DFN Project SEARCH launches the first National Supported Internship day

DFN Project SEARCH is launching the first ever National Supported Internship day to raise awareness of the positive impact that supported internships have. Monday 27 March marks the inaugural celebration, which aims to further their ambition to support over 10,000 people into paid employment by 2030.

DFN Project SEARCH is a charity that enables young adults with additional learning needs (ALN), autism or both to receive onsite training and work experience. Their one-year programme helps people gain valuable skills and increase their chances of gaining paid employment.

Bridgend College has been working alongside both DFN Project SEARCH and the charity Hft for several years and is committed to providing all its students with the best opportunities possible. As part of the programme, the College works closely with two host businesses: the Princess of Wales Hospital and phs Group. These businesses offer students a variety of roles and employment experiences to help them develop their skills and inform their future career paths.

With its head office based in Caerphilly, phs Group has been well-placed to offer Bridgend College students a taste of what it’s like to work in an office environment. Having commenced their partnership in 2021, phs Group have committed to supporting interns for the past two years and are looking forward to welcoming the next cohort of eight students this September.

Lloyd Flahive, a graduate of Bridgend College and DFN Project SEARCH, was offered a full-time job with phs Group part way through his internship with the organisation. Now a Purchase Order Administrator, Lloyd thoroughly enjoyed his time as an intern and credits the scheme with developing his confidence, financial management and independence. Both he and his parents are overjoyed by the positive impact that the programme has had on his overall wellbeing and career trajectory.

“If you don’t really know what you want to do or you want help to get a job, I would definitely recommend this course. Not only will you learn the skills you need but it will also help you make new friends.”

Lloyd Flahive

Rhyannon Burt, a current Customer Service intern with phs Group referred by Bridgend College, admits that although she found the referral process simple enough, the personal decision to partake in the programme was not so clear cut.

“If I ever could go back to my past self, I would say that this is the best decision I could make,” she says, having overcome social anxiety to take part. Now several months into the programme, Rhyannon says that the internship scheme has helped her decide what kind of job roles she wants and demonstrated ways to best enhance her skill set. It has also helped her develop important life skills, such as how to dress in a work environment.

Rhyannon encourages other young adults with ALN and autism to consider taking part in a DFN Project SEARCH-supported internship. Her advice would be to “treat [the opportunity] properly and to put your best foot forward. Put all your effort into it because this is not just for phs or anything else, it is for you and your future.”

Julie Harries, the Work-Based Learning Lead for phs Group, says that working with Project SEARCH interns is her favourite aspect of the job. Being able to watch the progression of each intern, from day one to the graduation ceremony each June, is the ultimate reward. Through DFN Project SEARCH, phs Group are able to help interns recognise their progress and achievements over an academic year, with many going on to achieve full-time employment.

Furthermore, Julie acknowledges the positive impact that DFN Project SEARCH has had on the organisation as a whole and encourages other businesses to open their doors to the programme.

“It has been extremely beneficial. I think the interns have settled in so well. I’d say we have a couple of hundred people based in Caerphilly and most of them know the interns by face and name now… We’ve done a lot of promotion around neurodiversity internally and we’ve asked our staff to complete neurodiversity training, and I think [the programme] has just really opened our eyes to the capabilities of people with different learning needs.”

Julie Harries

To see how Bridgend College can support you and help kickstart your career, visit our Additional Learning Support page. You can also learn more about DFN Project SEARCH and how you can get involved, by visiting www.dfnprojectsearch.org.

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