Strathclyde student graduates after completing Breaking Barriers Programme

Laughlin Digan has gained a certificate in Business Skills from Strathclyde University

A Coatbridge student has graduated after taking part in Breaking Barriers, a programme run by Enable Scotland for young people with learning disabilities

Laughlin Digan graduated from Strathclyde University, gaining a certificate in applied business skills.

One of 13 participants, the programme aims to boost participants employment and wider prospects, Daily Record reports.

Laughlin volunteered in a charity shop while completing a work placement for Scottish Power as part of the scheme, saying he gained valuable workplace experience and personal skills throughout the project.

Laughlin celebrated his achievements at Barony Hall alongside the 12 other participants, where he said: “I enjoyed studying Strathclyde University as part of the programme and went there everyday. Travelling to Glasgow myself definitely made me more independent, and I learned a lot of things such as how a business runs and how you should speak to customers. I really enjoyed the programme as a whole.”

He added that he “didn’t really have anywhere to go” before the programme, and said: “I did a work placement at a charity shop volunteering there which really boosted my confidence and social skills, and I achieved a personal development award.”

Enable Scotland’s statistics found that an estimated 175,000 people in Scotland have a learning disability and fewer than 9 per cent go to university, compared to 45 per cent of all school leavers.

Breaking Barriers aims to “empower young people with a learning disability to take part in university life whilst being fully supported to thrive,” going on to boost their employment and wider prospects.

Chief Executive, Theresa Shearer, helped co-found the programme in 2018. She commented: “It’s made it possible for students who have a learning disability to access the life-shaping experience of university that is a rite of passage for so many, yet currently available to so few disabled young people.”

She thanked Strathclyde University and Scottish Power, saying their collaboration helps “embed equity, diversity and inclusion in education and the workplace” and she congratulated Laughlin and his fellow graduates, saying: “I’m excited to see what great things they will go on to next.”

University business school dean David Hillier said: “The students are using the skills learned and continue to work with Enable to take the next steps in their career paths.”

The Breaking Barriers programme is described as “one of the most successful ones we do” and “a real win-win.”

Scottish Power’s Chief Executive commented: “It’s a truly unique programme and we’re proud to be involved. It’s given people leadership and social skills [and] breaks down the fear factor of what it’s like to work in companies. The great thing about the programme is that we learn as much as the participants do [about] attaining diversity, helping and learning from people.”

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