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Talented young adults with learning disabilities celebrate graduating


Interns and staff are celebrating the graduation of their 2022 cohort of interns who have successfully completed the life-changing DFN Project SEARCH (“Project SEARCH”) transition to work programme in ClwydAlyn Housing Association in Flintshire.

The young adults who took part in the programme which runs in partnership with Project SEARCH, Flintshire County Council, and the charity Hft, will harness the skills that they have now learnt in job opportunities with organisations in the local area. Previous interns from Project SEARCH in Flintshire have gone on to successfully gain roles in local businesses as well as the Council, and many of the interns graduating this year have already entered local employment. 

Project SEARCH is a national transition to work programme for students with learning disabilities and/or autism. They work in partnership across the public, private and voluntary sectors to create supported employment internships within private and public settings that these young people undertake during their last year of education, helping them to make positive transitions from education to the world of work.  

The pioneering programme involves total workplace immersion at its very best, facilitating a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on skills training.

Over 1,800 young people with learning disabilities and autism have now graduated with over 1,600 interns securing full-time paid employment through Project SEARCH  programmes in the UK. Nationally only 5.1% of people with these needs are in paid employment yet 70% of those supported by Project SEARH secure paid roles. With the largest data set in the UK, Project SEARCH’s evidence-based model challenges misconceptions and changes the way society views and enables young adults with learning disabilities and autism to ensure that they reach their true and full potential.

Flintshire County Council’s Leader and Cabinet Member for Education and Youth, Councillor Ian Roberts, who presented the certificates, said:

“It is a real pleasure to present the certificates at today’s event to show the Council’s support for this wonderful project.  We are fully committed to providing quality services for people with learning disabilities, and supported employment is a key priority.  Everyone deserves to have the same opportunities – earning a wage, living independently and developing friendships.  Project SEARCH provides skills and practical experience for young people to be ready to work.”

Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Social Services, Councillor Christine Jones, said:

“Project SEARCH is a fantastic  opportunity to support young people with a learning disability in Flintshire and as Cabinet Member for social services, I am proud we are a key partner in this programme.”

Gemma Shone, Oganisational Development Strategic Lead at ClwydALyn said:

"Creating an inclusive workplace where each and every feels valued, comfortable and safe to be who they are is at the heart of ClwydAlyn. We believe that everyone should be able to access positive and fulfilling employment.

"We are proud  to be a partner  of Project SEARCH, providing young people with learning disabilities the skills, confidence and work experience  to secure  future employment. It has been a real pleasure providing work placements for the 2022 interns and we're looking forward to celebrating their achievements at the Graduation."

Elaine Gilbert, Executive Director of People, Communications and Marketing at ClwydAlyn said:

"We're delighted to be working in partnership with Project SEARCH HfT and Flinthsire County Council; We've successfully run three Project SEARCH programmes since our partnership was formed in 2019, supportingnine young people into employment during the last three years which is a 75% success rate.

"Following this success we've comitted to support the Flinthsire programme again this year where we hope to support those attending the project as well as the programme more broadly accross North Wales."

Claire Cookson, Project SEARCH CEO, said: 

“On behalf of everyone at Project SEARCH, I’d like to say a huge congratulations to these brilliant interns graduating this year, and thank you to all our partners for providing them with this life-changing experience. Everyone who has completed the programme has tremendous talent to offer as new employees.  I’d encourage employers to invest in that talent, because I can guarantee they won’t be disappointed with the results.”

Project SEARCH works to build a more inclusive society by helping to create much improved career opportunities for those with learning disabilities and autism through 76 operational supported internships schemes across the UK and growing. 

Project SEARCH exists as an international programme.  David Forbes Nixon, through the DFN Foundation, has the UK franchise of Project SEARCH.  You can learn more about the Project at: https://www.dfnprojectsearch.org 

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