The Achieve Project is a collaboration between Superpeople, Disability Rights UK and AUB Human, whereby through mutual aid and knowledge exchange, disabled people and people with learning difficulties or mental health conditions are helped into employment.
The pilot project has been devised by Natalie Betts and Jake Atkins, Co-founders of the charity Superpeople and Alice Stevens, AUB Human founder and Senior Lecturer in BA (Hons) Graphic Design.
With the help of Disability Rights UK, fourteen participants were selected for the project from the South West Regional Assessment Centre (SWRAC), based in Dorset. All participants, aged between age 18 and 25 were enrolled on an employability course, each with additional needs relating to Asperger's syndrome, learning and processing difficulties, ADHD, Prada-Willi syndrome and epilepsy.
Second year BA (Hons) Graphic Design students were then tasked with using their creative skills to design a personal brand identity and self-promotion products for their participant over three days, helping participants build confidence and find ways to introduce themselves to potential employers to gain work experience, an apprenticeship or employment. AUB students gained an opportunity to undertake a social change project, reflect on their own employability and develop skills in empathy, listening and analysis.
The range of assets designed by students was varied and included everything from logos and traditional introduction methods such as business cards and postcards to experimental 3D artefacts, comics, games, animated stings and augmented reality concepts.
Students presented their designs to the participants who subsequently choose their favourite, which was then printed and supplied to them along with the digital assets.
Natalie Betts said: "We were really impressed by the AUB students. They thought carefully about the participants; paying attention to the information captured in the interviews and questionnaires. This enabled them to use their design skills to showcase the character, personality and ambitions of each participant they worked with.
"Students considered the usability of the products, but at the same time, they have not been afraid to explore eye-catching and innovative design concepts, which our participants can use to grab the attention of employers and stand out from the crowd."
Alice Stevens added: "We are delighted to have been working with Superpeople and Disability Rights UK on this pilot project which has clearly had benefits for everyone involved. From my perspective, it has been rewarding to explore how education can connect communities whilst simultaneously supporting students in producing work that can contribute positively to society."
AUB student Carmela Hughes, who had her design selected, said: "The Achieve Project has helped me to realise that people with a learning difficulty, mental health issue or a disability often find it much harder to gain employment.
"Personally, I found presenting to Harry, my client, a bit nerve racking, but it was also a great opportunity as it has given me experience and more confidence. I really hope that the assets I have designed will help Harry feel more confident in approaching potential employers and when he gets an interview, that the postcard with helpful hints and reminders, will relieve some stress and enable his personality to shine through.
She added: "I have really enjoyed this short project and it has made me consider how I can use my skills for social benefit in the future."
On receiving the digital and printed products, SWRAC staff said: "It was wonderful to see our learners and how they were growing in confidence when they saw what the [AUB] students had produced for them - and what was produced was amazing.
"I was absolutely blown away with the amount of work that the [AUB] students had done for our [SWRAC] students. The quality of the work has been absolutely superb and the ideas they have come up with have been brilliant."
Robyn, one of the participants from SWRAC who explained she is proud to be autistic told us how she felt on receiving her products, "It has made me feel really, really happy to see that people actually care about me, and to see that they are trying to help with what I want to be able to do in future."
The Achieve Project pilot has been a success, with both AUB students and SWRAC participants giving extremely positive feedback. The next stage and in order that the impact of the project is measured, Superpeople will follow the participants as they start in their search for employment.