Finding employment right now is a challenge for many of us but for people with disabilities it can be a real struggle. That’s where DFN Project SEARCH comes in. What originally began as a project in Cincinnati has grown to an international network fostering visionary thinking and innovation.
Dundee and Angus College is proud to be part of this exciting collaboration promoting programmes which significantly improve the employment prospects of young people with learning difficulties and autism spectrum conditions.
The College’s Supported Education team has worked hard to provide opportunities that respond to the changing needs of these students within the Dundee and Angus area, but it has been difficult to find them sustainable employment.
DFN Project SEARCH has enabled the College to team up with the Employment Support Service, part of Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership, and NHS Tayside. Together they are creating a unique, business-led, one-year employment preparation programme where participants will complete three 10-week placements within Ninewells Hospital.
A College lecturer and a job coach from Employment Support will be on site to help and the combination of classroom instruction, career exploration and hands-on training should prepare each participant for job development and a productive adult life. There will be continuous feedback from instructors, job coaches and employers and, at the end of the programme, the students will have access to the NHS job pool for the chance of employment. It is also hoped the programme will bring about long-term changes in business culture with positive effects on attitudes around recruiting people with disabilities.
DFN Project SEARCH programmes throughout the country are creating life changing opportunities, offering young people a one-year transition to work programme in their final year of school or college to enable inclusion and empowerment. Its latest data shows that in the past 12 months, 64 per cent of its 477 interns secured a paid job. These outcomes are well beyond the national statistics which show just 5.6 per cent of people with a learning disability or autism who are known to local authorities are in work.
DFN Project SEARCH Director and Programme Specialist, Carmel McKeogh, says, “It is really exciting to be working on our new programme in Dundee. There are so many skills and opportunities for the young people to learn inside such a diverse and inclusive business. The commitment to change the life chances of young people with learning disabilities and autism in the area is shared by all the partners and we are really looking forward to welcoming the first class of young people in August.”
Craig Strachan, Head of Curriculum and Quality for Access and Supported Education at D&A College, agrees, “This is a great opportunity for young people with learning disabilities and autism from across Dundee to take part in valuable work placements in a busy professional environment. For a number of years we have felt that this was something that was missing from a Supported Education point of view and we are delighted to get this partnership in place. The young people will be required to meet the expectations associated with working in a hospital and with the support of a lecturer, job coach and the key staff within Ninewells, I am sure we will see a large number of success stories coming out of this.”
Dundee and Angus College is moving away from traditional thinking and focussing much more on careers not courses. It wants the people of the Dundee and Angus region to be better informed and prepared for the career options available to them, no matter what stage they are at.