Future career prospects are now looking much brighter for eight local young people with learning disabilities following their graduation from the ground-breaking Project SEARCH internship scheme based at Torbay Hospital.
The eight students, aged between 18 and 24, worked in three placements each over the past academic year. This year placements were in a variety of settings across Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, as well as the Slapton Hotel and South Devon College.
The internationally acclaimed Project SEARCH programme aims to remove the significant barriers faced by people with learning disabilities when looking for employment. This is the fourth year the project has been run in Torbay by South Devon College, local social enterprise Pluss, and Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust.
The graduation ceremony was opened by Paul Cooper, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Finance for Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, who said: “It has been a real pleasure to meet these inspiring young individuals, and an absolute honour to present them with their graduation certificates. My colleagues tell me what an asset they have been to our workforce, bringing enthusiasm, motivation and fun to the teams they are placed with.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Pluss and South Devon College for their continued support and close partnership working on the project.”
Two of the graduates have secured paid traineeships with Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, with the potential for a third to start shortly. One of the graduates is hopeful of securing a paid position with another local NHS trust and one is currently working with Pluss. Another graduate is currently volunteering with a local care home, with a view to potential employment. The remaining two are still job searching.
Nicole Ross, 19, from Barton in Torquay, has just been appointed as a Hospital Porter at Torbay Hospital. Nicole explains: “Project SEARCH has been really good. I have met some lovely people and was able to learn what it felt like to be in work. Now I have found my first ever paid job which has given me my independence.
“I was absolutely buzzing when I found out I had got the job. I have a learning disability and epilepsy but I have lots of skills to offer an employer. I am punctual, flexible and hard working. Thanks to Project SEARCH I have a future – I am so grateful to them for helping me find paid work.”
Phillip Peters, 21 from Hele village in Torquay, who has also secured a job undertaking maintenance work at Torbay Hospital, said: “I am hard-working and enthusiastic. I never stop and will have a go at anything. I had never had paid work before and I feel so happy. I am independent now, can help pay the bills and support my mum.”
Assistant Principal at South Devon College, Liz Lawrence, said: “Meeting all of the graduates from the Project SEARCH programme was wonderful, and hearing them talk about their life changing experiences was truly inspirational.”
Tom Bromwich, Head of Operations for Pluss, said: “The support the interns get from this scheme is invaluable in helping to kick-start their careers. We are delighted to continue this fantastic partnership with South Devon College and the local NHS trust – long may it continue.”