"Best day of the year" - Project SEARCH graduation

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project SEARCH photo“Project SEARCH has changed me so much as a person. It’s helped me physically and mentally. I’m much more confident talking to people I don’t know” – Ashlee Reed, 2017/18 graduate intern

Nine Project SEARCH interns became proud graduates last week, receiving their diplomas at a ceremony in front of parents, relatives, colleagues and friends.

Project SEARCH is a partnership between University Hospitals Plymouth, Pluss, Serco and City College Plymouth, who work together to create employment opportunities for young adults living in Plymouth who have learning disabilities.

70 interns have now successfully completed the Project SEARCH programme, all gaining diplomas in the process and many of them completing the programme with offers of permanent employment.

The ceremony was held at the Derriford Centre for Health and Wellbeing, where the interns and their guests heard about the various internships the group had undertaken. They reflected on their experiences and the skills and confidence they acquired from their time working within the hospital.

Reflecting on her time at Project SEARCH, graduate intern, Jenny Rawle, who worked as a Ward Clerk in the hospital, said: “My confidence has built up. I’ve used databases and worked on a busy hospital reception. I never thought I would be able to do that.”

The sentiment was shared by fellow graduate, Chantell Park, who said: “I’m definitely more confident now. I’ve got much better interview skills.”

The other interns also spoke very highly of their time at the project and the experience they had gained.

Richard Crompton, Chairman at University Hospitals Plymouth, presented the certificates at the ceremony. Addressing the room, Richard said: “This is the very best day of the year. Every year, it’s wonderful to hear your stories. I want to say thank you for what bring to us as it is far more than we could ever give to you. The smiles and enthusiasm you bring is inspiring.

“Thank you to Pip (Project SEARCH Team Leader), the team and all of our partners for the work you’ve done to create such a fantastic scheme.

“Parents, families and friends of our interns, without your support over the years, I’m sure they wouldn’t be here, doing what they’re doing and going on to do the fantastic things they’re going on to do.”

Following formal applications and interviews, four of this year’s interns have secured paid work within the hospital. All of the interns are keen to get into paid work and are well supported as they continue their journey.

The graduates were joined by a special guest, Rebecca Dolton, who graduated from Project SEARCH in 2014. Although she did not leave the programme with paid work, she gave an inspiring message of encouragement to the graduating interns. “It can be hard not to give up; I’ve been there myself,” said Rebecca.

“I thought to myself, ‘I can’t give up’, so I kept trying and now I’m working on a checkout in Tesco three days a week”.

Mark Broadhead, parent of graduate intern, Benjamin Broadhead, said: “They’ve all learnt valuable life lessons; skills for life. Their success has been made possible by strong team leaders, Pip Critten, Michelle Petrie and David Hansford.”

Closing the ceremony, Project SEARCH Team Leader, Pip Critten, told the graduate interns: “This is not the end; this is the beginning of your journey.”

Project SEARCH supports young adults between 18 and 24, living in Plymouth with Learning Disabilities by providing a Level 1 academic course, running alongside three internships within Derriford Hospital.

It is a partnership that provides real work experience based in Derriford Hospital, where interns learn the skills that all employers need together with specific skills for individual jobs.

Pictured: Graduates (from the back to front) Harry Brenton, Henry Flavell, Benjamin Broadhead, Regan Robinson, Ashlee Reed, Chantelle Park, Jane Drinkwater and Jenny Rawle.