Overview of BITCI pilot programme for pupils with additional needs

BITCI News - Jun 21, 2024

Photo of stall at a jobs fair as part of BITCI pilot programme for pupils with additional needs.

BITCI has been working with the Department of Education and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) providing support to senior cycle students with additional needs in both mainstream and special needs schools.  This was a pilot programme launched in 2022 as the CES (Comprehensive Employment Strategy) Transitions programme which aimed to support final year students transition to work/ training/ day services. BITCI provided support to the young people through a number of activities in collaboration with our member companies. This included sessions on life skills supports, dog walking, music session with ukuleles, pop up shops, skills profiles, mock interviews and CV preparation.

BITCI ensured all our schools had access to current and relevant information regarding opportunities that could benefit the students on the pilot but also the whole school. This was done in the form of a technical platform and a series of webinar talk recordings were provided on subjects such as CVs, self-esteem and day in the life videos of people who work in various jobs.

Many of our students got work experience in industry areas which they may be interested in pursuing. These included a science lab, nursing home, retail outlets, construction sites, creches, hairdressers, barbers, gyms – to name a few. Exposing students to life outside the safety of school is part of a smooth transition.   In some of our special schools, we may not change the destination of the student if they need to be supported in day services, however, we can help make the transition easier through exposure to different life experiences.

Some Member Companies activities

Irish Rail run a ‘Try a Trade’ programme and a number of our students got to visit their workshop and were guided through trying out different skills which are needed to work on their apprenticeship programme. One of our Galway students had her art exhibited in the waiting room of Ceannt Station in Galway.  Two of our students in a special school in Carraroe, Galway had the opportunity to work in their large local store on a weekly basis where they were involved in the shop layout. Other students were offered paid summer work in a nursing home and this is a place where the school now has a sustainable relationship going forward.

Penneys kindly provided a range of sample clothes which enabled us to bring a shopping experience through having a ‘pop up shop’ into their schools. Some of these students can struggle with crowds, lighting and noise.  At the ‘pop up shop’ they got to choose their own clothes, try them on and take them home and it was such a joy to witness their pleasure.

Repak Recycling also visited schools to inform students on different bins and the general recycling process.  The Road Safety Authority gave some talks on road safety and how to best navigate travelling to school or work.

A number of construction companies including CIF provided work experiences to some students and provided a safe pass for a student who needed it in order to go onto a site. They have and continue to be very supportive of this initiative as do their member companies John Paul Construction and Maveric Construction.

We held 2 Career Fairs specifically for students on the pilot programme to connect them with employers and training agencies. A huge thanks to those companies who attended in both Dublin and Galway to showcase different careers and opportunities available to the students. In total there were over 100 students from 20 schools and 24 companies giving enthusiastically of their time to help prepare, inform and present different pathways open to the students when they leave school.

The companies who contributed to the success of these two events are; Irish Rail, Bus Eireann, Indeed, Robert Chambers Academy of Hairdressing, Excel Recruitment/Future Proof Training, SAP, NLN – National Learning Network, FIT who showcased IBM Skillsbuild platform, Salesforce, Gen Digital, Liberties College, Specsavers, Blue Theatre Company, Don Naughton Fitness, Sheils Motor Group, Maveric Construction, Brampton Care Home, Galway Further Education College, Galway Technical Institute, 3 B’s Barbers, Petmania.