Edinburgh Project SEARCH
Edinburgh 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 runs in partnership with Edinburgh Council, NHS Lothian, Edinburgh College and Intowork. There are currently 50 Project Search sites within the UK, one within Ireland and one within the Netherlands.
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. 2 full time Job Coaches provide on-site daily support to the interns and the departments in which they are working. The Job Coaches learn the role and assist in teaching this to the interns using Systematic Instruction, 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. As the young person becomes more independent in the role, the job coaches reduce the level of support they provide and by the end of the ten-week period the aim is that the young person is working fully independently.
The programme works with young people who have any form disability but the disabilities presented most frequently are young people on the autistic spectrum or who have a form of a learning disability.
Types of internships on offer to the young people vary but have included Park Rangers, Hospitality, Catering, Facilities Management, Business Support, School Support Assistants, Homelessness Wardens, Street Cleansing Officers, Porters, Domestic Assistants, Catering, Retail, Administration and Stores Officer.
While on the programme the young people are registered as Edinburgh College students. While this means they are unable to receive a salary while on the programme it does meant that they are able to stay on certain benefits (ESA, DLA/PIP) or apply for a college bursary. The benefit to the young people remaining students while on the programme is, in addition to funding support, they can access additional learning support and resources the college can offer that an employer may not be able to provide.
External employers include Scottish Government, Royal National Institute of Blind People, Standard Life, McDonalds, Morrisons, National Libraries of Scotland and others.
Other Positive Outcomes
The young people who complete Edinburgh Project Search report that the programme has more impact on their lives than ‘just’ moving into employment. They report increased confidence, increased independence with money, travel and living skills. It also has a positive impact on their physical and mental health.