One year on, we wanted to reflect on Futures for All, the co-produced, youth-centred employability programme for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) sector in Greater Manchester.  

The programme

Futures for All was a positive empowerment programme with the potential to create systemic change. The programme not only changed expectations of young people with SEND and their own perceptions of their employability status, but also challenged perceptions of employers hiring people with SEND.

At the heart of this programme were nine employees, each sharing their experience of the world of work in a range of careers. Each of these people had come from a different SEND school in Greater Manchester and had found work after leaving education. Nine films were co-produced with employees and their employers talking about their jobs and careers, what they have gained from the world of work and the skills young people would need if they wanted to seek jobs like theirs. From Jamie who works at the Rochdale Infirmary Cafe, to Amber who drives to her job in Venture Arts, these films promote employment and diffuse barriers that young people with SEND may feel when applying for jobs.

The inspirational films can be found here on the GMCA website.

Workshop delivery

Based on feedback from teachers, in-person and digital workshops were offered to schools to engage with the programme. 

Short digital sessions were offered for two weeks, with schools able to drop in and attend workshops suitable for their students and interests. Each day had a theme around one of the 5 C’s (Confidence, Communication, Cooperation, Creativity and Celebration) where students could have a go at different activities that supported skills development in each of these areas. 

The nine employees who featured in the films set challenges in their videos with tasks for the young people to do in their classrooms, each linked to one of the 5 Cs including try something new as a team (cooperation), try speaking to someone you don’t know very well (communication) and stand up in front of your class and share three facts about yourself (confidence).

The in-person workshops took place all over Greater Manchester, with young people taking part in activities themed around one of the films, starring Amber. Amber uses creativity in her work at Venture Arts. Our team worked with young people to use clay, fabric and video to represent their dream job through creativity. Below are some of the banners and clay sculptures created by young people as part of the project.

The creative element of the workshop was designed to help young people explore their passions and skills they recognised in themselves. Young people were supported to link their skills to their passions to focus-in on what would be an enjoyable and rewarding career aspiration. Young people discussed careers in animal care, beauty, links with football (Manchester United and Manchester City were both very popular) arts and creativity, and working with computers and technology.

For me watching the pupils quickly link their interests to a future job was amazing, there was no hesitation. One pupil really wants to use her art skills in the future and when she went home last night , this is all she talked about. Another pupil who wants to be a chef has asked me if they could go and look at the kitchens in a restaurant and speak to a chef. A big thank you from myself and the pupils for having this opportunity yesterday. Marie Young, Careers Lead

The exhibition 

Manchester Library donated space to host an exhibition of Futures for All where the work of the young people was displayed for the public to see. The nine Futures for All films played on loop, clay sculptures and fabric banners were displayed for the public to view and interact with. This celebration of the young people’s work was a highlight of the programme. More than 4,000 people access the library each day and the area where the art works were displayed has a high level of footfall. 


This tailored programme for young people with SEND readying themselves for the world of work was well received by teachers. Teachers reported that 100% of students who took part in the programme were more confident or more excited about their future in the world of work. Pupils gained a wide variety of skills from engaging with the programme content particularly in ‘Communication’ and ‘Creativity’ 

“The pupils explored and recognised their existing skills and how these could be linked to their futures.”

Futures for All changed perceptions around employability across the community from the child to the classroom, teacher and school, to parents and the community of employers.