Nine young people with learning disabilities are on the path to paid employment as part of a pioneering initiative run by Somerset County Council, Musgrove Park Hospital and Somerset College.
The initiative is known as Project SEARCH, a one-year programme which aims to give young people with learning disabilities the skills to obtain competitive paid employment.
The nine interns started work at Musgrove in September and have now completed all their essential training and are out in placements developing their skills and work experience in various departments at the hospital.
Throughout the year, the interns are working with different teams in the hospital, supported by mentors who have volunteered to offer extra support and training. The first placements for the interns have been in: Sterile Services, Beacon Day Unit, Head and Neck Theatres, Catering Portering Team, Mop Laundry, The Academy, Library, Grounds and Notes Portering and IT Service Desk.
Cllr William Wallace, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Adults with Learning Disabilities, said:
“Project SEARCH gives people with Learning Disabilities the skills, experience, knowledge and confidence to move into the world of employment. A Learning Disability should not be a barrier to employment. We’ve seen these interns make real progress in their first couple of months and we’re confident they’ll continue to develop throughout their internship and beyond to reach their full potential.”
Hayley Peters, Director of Patient Care at Musgrove Park Hospital, said:
“We are very pleased to be able to support this programme. All the staff involved have been inspired by the determination and commitment of the interns to succeed.”
Jo Burford, Vice-Principal, Somerset College, said:
“I was delighted to visit the students and mentors in their working environments at Musgrove Park Hospital and witness the level of confidence and motivation each individual student has gained.
“The level of improvement is remarkable and evidenced in the students’ sense of achievement and pride. It is quite apparent how the level of exposure to a regular working environment has been harnessed by these students and with the exceptional support from their tutors, mentors, the Hospital and the College, the students are thriving and achieving!
“Project SEARCH has provided these individuals with meaningful work opportunities which has enhanced their self-esteem and employability skills to a significantly high standard. The students and all participants involved in the Project should be immensely proud of their achievements!”
Musgrove Park Hospital is the second employer in Somerset (after Yeovil District Hospital) to work with Project SEARCH interns, supported by Somerset College (the training provider) and Somerset County Council (who provide job coaches via Aspire).
The Project SEARCH programme was first developed in the USA and now helps people with learning disabilities from all over the world to gain paid employment (at minimum wage or above). In 2015 there were 400+ Project SEARCH sites globally, and 39 in the UK, which achieved employment for 60 to 100 per cent of the interns who took part in the programme.