A fourth group of young people with additional support needs in the Falkirk area who are on the hunt to find a job with the help of DFN Project SEARCH – have graduated from their one year internship programme.
The DFN Charitable Foundation, is a UK registered charity established in 2014 by David Forbes Nixon, with the express aim of promoting programmes such as this partnership between Forth Valley College, Falkirk Council Employment and Training Unit, Serco, NHS Forth Valley and Skills Development Scotland – DFN Project SEARCH supports young people with learning difficulties to gain skills and experience aimed at helping them move into sustainable employment.
At an event held in Forth Valley College’s Falkirk Campus on Wednesday 16 November, FVC’s Principal Professor Ken Thomson and Vice Principal Learning and Student Experience Kenny McInnes, welcomed Falkirk Council Service Manager Sarah McCulley, Principal Officer Fiona McFarlane and Employment and Training Co-coordinator Kim Blagg and Serco’s Lilian Young Retail Catering Manager, David Paton Training Co-ordinator and Tony McLaughlin Regional Director as well as Elaine Bell, Associate Director of HR and Linda Robertson, HR Service Manager from NHS Forth Valley.
Sarah McCulley from Falkirk Council provided the opening remarks followed by Serco’s Tony McLaughlin. Graduation certificates were presented by Falkirk Council’s Kim Blagg and Jacqueline McArthur FVC’s Director of Curriculum in the Department of Business and Communities provided the Vote of Thanks.
Based at Forth Valley College’s Falkirk Campus, between August 2021 and June 2022, a total of eight interns have graduated from the award winning Project SEARCH initiative that has been recognised for its outstanding programme outcomes, supporting young adults with learning disabilities into the world of work.
The eight well deserving graduates, who successfully completed their internship, were: Owen Welsh, Stuart MacMillan, Lauren McAllister, Jaydan Gilchrist, Craig Dillon, Sarah Taylor, Thomas Chalmers and Cameron Lee – seven of them are pictured here at the Falkirk Campus with lecturer Alan Ritchie (centre) and Kim Blagg from Falkirk Council (bottom left).
The first two groups of young interns aged between 18-24 - from 2018 and 2019 - were based at Forth Valley Royal Hospital. However, the pandemic lockdown, prompted a change to where the interns would be based. Placements throughout the College have seen interns work with the Estates Department, in college catering and the Construction Department.
The interns have also completed a selection of industry standard certificates via Serco. On-site, interns were assisted throughout by a college lecturer and a job coach – Alan Ritchie and Jean Allan - as well as Falkirk Council Employment and Training Unit staff who will also support the group after their placement at Forth Valley College.
The programme helps interns to learn real job skills that will prepare them for work by rotating them through a variety of different work placement experiences. This, practical, work-based learning is supported by classroom activities each day, as well as regular discussion and feedback from supervisors throughout the programme.
Graduate Intern Thomas Chalmers, said: "Project SEARCH is good for getting more skills and qualities and getting work ready. It builds up your confidence."
Sarah Taylor, who also graduated on the night, added; “My experience at Project SEARCH helped me understand the working environment and helped me get the skills I needed to start work. I am so thankful to get that experience and really enjoyed it.”
Jacqueline McArthur, Director of Curriculum for the Department of Business and Communities, said: “Once again we are delighted to see this fourth cohort of Project SEARCH interns complete their year at Forth Valley College and graduate from the programme into paid sustainable jobs. This initiative really is bearing fruit and helping so many young adults with learning disabilities into the world of work.
“They have all worked very hard and been a credit to themselves, the college, and all the partners who are represented in this programme, and we wish them well as they progress into employment armed with skills and experience gained from Project SEARCH. They should be very proud of themselves.
“And that’s what Project SEARCH is all about – making a positive impact on young people’s lives and helping them achieve their full potential to express themselves in a work based setting. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in the success of Project SEARCH and for driving it forward – especially Alan Ritchie and Jean Allan from Forth Valley College and all our wonderful partners.”
Elaine Bell, Associate Director of HR, NHS Forth Valley, said: “It’s great to work with our partners Serco to offer young people an opportunity to gain valuable skills and experience in a wide range of healthcare roles at Forth Valley Royal Hospital.
“Our Project Search interns also make a valuable contribution to local healthcare and receive really positive feedback from local staff, patients and visitors.”
Anyone wishing to find out more on the course which will start again in August 2023 should contact FVC on 01324 403000.