New scheme gives ‘invaluable’ work experience to young people with learning disabilities

26 September, 2023 3:13 pm

An NHS organisation in Harrogate has been benefitting from the hard work of Harrogate College students, as part of a new supported internship scheme.

Since last September, four interns have been given roles within Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust and Harrogate Integrated Facilities (HIF) and tasked with working in areas ranging from IT and equipment services to gardening. 

The supported internships programme supports young adults with special educational needs and disabilities to learn while gaining real employability and work skills.

The scheme is run in collaboration with DFN Project SEARCH, who provide one-year transition programmes based on their successful international model, first used in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in the USA.

In England, just 4% with a learning disability go on to secure paid employment, compared to 80% of their peers. Supported internships offer a structured transition from education to employment, offering invaluable work experience for those taking their first step into the job market.

The interns are given the opportunity to rotate through different departments, and are offered close one-to-one support from their college tutors.

Janine Stephens, SEND Internship Coordinator at Harrogate College, said: “This programme is one of the first of its kind, and we’re delighted to be involved in creating opportunities for young people who are often overlooked.

“It’s great to see the interns getting stuck into different types of work and watching their confidence grow as a result.

“I’m incredibly proud of their achievements; we’ve had some great feedback from the departments they’ve been a part of. One of our students has even managed to land himself a full-time role in sterile services.

“They are a real asset to themselves and the college.”

One of the interns, Ciaran Smith has been working with the grounds team at HIF, and believes the programme has given him the self-assurance to enter the world of work.

Ciaran said, “I have really enjoyed the challenges Project SEARCH has given me.

Ciaran’s mum Gill added, “I cannot speak highly enough of the people working on this programme. For the first time, I am looking at my son’s future with a feeling of optimism.”

To find out more about supported internships and other apprenticeship opportunities, visit: