Bluestone leads the way in providing valuable employment skills for interns with additional learning needs

Young people with additional learning needs in Pembrokeshire are gaining valuable work experience as part of an internship programme at Bluestone National Park Resort, near Narberth.


Five young people are currently on the Life Skills Academy supported internship programme at the short-break destination as part of a joint initiative between the Bluestone Academy and Pembrokeshire College.


Aged between 19 and 22 they are gaining real-world experience in a range of placements within the IT, Food and Beverage, Retail, and Housekeeping departments at the resort. It comes as the first ever National Supported Internship Day was held last month.


The day raised awareness of the opportunities through the Internships Work initiative, collaboration between the National Development Team for Inclusion, the British Association for Supported Employment, and DFN Project SEARCH. The programme is funded by the Department for Education.


Helen John, Bluestone Academy Manager, said the internship programme was an asset for both the young people and the business.


“We have a range of programmes where we are supporting and working with people of all ages and backgrounds to offer them skills, training, and employment. These include apprenticeships, future leaders, and work experience initiatives.


“The Life Skills Academy supported internship initiative is one of these and it’s making a positive impact on those taking part who might not otherwise have a chance to work in such environments.”


Five interns are currently working two days a week at Bluestone with additional education at Pembrokeshire College.


“Each of the interns is based within one of our teams where they are fully involved in the working environment, gaining valuable experience that in turn will support their future employment opportunities,” added Helen.


“As a business, we are also benefiting by understanding how we can ensure our working environment is accessible for all.  From the application and onboarding process to facilitating those that wish to work as a chef or front of house, to an IT or maintenance technician.”


Each intern gains at least 180 hours experience at Bluestone as well as educational support and qualifications through Pembrokeshire College.


Helen said the interns would also be able to apply for apprenticeship places in the future through the Bluestone Academy.


Emma Jones, Curriculum Area Manager for the Life Skills Academy of Pembrokeshire College said: “Learners within the Life Skills Academy have a range of additional learning needs and disabilities but more importantly have an abundance of skills and talents that would make them an asset to any employer. As educators and businesses within the community we need to ensure that there is opportunity for all and equity of access into employment.


“Organisations such as Bluestone who share our ethos and culture about supporting individuals into work are so valuable. The pride that our learners have in being an authentic contributor to their community has been truly overwhelming. We are experiencing such growth in this area of our curriculum that we would welcome anyone wishing to explore this or next year to come and speak with us.”


Dr Barry Walters, Principal Pembrokeshire College said: “I am extremely pleased with the professional relationship that is being developed between Pembrokeshire College and Bluestone. The supported internship programme offers a real opportunity for young people to progress into the workplace.”


One of the interns, King Khamhanphon, said they were gaining a great deal of knowledge and experience as a result of the initiative. “I feel so happy and proud to be a part of the supported internship with Pembrokeshire college and Bluestone. I didn’t think I would ever get a chance to work in a place like this.


“It has helped me to build my confidence and develop my skills. I like being part of the team and am very thankful for this opportunity. It would be amazing to have a career at Bluestone one day.”


The Bluestone Academy was established by Bluestone National Park Resort to provide a gateway to a range of careers in the tourism sector for young people through work experience, training, and apprenticeship schemes.