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Yiorgos Perris pursues his career goals with Project SEARCH

Posted: 4th February 2019

Project SEARCH is an employability programme for young people with a recognised disability. Developed in Cincinnati, USA, there are now nearly 400 sites across America, Canada and Europe with more in development. Edinburgh Project Search was introduced in Edinburgh in 2014 and we now have sites within the City of Edinburgh Council and NHS Lothian.  It’s run in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, NHS Lothian, Edinburgh College and Into Work.

There are currently 50 Project Search sites within the UK as part of the DFN Foundation, and was introduced in Edinburgh in 2014.  We have two sites which are called ‘host businesses’; one within the City of Edinburgh Council’s Waverley Court and surrounding CEC premises and one within NHS Lothian’s Western General hospital.  The programme runs for a full academic year during which time the young people complete 3 full time work experience placements within the host business, gaining over 800 hours of practical work place learning while developing the skills and experience to secure meaningful employment.  Job Coaches provide on-site daily support to the interns and the departments in which they are working by learning the role and assisting in teaching this to the interns, breaking down the job and introducing a task at a time until the intern is fully competent in the role.  The interns begin and end their day in a designated training room where a full-time Tutor is based on-site to deliver a Project SEARCH curriculum and SQA Employability Award.

The young people learn the skills required for work but also learn how to be an employee.  They learn and follow the host business’s policies and procedures and are supported to learn the ‘unwritten rules’ of a work place, which many of our young people struggle with due to their disability.  They are expected to complete a real job within the organisation and, as they become more independent in the role, the job coaches reduce the level of support they provide.  By the end of the ten-week period the aim is that the young person is working fully independently. By the end of the programme the young people will have the skills and experience required to enter mainstream employment.  We would like to engage with employers who recognises the benefits of employing someone with a disability – a recent US study by Accenture has shown that companies that employed people with disabilities actually outperformed others — revenues were 28% higher, net income 200% higher, and profit margins 30% higher. Companies that improved internal practices for disability inclusion were also four times more likely to see higher total shareholder returns.

Yiorgos Perris is a 22 year-old young man who lives in South Queensferry.  He attended St Thomas of Aquins High School and, knowing he wanted to move into employment after leaving school, he completed an employability course at college.  He completed work placements as part of this course and volunteered at SAM Radio upon completion but none of this led to employment.  He then engaged with Into Work who referred him on to Edinburgh Project SEARCH.  He has now completed the programme and is secured full time employment with Amey as a business administrator.

“I graduated from “Edinburgh Project Search” and secured a job with “Amey Highways”, one of Britain’s top construction companies.  My job role is in Administration and I’m enjoying it very much. Everyone is very friendly and welcomed me with open arms. I was very open about my autism and they never treated me differently, they treated me as they would any work colleague.  Many of my peers from Edinburgh Project Search have found jobs with other employers and have settled in extremely well.

I seriously believe that we need to help business’s to be more inclusive employers and help others like me to find work.  Without the help of Edinburgh Project SEARCH I wouldn’t have found a job that I love.  It has changed my life!”

If you would like to be part of our Business Advisory Committee and/or be able to offer work placements or employment to our young people please contact vicki.lorimer@edinburgh .gov.uk / 0131 529 3139

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