In 2020, Nicky Sutherland graduated from university amid a global pandemic and was ready to embark on a new career. The job market had little to offer, and there didn’t seem to be opportunities out there that interested her.
The few jobs she was interested in either rejected her application or ignored her completely; she was lost for options and became more disheartened by the day.
Unwelcoming job market
By 2021, Nicky had found a role at Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK). However, the position was only for three months, and she knew she’d have to throw herself back into the job market again.
“My time at MDUK was almost over, and the thought of being in the same position as I was a year ago made me really anxious,” Nicky says.
Luckily, a colleague told her about the Centre for Accessible Environments’ Pathways Academy. Pathways is a 12-month training course created to give young disabled Londoners the confidence, skills and support they need to kick start a career in inclusive design and access.
Having a taste
Nicky took part in a Pathways taster online session with eight other prospective students.
“Access, to me, was a bottomless pit of standards and regulations. It wasn’t something I was interested in, but the Pathways taster session certainly changed that. I had no idea how many layers there were to the topic,” says Nicky.
“The programme has allowed me to pick apart inclusive design and see what interests me. It opened my eyes to the inaccessibility baked into many aspects of society, and it’s certainly made me want to learn more.
“The virtual format is also really beneficial as I have chronic fatigue issues. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to travel in to do the course face-to-face, so I really like this more accessible style of learning.”
Exploring the modules
The Pathways Academy programme has 11 modules ranging from access auditing to accessible housing design and students are expected to attend two sessions a month.
”The accessible housing module was probably one of my favourites as it showed me just how necessary some of the designs are. The accessible technology module was also fascinating.
“Not only did it open my eyes to some great pieces of tech, but it also helped me with my current role at the Business Disability Forum (BDF) as I’m regularly scrutinising organisations’ websites for inaccessibility.”
Making business accessible
After being on the Pathways programme for two months, Nicky was able to land a Business Development role at BDF, which specialises in making business more accessible for disabled people.
“If I’m honest, I didn’t think I’d get the job as my degree was in an unrelated subject, and my experience was the complete opposite of business development. But thankfully, BDF seemed to place a lot of value on my Pathways Academy training.”
To apply for the Pathways Academy 2022 intake in October, visit cae.org.uk/pathways-academy/ and complete the online form.