A NEW Forest charity has teamed up with a construction company to help people with learning disabilities into employment.

Skanska UK has celebrated the partnership by announcing support for Minstead Trust’s innovative Step Up For Work programme.

Currently fewer than 20 per cent of people with a learning disability are in employment and many of the 200 people supported by Lyndhurst-based Minstead Trust are keen to gain work experience and skills.

The Step Up For Work programme is a brand new approach to the problem. Workshops and supported work experience in Minstead Trust’s social businesses help people develop the skills and confidence needed to be able to enter paid positions with local employers.

Skanska UK is providing the final part of the initiative by planning the first paid job roles for people who have successfully completed the scheme.

Thanks to grant funding, Minstead Trust is able to offer bursary places on this scheme and is keen to hear from anyone with a learning disability who is interested.

Skanska UK, with the support of TJ Transport, HWM, Pavenet, and Wilson and Scott, has been supporting Minstead Trust over the last year, including by extending the visitor car park. The company has also held conferences and meetings at Minstead Lodge conference centre, and volunteered more than 250 staff days with the charity.

Madeleine Durie, Minstead Trust chief executive, said: "We are very grateful to Skanska UK, TJ Transport, HWM, Pavenet, and Wilson and Scott, for their support to extend and mark parking bays in our conference car park as well making use of our conference facilities, where we provide supported training placements. This means we have more money to tackle the shocking levels of unemployment among people with learning disabilities.

"We look forward to progressing plans to support people into paid work with Skanska UK in the coming months, as our Step Up For Work programme continues to progress."

To join the Step Up For Work programme as a supported trainee contact job opportunities mentor Neil Saunders at neil.saunders@minsteadtrust.org.uk or 02380 912287.