Ministers Celebrate Norwich Project Search Graduates

Young people with learning disabilities who have secured jobs through the innovative Project Search model met Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller and Minister for Skills John Hayes at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and Norse Commercial Services today.

Project Search in Norwich offers young people with learning disabilities work-focused college courses delivered on an employer’s premises and includes a structured programme of work placements. NNUH and Norse are working with City College Norwich and Remploy to deliver the course.

The visit celebrated the graduation of Project Search students at NNUH and Norse Commercial Services, the only private sector company in England taking part in the project.

Maria Miller said: “Project Search makes a major difference to the lives of young people with learning disabilities by giving them hands-on work experience and the confidence to enter full-time employment.

“People with learning disabilities can, and do, make a valuable contribution in the workplace and it’s important we support initiatives like Project Search that help people achieve their ambitions.”

John Hayes said: “Learning new skills gives people more independence and more control over their own futures, as well as strengthening them in the work that they do day by day.

“Project Search is a wonderful example of how people with learning disabilities can be provided with useful opportunities and supported in a real working environment.

“It is proof that collaborative working between businesses and education providers can benefit local communities and bring success to learners. I have been extremely impressed by the people I have met today and the work that they are doing here in Norwich.”

The Ministers met Project Search graduates James Smith, Rachel Whisken, and Benjamin Holloway, who have all been employed by the hospital.

The project helped James, a wheelchair user, overcome fears he could not find a job.

James said: “When I was a little boy I dreamed of getting a job.

“I used to be in hospital as a patient, but I never thought I’d get a job here. My Mum feels very proud of me getting a job because she thought I’d never be able to work but I showed her I can do work and my confidence has really grown a lot.”

Carol Edwards, deputy director of nursing at NNUH, said: “We’re delighted with the success of Project Search.

“It has been a pleasure to work with these young people and they are already making a valuable contribution to our hospital life.”

Norse Commercial Services and City College Norwich praised the project and urged other employers to recognise the contribution people with learning disabilities can make.

Tricia Fuller, HR director at Norse Commercial Services, said: “The best thing about Project Search is that it really works – it gives people with learning disabilities experience of work and the skills required in the workplace, and then gets them into real jobs.

“I hope that many more employers consider getting involved so all students who want to take part in the project can do.”

Dick Palmer, City College Norwich Principal, said: “Project Search has demonstrated the benefits of a work-based training programme that has been tailored to meet the specific needs of students with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum conditions.”

Notes for Editors

1. The Project Search Model originated from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Project Search is run as a one-year school or college course with training taking place at the host employer. The employer provides a classroom and a series of work placements and students are helped to find jobs with the host employer or locally.

2. Project Search is based on a strong partnership between an employer, a school or college and a supported employment provider. City College Norwich and Remploy are the education and employment partners in both NNUH and Norse.

3. The employment rate for people with moderate and severe learning disabilities in England is 6.8 per cent, compared to 47 per cent for all disabled people. Some 65 per cent of people with learning disabilities want to work.

4. Out of six Project Search interns that graduated from NNUH in July 2009, four are in full-time employment at the hospital. Two of the current year’s interns have got full-time jobs even before the official end of their internship year.

5. Last week eight students graduated from Project Search course at Norse Commercial Services. Four are permanently employed by Norse and two have found jobs elsewhere.

Tuesday 13th of July 2010 10:00:00 AM