Learning Example: Growing the learning from Project SEARCH
Project SEARCH first started in 2009 in a partnership between Fosseway School and the Royal United Hospital (RUH), Bath with external supported employment agencies http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/skills-and-local-employment/Ways-Into-Work/project-search
A second site started in the county a year later with Bath College as the education provider.
There are now 32 young people working at the RUH, and there is a follow-along job coach who is based at the hospital. The retention rate over five years is 87%
There was a recognition that most of the young people would need a small amount of support to enable them to remain employed, so the then-unique post of follow-along job coach was created; undoubtedly, this has had a positive impact both on new job opportunities arising and on the retention rate.
Both sites are supported by Employment Inclusion team, originally part of Sirona Care and Health (a Community Interest Company) but now part of Virgin Care.
It became clear that Project SEARCH was not suitable for young people who have autistic spectrum conditions and who are 'high functioning'; so the SEND employment grant was used in 2015 to fund the 'pre-apprenticeship' pilot scheme, targeting this group.
The pre-apprenticeship pilot was reasonably successful although it was clear that the college courses needed to be more bespoke still, with opportunities to access one-to-one and online courses tied into their career aspirations rather than typical group learning. This has now become the Supported Routes into Employment programme (SuRE), which has a staggered intake.
In order to enable young people to have access to a range of employers, the Employment Inclusion team engages with relevant local employers who provide placements where the young people spend most of the week.
There is now an established employers network where employers come together, tell each other about their experiences and offer work placements that are likely to lead to a job. In addition, there is a newly-established business advisory committee for Project SEARCH that was set up to help young interns develop their CVs and practice their communication and interview skills. The idea is that any young people who do not get offered a job with the host employer will be supported to find work elsewhere.
The Local Authority has also invested in Valued in Work where a small number of employers who have a job opening come to a full-day meeting to look at the recruitment and employment processes in operation and what can be done to make them more accessible so that people with disabilities of all types can gain work.