Project SEARCH interns have a bright future ahead of them after completing an intensive job coaching programme preparing them for employment.
The programme, run in partnership with Bath and North East Somerset Council, Bath College and Virgin Care, is a year-long employability programme for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities.
Two interns, Reece Fenton and Chloe Mairs, have successfully found paid employment, and the rest of the group will continue looking for jobs with the support of Virgin Care’s employment inclusion team.
Interns received a big round of applause after sharing their success stories at this year’s Project SEARCH graduation ceremony, attended by family, friends and support agencies.
Reece, 19, from Bath, started a full-time job at McDonalds in April after completing work placements with The Assembly Rooms and the Bath Recycling Centre.
He said: “During my time at the Assembly Rooms, I was setting up for various functions that were taking place, including weddings and awards ceremonies.
“Because of my decision to come on this course, I have managed to get full-time paid employment. I am clearing tables when people have finished their food and changing bins when they are full.
“it is a great feeling that I have managed to get work and I would definitely recommend the course. Yes, it is hard work, but in the end it is worth it.”
Emma Geddes on placement at The Assembly Rooms
Interns aged 18 to 24-years-old complete three 10-week work placements, with the help of an instructor and job coaches, as well as classroom based activities reinforcing what they’ve learnt on the job.
During the year, they learned how to manage their money with the Bath Building Society, and organised a Christmas fundraiser for CLIC Sargent, raising over £90 with a raffle and afternoon tea party.
The Project SEARCH programme is in its 8th year with Bath and North East Somerset Council, and new interns starting in September were invited to the ceremony to watch the Chair of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Councillor Cherry Beath, hand out certificates.
Attendees also heard from Eilisha Mayhew, whose son Jack, 18, has grown in confidence after working hard on the Project SEARCH programme.
She said: “I couldn’t believe it when we were told at the beginning that someone would visit Jack at work every day – that is beyond the call of duty and, at times, that level of support was exactly what we needed.
Jack working with the parks department at Bath and North East Somerset Council
“For Jack to receive presents and a card from staff at the Registry Office (one of Jack’s placements) at Christmas was really touching and made us feel really proud.
“My only wish going forward is that more departments are open to Project SEARCH students. I really hope that, in time, employers will recognise the huge potential they have.”
Bath College Principal Laurel Penrose told interns: “The future is bright for this project. You are exceptional individuals and the college is proud to be part of your life journey.
“Success is a team effort and behind each achievement, there’s also a team of people: fellow students, family, tutors, and employers, our local council and Virgin Care who support these students every year.
“This celebration might seem like a conclusion for your hard work, but in many ways it’s only the start of future opportunities. I hope you come back and see us again and again.”