Inspiring Change…inspiring lives!
Project SEARCH at The Royal Berkshire Hospital started in 2012 and was the first of its kind to be launched in the region. We decided to buy the Project SEARCH fidelity license to run the programme back in 2011 as it was clear to us that the traditional routes our students were taking when they left school, , weren’t leading to employment. Little did we know when we embarked on this journey how large and impact we would be having on the lives of those on the programme nor the impact that it would have on the local community.
Project SEARCH is a yearlong programme for students in their final year at Brookfields School and Reading College which provides training and education leading to employment for those who have expressed a desire and commitment to work.
Project SEARCH involves a transformational partnership between a host business, an education provider and a supported employment organisation. Through this unique partnership between Brookfields School, Reading College, Ways into Work (The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead) and The Royal Berkshire Hospital, our students have been able to acquire necessary skills leading to competitive employment.
In year one, (2012) 72% of the graduates attained employment, which is well above the average success rate of most Project SEARCH sites. We have just reached the end of our second year and currently, 40% of graduates have gained employment and and it is likely that a further 30% will be employed on the next few weeks. The departments in which the graduates are now employed are Endoscopy, Renal, Portering, Medical Records, Berkshire Cancer Centre, Theatres, Medical Devices and Clinical Quality Improvement.
Our high achieving Project SEARCH programme has recently been recognised at the European Project SEARCH conference held in Glasgow for our ‘excellent employment outcomes’. Of the 35 Project SEARCH sites in the UK, we were 1 of only 5 to have achieved this outstanding success!
Amy Gillam (Project SEARCH Manager) and Brandon Mills (Deputy Head) were invited by Project SEARCH USA to join the international Project SEARCH conference at the end of term held in Omaha. This was an amazing experience were they were able to learn more about Project SEARCH, exchange ideas, thoughts and approaches. Our programme was recognized yet again for our excellent employment outcomes by receiving another award, but this time of the international stage in front of 560 delegates from around the world. Brandon and Amy have been invited by Project SEARCH to attend next year’s international conference to run 3 workshops for delegates.
The cornerstone for our success is the total immersion of the students in a working environment. Each day, students report to The Royal Berkshire Hospital, learn employability skills in the classroom and job skills while participating in 3 internships at the hospital during the year. Some of the 45 departments within the hospital which have signed up offer internships to students include Renal, Endoscopy, League of Friends shop, Orthotics, portering, Logistics, Pathology, Catering, Medical Records and Clinical Coding.
Department Managers and Mentors at the hospital work with Amy, the Job Coach and Mel Thorne (Reading College Tutor) to ensure that every student learns new skills, knowledge and a professional attitude to enable them to succeed when applying for jobs. The students and the team review skills regularly to ensure skills are being layered and in line with gaining employment.
The ultimate goal upon programme completion is to gain competitive employment, whether that be in the hospital or elsewhere, utilising the skills learned on the internships and throughout the programme.
Benefits of Project SEARCH
There are many benefits of participating in Project SEARCH. Students have acquired competitive, transferable and marketable job skills as well as gain increased independence, confidence, and self-esteem. As the host employer, The Royal Berkshire Hospital has gained interns/employees with disabilities who serve as a role model for patients, families as well as other employees, which is well-reflected in satisfaction surveys. Project SEARCH has also impacted on performance of teams at the hospital as retention in some high-turnover or hard-to-fill posts has increased dramatically.
Resent research shows that:
• 1: 20 children in UK disabled
• 6.7 million disabled people in UK are of working age – 50% in work compared to 80% non-disabled people
• 1.3 million disabled people in UK want to work but don’t
• 65% adults with learning difficulties want a paid job but only 10% do
• 25% disabled adults have no qualifications compared to 9% non-disabled people
• Average hourly rate for disabled people 10% lower than non-disabled peers
• If the unemployment rates were the same for disabled and non-disabled people it would lift the UK economy by £13 billion
Project SEARCH is about changing these statistics in a small and personalised way.
Project SEARCH has already had a profound impact, not only on the lives of the students and their families, the people who work at the hospital but also the patients and their families.
Brandon said: “It became increasingly clear to me that the existing routes for young people with learning difficulties and special needs simply weren’t leading to employment. The introduction of Project SEARCH to the area is challenging not only people’s perceptions about people with learning difficulties being able to work but also challenged families’ expectations of their children being able to succeed at a work environment. The young people themselves are now doing things that they could never have imagined – travelling on their own, being independent, being solely responsible for completing tasks that others rely on, being part of a work force, having equality in the work place as their colleagues. In short, going to work.”
Steph Hayward (Head of Learning and Development, The Royal Berkshire Hospital) has said, “There are many benefits of participating in Project SEARCH. Students have acquired competitive, transferable and marketable job skills as well as gain increased independence, confidence, and self-esteem. As the host employer, the Royal Berkshire Hospital has gained interns/employees with disabilities who serve as a role model for patients and service users. The Project has also impacted on performance of teams at the hospital as retention in some high-turnover or hard to fill posts has increased dramatically.”
Irene Neill (West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Education) has applauded the scheme. “Project SEARCH is skilfully put together to enhance the skill base of the individual. This transition helps young people with learning difficulties disabilities who have expressed a desire and commitment to work to make their final year of education really count towards entering their chosen field of work.”
The introduction of Project SEARCH to the area is challenging people’s perceptions about people with learning difficulties being able to work. It has challenged families’ expectations of their children being able to succeed in a work environment. It has challenged the young people themselves who are now doing things that they could never have imagined – travelling on their own, being independent, being solely responsible for completing tasks that others rely on, being part of a work force, having equality in the work place as their colleagues….going to work.
Patients and their families have commented on the Project SEARCH students – for example, the sensitivity and help that one of the students showed towards a patent who had fainted.
When asked at interview why one of the students wanted to come on Project SEARCH, he simply said…. “It will change my life”. It has changed his life, forever.
If you would like to find out more about Project SEARCH, please contact Brandon Mills on 0118 9421382 or email [email protected]