Rewarding start for Project Search students at NNUH

The first new recruits from a pioneering intern programme at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital are celebrating their first pay packets after completing the programme with flying colours.

Project Search brings together Norfolk County Council, Remploy, Serco and City College Norwich to offer students with learning difficulties and disabilities the chance to learn vital skills and prepare them for paid employment.

It is the first programme of its kind in the UK and Government ministers are so impressed that the NNUH model is now being used as an example for other hospitals and organisations to follow.

“We’re delighted with the success of Project Search,” says Carol Edwards, deputy director of nursing at NNUH. “It has been a pleasure to work with these young people and they are already making a valuable contribution to our hospital life.”

Project Search originated in Cincinatti, Ohio, where it was found that people with conditions such as autism and Aspergers syndrome often enjoy jobs that require a systematic approach, with lots of repetition and clear, precise instructions. They found that interns recruited from the programme had low absence rates.

After completing work experience in a range of different departments over the last 12 months, four of the students who took part in the Norwich programme are now employed in different admin roles within the hospital.

They are Jamie Okoro, 23, who is working for Serco’s HR department; Sam Evans, 20, working in Health Records; Ben Holloway, 22, working in the education centre, and (in wheelchair) James Smith, 22, working in the admin and clerical bank. All have attended courses at City College Norwich and have been supported through their placements by staff from the hospital and Serco (who provide services such as cleaning, catering and maintenance) working with an employment coach from Remploy and a tutor from City College.

Sam commented: “In Health Records you have lots of notes which can sometimes get out of order. I enjoy sorting them out and putting them in their proper place. It’s good to be able to come to work and meet new friends.”

The new recruits will be monitored over the coming months to ensure they are settling into their roles: “The boys are taking on more tasks as their skills increase,” said Carol. “They are all very hard working and we are extremely pleased with their progress so far.”

Project Search is now being rolled out to 14 other organisations nationally and Carol recently joined Project Search team leaders from Serco, Remploy and City College, as well as delegates from Ohio, on a visit to Edinburgh and Glasgow to show how the scheme is working in practice: “We are proud that our scheme is working so well and it’s a privilege to be asked to lead on this issue,” she commented.

Students from Project Search have taken part in a film about their experience which can be seen on our website here

The video finishes with wheelchair-bound James Smith telling his own touching story of how work has helped him to become more independent – including gaining the courage to travel to work by bus on his own for the first time.

Tuesday 8th of December 2009 12:00:42 PM