Last week Sarah Newton, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, visited our Project SEARCH site in North Devon.
Project SEARCH is an award winning internship programme that helps young people with learning disabilities and autism get into work.
The Minister visited our site at North Devon District Hospital (NDDH) with North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones and met with the young people who are now working at the hospital.
Ms Newton met with Danielle Young, radiology support assistant, Bradley Harrison, technical support assistant in the medical equipment team, and Tom Curtis, therapy support worker on the Seamoor Unit.
Bradley is now working at NDDH as a technical support assistant after completing the programme. He said: “It’s really good to be working here. The people here are more than willing to show me what I’m capable of.”
She also met with one of the current interns, Corey Hallet, who is now on placement supporting staff across Staples Ward (Stroke Unit) and Glossop Ward.
Ms Newton said: “I can see that the Project SEARCH interns are busy people, carrying out important tasks and doing a good job. It is clear that staff in the hospital value the work that the interns are doing.
“Well done for being so determined, for not giving up, and for showing others what you can achieve. Congratulations to all the interns who have been and are involved in Project SEARCH.”
Project SEARCH is a joint programme between Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT), Pluss, Sodexo and Petroc. It aims to support young people aged 18-24 with a learning disability or autism into work.
The students undertake three 10-week placements at North Devon District Hospital (NDDH), with additional support provided by an experienced mentor who will show them the ropes. They also receive employability training onsite.
Last year, 100% of the interns who completed the programme progressed directly onto paid work of 16 hours per week or more or into a traineeship, working towards employment.
Gail Richards, training manager and apprentice lead at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “This year is the fifth year of the internship programme and we are delighted to see the positive impact the interns are making in their roles.
“I’m incredibly proud of all the students who have been part of Project SEARCH – they are dedicated and committed, and are a real asset to NDHT.”
Marise Mackie, Pluss contract manager, said: “Internship programmes like Project SEARCH demonstrate the untapped talent pool that is available to all employers.
“The hospital is truly leading by example and will hopefully encourage other employers to examine who and how they recruit.”
Jon Hardy, assistant principal for lifestyle, care and foundation learning at Petroc, said: “We are delighted that so many Project SEARCH interns have gone on to secure employment as a direct result of the programme.
“We very much look forward to working with our partners to offer many more supported learning students in Devon the chance to develop life skills and gain the confidence to successfully enter the world of work.”
Peter Heaton-Jones, MP for North Devon, said: “I am delighted the Minister was able to come here and meet so many of the young people involved in Project SEARCH after I discussed the programme with her.
“The people she has met today have shown what benefits there are for themselves, the hospital and patients, and I hope the Minister can see what a great scheme it is and how it could work elsewhere.”
About Project SEARCH
Project SEARCH is based on a model developed in the USA that helps young people with learning disabilities into paid work. Students are given the chance to try a wide variety of job roles in a hospital setting.
The aim is to increase employability while building confidence, developing life skills and encouraging independence.