Vocational training for young people with intellectual disabilities in the Arab region
- Learn and Work Programme
- Country of Implementation
- United Arab Emirates
- Start Year
- First published
“Inclusive employment works best when we agree to learn together.” Renate Baur-Richter, Programme Manager, SEDRA Foundation
The SEDRA Foundation, based in the United Arab Emirates, has created the ‘Learn and Work’ programme to help young people with intellectual disabilities across the country transition into the workforce. The programme provides six weeks of hybrid learning to improve digital and communication skills, followed by a three-month paid internship. It concludes with a certificate from the British University in Dubai (BUiD). In 2022 the programme supported 25 young persons with disabilities, with six finding full-time employment.
In the United Arab Emirates there is a lack of training opportunities to help young people with intellectual disabilities transition into the workforce.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
In 2021 the SEDRA Foundation in the United Arab Emirates launched the 'Learn and Work’ programme to help youth with intellectual disabilities enter the workforce. It addresses systemic and individual barriers with targeted training for all involved, including team members and families. The programme spans five months, starting with a two-week selection and assessment period, followed by a six-week hybrid group learning phase focused on digital and communication skills. The subsequent 12-week, full-time internship is offered in hospitality, culture, tourism, and retail. In a collaborative effort, the intern is matched with an employer. Each week participants work four days and join a weekly SEDRA training day. Typical positions include sales assistants, back-office roles, pastry chefs, waiters, and museum visitor support. SEDRA conducts regular performance reviews and skill development monitoring. Employers commit to inclusive practice training and receive continuous feedback through online forms, calls, and visits. Participants receive a certificate from the British University in Dubai upon successful completion. In autumn 2023, SEDRA launched its third season with increasing interest from diverse businesses and received public funding support.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
The first cycle was fully funded by the SEDRA Foundation, with employers paying remuneration for youth with disabilities during the internship phase. For the second cycle, the project received $90,000 from the Future Skills programme of HSBC, an international bank, which allowed SEDRA to expand the programme and intensify support. For 2023, SEDRA received public funding to continue the programme. Ma’an – The Abu Dhabi Authority for Social Contribution has accepted the Learn and Work programme for its funding scheme. Going forward, SEDRA plans to develop sector-specific Learn and Work programmes based on industry needs. (Awardee 2024)