College scheme to help students with disabilities into work

Date posted: 8th December 2021

A national scheme to support students with an educational health care plan into jobs is being rolled out by Furness College.

The college has developed a new supported internship programme in partnership with University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT), Cumbria County Council and the charity DFN Project Search.

From September 2022, it will provide college leavers aged 18-24 with a path to paid employment in the Trust’s Furness General Hospital.

There will be 10-12 placements available in key worker roles including administration, portering, catering, domestic services and ancillaries on the wards.

The college’s Assistant Principal for Curriculum Sue Hannan said Project Search is a unique college-to-work transition programme for students with disabilities.

“We are excited to work with our partners on this, which is the first scheme of its kind in Cumbria and the first for NHS England in the North-West,” she said.

“We are passionate about providing young people with special educational needs across Furness with the right to paid employment and career opportunities where they can make a significant contribution to their communities and to help them progress.”

The placement will be five days a week from 9am to 4pm and the interns will work with a college tutor for the first hour of each day before learning and practising essential skills in the hospital environment, supported by a job coach. They will also continue to develop literacy and numeracy skills that are required in the workplace and can work in three different areas across the academic year.

“Similar initiatives have led to a 70 per cent success rate for the intern gaining paid employment after the academic year,” said Sue. “We think this new curriculum offer will meet the needs of local young people with EHCPs who find there are limited opportunities for paid employment following education. It will build on the college’s successful Skills for Working Life programme and increase progression opportunities for young people with learning differences and disability.”

David Wilkinson, UHMBT’s Director of People & OD, said: "UHMBT is delighted to be involved with Project Search as part of our commitment to widening participation through access to work and improving the employability of people with disabilities within our local communities. 

“The Trust believes that giving its full support to programmes such as Project Search will make a positive difference in reducing disability inequality, which is a key strand in our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion approach."

DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said: “We are very proud to be launching our programme here in Furness with UMBHT at Furness General Hospital with our amazing partners at Furness College and Cumbria County Council. We are delighted that our first cohort of interns will start on their DFN Project SEARCH journey to obtain valuable work experience that will help transform their lives.

“We can’t wait to see the fantastic work they will be doing here and will have the opportunity to demonstrate how young people with autism and learning disabilities, when given the right support, can truly thrive and make a huge contribution to society.”

The college will hold an open event at the Channelside campus on 17 January from 2pm-4pm for people to find out more about supported internships. Further details are on the website or more information contact 

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