Every year we welcome young people with a learning disability or autism to undertake work experience at North Devon District Hospital through Project SEARCH. For the past two years, 100% of the interns who were able to do so progressed directly onto paid work after completing the programme, which is a fantastic achievement.
In recognition of this, Gail Richards, training manager and apprentice lead at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, gained a bursary from Project SEARCH to attend their annual conference in the USA and collect an award for achieving an employment rate of 100%. She also met the founders of Project SEARCH, Susie Rutkowski and Erin Riehle.
Gail said: “I was delighted and privileged to attend the USA conference to represent Project SEARCH Barnstaple.
“Over the past six years this project has been a great success and I would personally like to thank those people who have made it happen. Thank you to Eileen Higgins, Project SEARCH employment consultant, David Bridges, Project SEARCH instructor, and all the managers and mentors within the hospital who have supported our students by offering them excellent work experience in order for them to gain employment.
“This really is a life-changing project for our young people and local society, and we are looking forward to welcoming our new students this September.”
What is Project SEARCH?
Project SEARCH is an innovative one-year internship programme which is helping 18 to 24-year-old students with a learning disability or autism into employment. It’s a partnership between NDHT, Sodexo, Petroc and Pluss.
The students complete three 10-week placements at NDDH and receive employability training. This gives them work experience, encourages independence and helps them to build confidence and develop life skills.
Project SEARCH has been going from strength to strength since it launched in North Devon in September 2013. Over the past six years, 50 interns have completed the programme and 78% have since gained employment. Over the past two years, 100% of graduates got a job after completing Project SEARCH, most of them at NDDH.