Project SEARCH is an employment focussed education programme designed to give students with learning disabilities and/or autism the opportunity to get hands on experience in the workplace, develop employability skills combined with classroom sessions.
It is a multi-agency partnership, bringing together the expertise of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Serco, City College Norwich and Remploy.
Why do we need it?
People with learning disabilities and/or autism have the lowest rate of employment of all disadvantaged groups (approx 7%)
What do the students do?
Students do 3, 12 week rotations through the year, they work alongside workplace colleagues in a variety of roles including ward housekeeper, administration, reception and catering; learning the practical skills needed, with support from the tutor, and job coaches. They attend daily classroom sessions working towards a number of key “employability” competencies such as Communication Skills, Health & Safety, Self Confidence, Motivation, Team Working. Personal Presentation and KSF competencies.
What are the benefits to the students?
Approximately 40 students have graduated since September 2009 and 11 of those graduates have secured permanent employment in the hospital working for either Serco or the Trust in a range of roles from ward housekeeper to the post room. Several others have secured jobs elsewhere.
The Trust and Serco are committed to making reasonable adjustments to the recruitment process. Accessible job descriptions have been developed and graduates in jobs continue to be supported by the Project Search team.
What are the benefits for society?
It is making a difference to the way we teach students with learning disabilities and/or autism, the way we support them to enter the labour market and sustain employment. Project SEARCH has given students the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities and exceed the expectations of others.
What are the benefits to the Trust?
Project Search has made a difference to the way that people with learning disabilities and/or autism are perceived by staff and the public. It has demonstrated that they can make a valuable contribution in a complex workplace.
Evidence shows there are economic benefits for businesses employing people with learning disabilities who make a valuable contribution to the workforce. They are committed to work, stay in the job longer, are reliable and have low absentee records.