A photo of Andrew Gunter-Smith, Head of Supported Employment at SeeAbilityWhat are you responsible for?

As Head of Supported Employment I’m responsible for delivering an ambitious project which will see SeeAbility develop, build and implement our first supported employment programme known as Ready Willing & Able, with the aim of supporting people with disabilities to prepare for work and secure meaningful jobs and careers. For those people we support who would like to be employed, joining the programme may be the first step some of them have taken towards achieving their goal.

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Tell us about supported employment

People with learning disabilities and autism are often furthest from employment, with 6% in paid employment, but 75% wanting to be. Our project is part of the solution to influencing these figures; our aim is that people with learning disabilities, autism and sight loss will be able to seek, access and retain employment in the open labour market. Ready, Willing and Able aims to create a talent driven recruitment model. People will have their talents valued - many for the first time - and will receive a tailored programme of high quality, personalised support designed to build each person’s confidence. They’ll be supported to develop work based skills and competencies based on their individual aspirations.

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What are your priorities?

There’s an incredible amount to do but first and foremost, I want to establish a robust and long term employer offer - so I’ve been making contact with other organisations who offer Supported Employment Programmes with a view to working collaboratively. I’ll also be working with some of our partners from the John Lewis Golden Jubilee Trust to identify the ideal structure, content and delivery models for Ready, Willing and Able. I’ll be identifying best practice for employers based on the lived experience of people with learning disabilities already in the world of work - and I’ll be ensuring that Ready, Willing and Able aligns with the British Standards for Supported Employment, which sets out a clear delivery model and aligns to the Supported Employment Quality Framework.

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What drew you to working at SeeAbility?

Although I have extensive experience in the world of employability, skills and training, this is a new sector for me and I’m very excited about the challenge ahead. Without a doubt, the energy, commitment and passion I’ve witnessed by colleagues across the organisation is inspirational - as are our core values, one of which is 'doing the right thing' – and this particular value speaks volumes to me. People with learning disabilities and sight loss have dreams and aspirations just like everyone else - the difference is that current support networks and society do not nurture these goals. I want to be part of the solution that changes all that.

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What do you do outside work?

Since the COVID-19 lockdown began I’ve discovered the joys of gardening and in particular, growing my own vegetables. The delight I take in seeing plants grow overnight is wondrous, although even one year ago this would have seemed an unlikely choice of hobby for me! However priorities change and my life outside of work is now spent mainly outdoors, walking, exploring and just keeping active. I read a lot, probably more in the winter, and love music. I am naturally inquisitive and spend time either exploring my surroundings. I do enjoy cooking and the odd glass of wine!

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