HFT, a national learning disabilities charity that has been supporting people to find employment, is celebrating interns from Burnley taking their first steps into the world of work. The charity provides employability coaches as part of a supported employment scheme, DFN Project SEARCH, which aims to equip young people with everything they need to secure their first job.
At the Lancashire-based branch of the initiative, Hft has teamed up with Lancashire County Council, Burnley College and The Calico Group to support six interns in the last year. Over the course of an academic year, the interns each undertake two or three work placements, combined with daily classroom sessions, to help them develop new skills and build the confidence they need to apply for paid employment.
Despite the pandemic disrupting the final months of the scheme, Project SEARCH in Burnley has continued to guide people on their journeys into the working world. Hft’s employability coaches are on hand every step of the way by providing on the job support, assisting with relevant training and facilitating with developing working relationships.
One of the interns from the first year of the programme who has found success is Tom, who has a neurological condition affecting his memory and learning and was encouraged to join the scheme after struggling to find a job suited to his skill set. Passionate about using his people skills, he completed work placements at Calico’s BeWell service, where he supported key workers with home visits as well as developing administrative skills. This was combined with daily sessions with his tutor and employability coach, where Tom had the opportunity to address any challenges he might be facing, and prepare himself for future job searches by building his CV and undertaking interview practice. At the end of the year, he was delighted to be offered a role as an apprentice groundskeeper within the Group’s housing association Calico Homes.
“Project SEARCH has been the best learning experience I have had. After years of trying, I now have a positive future and feel like I can start my life as an independent young person earning my own money and progressing as the amazing employee I know that I can be.”
Josh is another Project SEARCH intern from Burnley. He embarked on the scheme after a negative experience working in a restaurant. As a result of one to one support from his employability coaches and placements in the cleaning, construction and communications teams at Calico, Josh’s confidence has increased and he’s been able to discover what roles he wants to pursue. After impressing with his willingness to learn and strong social skills, Josh was pleased to start temporary paid work with a cleaning agency following the onset of the pandemic and is now confident he’ll be able to secure a permanent role soon.
Bryony Dolby, a Programme Coordinator at Hft, oversees the nine Project SEARCH schemes operating across the country, which have supported over 50 people with learning disabilities to start their journey towards employment in the last year.
She said schemes like Project SEARCH are vital in supporting people with learning disabilities to find work:
“Nationally, only around 6% of adults with learning disabilities are in paid employment. For graduates of Project SEARCH programmes, that number rises to between 60 to 70%, which is why Hft is passionate about our involvement in the scheme.
“Being immersed within a host business, learning the culture of the organisation, and being surrounded by colleagues on a daily basis offers a really solid learning opportunity for interns to prepare them for the world of paid employment. Our employability coaches are there for interns from the moment they start the programme until they find that all-important first job, and during their employment – from providing support learning a new task to completing training and adapting to changes in the workplace. With their support, Josh, Tom and many more of our interns will be embarking on their careers this year. We couldn’t be prouder of their achievements.”
To find out more about supported employment at Hft, please visit: www.hft.org.uk/our-services/empowering-individuals/supported-employment/