Nine young adults with learning disabilities are celebrating their graduation from a pioneering work experience scheme at Musgrove Park Hospital.
The group graduated at a ceremony held at the hospital this week.
The scheme, called Project SEARCH, is a one-year programme of on-the-job training that gives people with learning disabilities an opportunity to develop skills and work experience to find paid employment in the future.
It is funded by Somerset County Council with Somerset College providing the tutor support and Aspire giving support through its job coach.
The nine interns began work at Musgrove Park Hospital in September 2015, completing a programme of essential training along the way. Then, they were placed in a variety of non-clinical roles across the hospital, including sterile services, the Beacon Centre day unit, head and neck theatres and catering.
During their time at the hospital, the interns completed three work placements each, supported by Aspire’s job coach to learn skills in their work area.
Three of the interns have already been successful in securing paid work with roles at the hospital, county council and even a local restaurant.
Intern Harry Tavare has accepted a full time job in the special educational needs and disabilities team at Somerset County Council as a young person’s champion.
Dan Samuel secured a position on the hospital staff bank as a technician with the sterile services department.
He said: “I have found the project really good and useful, because it got me to where I wanted to be. It got me through difficult times and now I’m in paid employment in sterile services at the hospital.”
Following his internship, Ryan Manaton successfully passed an interview at McDonald’s restaurant.
He said: “I have had an amazing year on Project SEARCH, learning new skills, and becoming more independent in dealing with hard situations.
“Thank you to everyone involved in Musgrove, Aspire and Somerset College for getting an amazing first year at Musgrove Park Hospital. I am now in my third week in a full time 30/40 hour job at McDonald’s. I am so proud of myself and all the other eight interns who made it so successful.”
Hayley Peters, executive director of patient care at Musgrove Park Hospital, said: “The Project Search interns are an inspirational group of young people and they bring energy and joy to our hospital. We are very proud of each and every intern and we hope that their experience at Musgrove will help them to succeed in the future.”
Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, William Wallace, said: “Congratulations to all of the interns who have completed their year of training at Musgrove Park Hospital. I’m thrilled that we have been able to support young people with learning disabilities in getting the skills, experience, knowledge and confidence to move into the world of employment.
“I look forward to seeing Harry around County Hall as he joins the council as a young person’s champion, and wish all of the interns every success in the future.”
Claire Merchant-Jones, curriculum manager at Somerset College, said: “It has been a privilege to work alongside this talented group of young people. Witnessing their significant growth in confidence, motivation and skills is testament to their hard work and illustrates the importance of employer based programmes such as these.
“The students and all participants involved in the project should be immensely proud of their achievements.”
Jon Wright, assistant team manager at Aspire, said: “We are extremely proud of the first year interns and the remarkable dedication they have shown in the pilot year of Project SEARCH at Musgrove.
“Their ability to adapt to challenges and their drive to find paid employment is truly admirable. We look forward to them all achieving their goals.
“We would also like to thank all the staff and mentors that have been involved at Musgrove who have been remarkable in their unprecedented enthusiasm and support of the program. During difficult times for the NHS they have never once failed to show that nothing is too much trouble and have gone out of their way to ensure the interns receive every possible opportunity.”