Where the Engine Shed fit in


Marian MacDonald argues the demise of the Engine Shed means learning disabled adults are missing out on a tried and tested training ground for permanent jobs

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27th September 2016 by TFN Guest 2 Comments

Scotland’s learning disability strategy, the Keys to Life, seeks to improve the quality of life for people with learning disabilities so that they live longer, healthier lives, participate fully in all aspects of society and prosper as individuals. It states that "enabling people with learning disabilities to work is critical to achieving that vision."

Research into our work at the Engine Shed has been viewed as an essential tool to record the success of our organisation's work from its inception way back in the mid 1980s to when it closed in 2015. The major part of my working life has been working with people; people with learning disabilities, their family and friends, community based services, schools and colleges professionals, other employability services within the network and employers. All of the people I worked with understood and embraced this vision. Our training approach, delivered through the Engine Shed’s employability programme, created a framework that successfully met the learning needs and aspirations for this group of people and helped them to move into sustainable paid work.    

Marian MacDonald

Marian MacDonald

A group of people with learning disabilities that requires additional supports to find work will be denied this tried and tested resource

Our current research commenced in 2014 and was based on interviewing 24 people who had completed their training programme throughout the period of time we were in operation. The basic questions we asked them were: what did you do in terms of employment when you left the Engine Shed and what are you doing now. After leaving the Engine Shed 19 out of the 24 went into paid work of over 16 hours a week (79%) and at the current time 16 still had a full time job (66%). Another three left to a job under 16 hours a week and successfully remained in paid work.

Over the years our rates to employment have been evaluated: Blake Stevenson in 2015 and the European Social Fund over the first 18 years (1989-2007), monitored our targets to employment. For those that are interested in further statistics and the story behind them, the research report can be accessed from October on the Engine Shed website.

Because at the moment research is high on my agenda,  I was interested to read the Mapping the Employability Landscape for People with Learning disabilities in Scotland commissioned by the Scottish government and Scottish Commission for Learning Disabled and published in August 2016.

Its aim is to record what is happening and how to make it better and it is an interesting document. However I do feel more than slightly miffed at being left out of the current landscape! If supported employment is the framework that is funded for helping people into work, then our model is viewed under one of the other categories i.e. specialist service, social enterprise/sheltered employment (which doesn’t get a high success rate in terms of moving people on?). Unfortunately I think there is still the misconception that the Engine Shed offers sheltered employment which is farthest from the truth. Our vision was to support those furthest away from the labour market to make the successful transition into full-time paid work. This takes time and cannot be achieved with short-term interventions. 

Unfortunately with loss of our funding last year the answer to the question is that we no longer fit in and are no longer part of an option within a network of employability resources available to people with learning disabilities in Scotland.

I personally think this leaves a huge gap in training provision and means that a group of people with learning disabilities that requires additional supports to find work will be denied this tried and tested resource that would enable them to take their first big step into the world of paid work.

Marion MacDonald is the former chief executive of the Engine Shed

27th September 2016 by Suzie

Hello, Well done guys and good luck with your vision. I'd be very interested in reading your research on employability of people with learning difficulties. It is currently an area of my interest as I am setting up CIC aimed at this group. Thank you

28th September 2016 by Alice

I couldn't disagree more. The Engine Shed's sheltered workplace model is one that is consigned to history. Disabled people should be able to work in places not exclusively for disabled people and get paid for the work they do rather than support a failing social enterprise.