A programme which aims to get students with learning difficulties or disabilities into work, is shaping up to be a success at the Eastbourne DGH, writes Bex Bastable.
Project SEARCH is a programme run by Sussex Downs College, the East Sussex NHS Trust and East Sussex County Council to help young people get into work.
It started in September with a group of 11 students, who work in different non-clinical areas of the hospital.
The jobs range from working at reception, sorting the post, catering, working in decontamination and even sorting health records.
The students got off to a flying start, and completed their first ‘rotation’ at the hospital. Now the interns are trying their hand at a second job at the DGH, as they figure out what kind of job they would like to do.
One student, Toby Sedar, is hoping to work in his local Waitrose store. Leaders at Project SEARCH have been in touch with the store to see how they can get Toby some experience and after talks with the manger, they are hoping he will do his final ‘rotation’ there after Easter.
Toby, 23, who is currently working in the catering department, said his time on the course has been beneficial.
“I have improved my catering skills, working with a team and I am more confident,” he said.
Roshanne Richards, 19, is working in decontamination. She said, “When I first heard about the course I thought that is going to be something worth doing. It will help me get a job.”
Liam Bray, 20, said, “I am on the outpatient reception. I started the course to get some new skills and giving me a better chance in getting a job. It would be great if I did get a job at the end of the course.”
Other students include Gemma Rawlings, 22, Joe Bettesworth, 21, and Daniel Rossetti, 22, who are working in housekeeping in different departments.
Macaulay Cassidy, 19, is working in the portering department, and Andrew Walker, 21, is working in post.
Adam Moors, 23, is working in pathology stores, Alex Frame, 21, is interning in occupational therapy, and Oscar Landauer, 21, is working in the health records department.
The interns each have a mentor, and a job coach, who can help to support the students. Sarah Davies, programme coordinator said, “A lot of the mentors are picked as they know their jobs very well. A lot of people here at the hospital have worked here for years, they love their jobs. It is a nice opportunity for them to share their skills and experience.”
Building up skills and the confidence of the young people is a vital part of the programme. But of course, they want to get them jobs at the end of it. Sarah said, “Many of our students have the skills an employer is looking for and will prove to be very hard working, punctual, good employees.
“They just need the opportunity and support to find employers who’ll give them the chance to prove they can make a valuable contribution in the work place. We are hoping to find local employers who are recruiting and who would consider following the lead of the Trust. Some of the interns have never been asked before what they want to do when they grow up as there has always been an expectation they would not work. Now we are having those conversations.
“So now we are looking for jobs.”
Serena Strong, who works in adult social care at East Sussex County Council, said, “We’re hoping that some people might get jobs within the hospital, but the skills they are learning are going to be transferable. For me it is knowing what these guys are capable of. It is giving them a chance to show it. Often they can’t go down the regular route, but we know we have got all these skills and they are given time to display them. It is very exciting.” The benefits of the project are clear for the interns and their families, and for some it has given them a real boost.
Jeanette Williams, from the East Sussex NHS Trust, said, “One parent said her daughter is so much more confident and she’s only been on the programme since September. The families and parents are very involved. That is quite unique.”
As Project SEARCH reaches the halfway point, programme leaders are urging local businesses to get involved, whether they are big or small, by considering recruiting one of the interns. To find out more, or if you think you can offer an intern a job, call Sarah Davies on 01323 435602.