Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH is a partnership between Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Queensmill School, London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and Action on Disability. 

  • West Middlesex University Hospital: Provides an on-site base and a variety of internships that teach core skills related to that business or organisation
  • Queensmill School: Provides an instructor, employability skills curriculum and student interns from the local area
  • London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham: Provides commissioning, individual life planning guidance, care management and individual budgets for job coaching and other support
  • Action on Disability: Provides job coaching and job development for interns at the host business and in their paid careers
  • Department for Work and Pensions: Provides ’Access to Work’ funding for job coaching and other follow on support

Transition programme

The transition programme is an academic year long internship for students with learning disabilities, in their final year of school or college. It is aimed at students whose goal is competitive employment. 

Interns participate in three department rotations to build skills and develop their career paths. They work with a team that includes their family, instructor and supported employment specialist to create an employment goal. Together they develop the support the student needs for their successful transition from education to work through continuous feedback and acquisition of skills.  

Project SEARCH started in September 2018 at West Middlesex University Hospital with 8 interns and 4 teachers/job coaches. The base room is in the management offices and the interns are working 4–5 hours every day in different roles across the hospital supported by a local mentor. 

Benefits of Project SEARCH 

Benefits to the interns

  • Individuals participate in a variety of internships in a high-status local business
  • Interns acquire competitive, transferable and marketable job skills
  • Interns gain increased independence, confidence, and self esteem
  • Interns obtain work based individualised instruction, coaching, support and feedback from the instructor, job coach and host business managers and mentors
  • Graduates are assisted to develop links to adult support agencies

Benefits to the Trust

  • Organisations gain access to a new, diverse, talent stream with skills that match labour needs
  • Businesses acquire interns/employees with disabilities who serve as a role model for customers which is well-reflected in satisfaction surveys
  • Departments improve communication and team work
  • Businesses experience increased local, regional, national and international recognition through marketing of this unique programme
  • Organisations dramatically improve performance and retention in some high-turnover or hard-to-fill posts 

Benefits to Queensmill School and Action on Disability

  • Develop a seamless approach to transition that develops critical adult skills
  • Work in a partnership of education, adult employment services and councils to ensure a whole life approach to supporting young people in transition
  • Save time and overall resources by sharing human and financial capital 
  • Increase the overall skill level of job seekers and likelihood of job success and retention through career exploration, working interviews and employability skills building

Benefits to society

  • Evidence shows that being in employment improves health and wellbeing
  • Transitioning people from education straight into competitive employment saves money for health and social care by creating opportunities for people with learning disabilities to become net contributors rather than recipients of day care and health services
  • Once a Project SEARCH partnership is established, it is sustainable year after year and keeps delivering increasing numbers of full time paid jobs and careers
  • Over time, community expectations are raised that people with learning disabilities can work in many different skilled jobs
  • The pathway from childhood to adulthood and work becomes smoother for young people and their families
  • A variety of local businesses benefit from the talent pool created
  • Communities become more inclusive and people with learning disabilities more visible
  • Social justice is achieved for people who have been frequently marginalised from the world of work

More about Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH is a business-led, one-year work-preparation programme for young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Most participants are enrolled while transitioning from education to work. The hallmark of Project SEARCH is total workplace immersion, which facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training. Project SEARCH’s primary objective is to secure competitive employment for every program participant.

The Project SEARCH Transition Programme started at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996. Today Project SEARCH has more than 500 licensed programmes spanning 47 states, 9 countries and in multiple industries. In Europe, programmes have been established in England, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland and Wales in various prestigious employers such as hospitals, local authorities, universities, laboratories and a variety of private sector businesses. In 2016 over 65% of the programme’s European graduates moved into paid employment of more than 16 hours per week.

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