support required to access university life, can undertake work experience opportunities with a leading global employer, and graduate with a university qualification from a world-class academic institution.

Breaking Barriers, a ground-breaking initiative established by ENABLE Scotland in 2018, has partnered with some of Scotland’s highest profile corporate employers and has named EY as its newest official partner alongside Edinburgh Napier University – expanding its reach across the East of Scotland.

A cohort of young people from the East of Scotland are already undertaking studies and will now start work placements at EY. Anna Taylor (17) and Jaymes Doyle (18) from Edinburgh are working towards obtaining an Accreditation in Applied Business Skills from Edinburgh Napier University.

On her experience with Breaking Barriers so far, Anna Taylor said: “It has been really refreshing to meet different people who have the same anxieties and barriers as I do and who understand how you feel.”

“It is a very unique experience; I have the support I need but also get to pursue something that was previously outside of my comfort zone.”

“I am looking forward to my work placement with EY to see how the topics we have covered with Edinburgh Napier apply in a real life work setting.”

James Doyle added: “Breaking barriers has benefited me a lot as I have learned how to be in a university environment and have found a new interest in banking and business. I feel like I have been helped with my confidence and social skills a lot.”

ENABLE Group CEO and co-founder of the Breaking Barriers programme, Theresa Shearer, will be speaking at the 2022 Harkin International Disability Employment Summit in Belfast today (7 June), discussing the Breaking Barriers programme and the charity’s goal to ensure further education is made more accessible for those with alearning disability.

Theresa Shearer said: “I am delighted that we are building on the success of the Breaking Barriers programme and making it possible for even more students who have a learning disability to access the life-shaping experience of university that is a rite of passage for so many, yet it is currently available to so few disabled young people.”

“Breaking Barriers demonstrates how the public, private and third sectors can work collaboratively to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in education and the workplace, and I am excited to welcome Edinburgh Napier University and EY as the programme’s newest partners, advancing our shared ambition of a truly inclusive society for all.”

Professor Nazira Karodia, Vice Principal of Learning and Teaching at Edinburgh Napier University said: “We are delighted to welcome our ENABLE students to The Business School, where our vision is to be the Business School for empowerment, enterprise and employability for all.”

“Our ethos as a university is to be the home for difference makers and our position as the number one modern university in Scotland reflects our success in providing students with a positive learning experience, and our close industry links. Not everyone has an opportunity to change the world, but everyone can make a positive difference to the world around them: working with fantastic partners like ENABLE and EY is truly helping break barriers faced by young people with learning difficulties.”

Ally Scott, EY Scotland Managing Partner, said: “Breaking Barriers is an inspiring initiative that EY is delighted not just to support, but to work with to give these remarkable young people the skills for a successful and fulfilling career.” 

“This is a great example of Scotland’s strong ecosystem between education, industry and the civic community in action, and I look forward to celebrating their graduation with them in the summer.”

The Breaking Barriers programme originated in the West of Scotland and has entered its fifth consecutive year, delivered in a partnership between ENABLE Scotland, the University of Strathclyde Business School, ScottishPower and STV. 

Such is the success of the programme that many former graduates have gone on to shape their chosen career path and secure employment and additional training opportunities in fields such as filmmaking, para-medicine, cyber security, financial services, digital music, and fashion.

The expansion of the programme is supported by Edinburgh City Council through the Young Person Guarantee.

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