A new life-changing transition to employment programme for young people with learning disabilities and autism, has just launched in Rotherham with the South Yorkshire and Integrated Care System (ICS) and Rotherham Local Authority.

DFN Project SEARCH is a transition to work programme for students with learning disabilities and autism with ambitions to get 10,000 young adults with learning disabilities and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade.

The pioneering programme involves total workplace immersion at its very best, facilitating a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on skills training.

Over 1,600 young people with learning disabilities and autism have now graduated with over 1,475 interns securing full-time paid employment through DFN Project SEARCH programmes in the UK. Typically, 70% of interns secure employment against the national average of just 5.6%.

South Yorkshire ICS Workforce Hub, DFN Project SEARCH, Rotherham opportunities College (ROC), and Rotherham Council have formed a collaborative partnership to give young people in the area with learning disabilities and autism vital work-based learning opportunities within South Yorkshire ICS, to help them to secure meaningful paid employment.

The DFN Project SEARCH programme includes 8 young adults aged 18-24, from the Rotherham Area. The individuals will be learning competitive and transferable skills for a variety of roles at the South Yorkshire ICS and will receive an employability curriculum each day to develop their work-based skills.

The partnership are still recruiting potential interns for this fantastic DFN Project SEARCH opportunity and would welcome applicants with a current EHCP, aged 18-24, with a desire to begin their journey into the world of employment. For further information, contact Rotherham Opportunities College on 01709242585 or email Claire.McGeough@theroc.co.uk

In addition to South Yorkshire ICS committing to the DFN Project SEARCH partnership, this true collaboration has seen Rotherham Adult Social Care providers step up and open their doors, to provide further opportunities in the Adult Social Care Sector.

Gavin Boyle, Chief Executive, South Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB) said: “We’re all very excited to welcome these young people to our organisation and to help them develop their skills and confidence.”

“The number of young adults with learning disabilities in employment is shockingly low. I’m pleased that we will be able to make our contribution to help address that, and I really hope that some of our 8 young adults aged 18-24 will be able to find jobs with us, as well as other local employers. Reducing health inequalities is about much more than health, education and employment and a strong economy are also key factors and programmes like this are a fantastic way for individuals, organisations, and businesses to all benefit from the development of this untapped talent pool.”

Julie Day from Rotherham Local Authority said: “It’s very important that everyone should be able to have equal access when it comes to the workplace, and I’m thrilled that the Project SEARCH programme supports those young people with learning disabilities and autism to build confidence and skills to enable them to gain employment.”

“I wish all of our interns the very best of luck on their programme and I look forward to seeing their careers flourish.”

Claire McGeough, supported employment Lead from ROC said: “The Team here at ROC are delighted to be expanding our Supported Internship programme, creating opportunities for young adults with learning disabilities and/or autism to join the world of work, whilst also providing our employer partners with a fantastic new team dynamic and an untapped talent pool.”

“Working in collaboration with our committed new partners at South Yorkshire ICS, our dedicated Tutor and Job Coach will be working alongside our fantastic new cohort of interns. Together we will be supporting the Interns to gain valuable skills and experience throughout the programme.”

“We cannot wait for our new cohort to begin their journey with South Yorkshire ICS!”

Dr Perdita Mousley, Principal at Rotherham Opportunities College (ROC) said: “At the ROC we believe that education changes lives and we aim to provide our students with the best opportunities to achieve their potential and reach their aspirations. Our students make incredible progress in all areas of their learning including independence skills, qualifications and training or employment.”

“Being part of the Supported Internship programme allows the college to provide an amazing opportunity for our students to work within local organisations. Having the opportunity to learn new skills within a workplace builds the confidence of our students, increases their well-being and supports their development of fundamental skills that are valued by employers. “

“It is a real privilege to be part of this new Supported Internship programme with South Yorkshire ICS where our students can demonstrate their value in the workplace. We are extremely proud of the interns and are excited to watch them progress and develop as young adults into sustained and paid employment.”

Claire Cookson, CEO DFN Project SEARCH said: “We are very proud to be launching our programme here in Rotherham with South Yorkshire ICS and our other amazing new partners. We are delighted that our first cohort of interns will start as they are at the very beginning of their DFN Project SEARCH journey to obtain valuable work experience that will help transform their lives.”

“We can’t wait to see the fantastic work they will be doing here and have the opportunity to demonstrate how young people with autism and learning disabilities, when given the right support, can truly thrive and make a huge contribution to society.”

DFN Project SEARCH works to build a more inclusive society by helping to create much improved career opportunities for those with learning disabilities and autism through 76 operational supported internships schemes across the UK and growing.

You can learn more about DFN Project SEARCH at https://www.dfnprojectsearch.org/