In a first for the UK, national learning disability charity Hft has launched a life-changing transition to employment programme which will provide adults over 25 with learning disabilities and/or autism to gain competitive, marketable skills to enter into paid work.
The DFN Project SEARCH programme is being run in partnership with ClwydAlyn and Flintshire County Council and will start in September 2022.
The pioneering project involves total workplace immersion, facilitating a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration and hands-on skills training, explains Jordan Smith, Flintshire regional manager at Hft.
“The usual pathways for funding a DFN Project SEARCH programme are via a programme of education which is usually limited to individuals who are under the age of 25.
“Hft’s new programme is being run in partnership with Flintshire County Council and will allow Hft to offer the opportunity to individuals over the age of 25 for the first time,” explains Jordan.
ClwydAlyn and Flintshire County Council will provide a classroom base, access to internship opportunities and business connections in the community.
Applicants must live in Flintshire, have a learning disability and/or autism, be willing to work 16 hours a week or more and commit to a full-time, one-year programme.
The curriculum includes team building, workplace safety, presentation skills, job seeking skills, money management and employer specific skills. Internship examples include catering, administration, reception work, maintenance, construction and painting/decorating.
At the end of the one year, an employability coach will assist graduates to create a CV, apply for jobs and prepare for interviews. For those who need it, Hft’s follow-on job coach will support their transition into the workplace and help them learn their new job role.
“Hft is proud to be expanding its support to adults with learning disabilities and/or autism into this exciting new programme. We are eager to see the interns begin their first roles and start their journeys towards paid employment,” says Jordan.
At the launch of the new programme, Neil Ayling, Chief Officer for Social Services at Flintshire County Council, and Councillor Christine Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Services Flintshire, talked about their perspective around why the launch of the new ClywdAlyn programme was important, and how beneficial they believe the DFN Project SEARCH model is.
In addition, interns from each of Hft’s other Project SEARCH programmes were awarded for the progress they had made during the past academic year. Graduates who have been employed for some time also received awards in special categories, including “breaking down barriers”, “creative thinking”, “above and beyond”, “supporting others” and “biggest impact”.
Hft is no stranger to the DFN Project SEARCH project, having already supported 212 interns to graduate, 140 of whom have already found paid employment. Those who have not yet found paid employment are receiving support from Follow-on Employability Coaches via job clubs to search and apply for jobs.