Initiative launched to help students with learning disabilities prepare for employment

An initiative that aims to increase the number of people with learning disabilities in competitive employment was launched at the University of Aberdeen today (Friday).

Project SEARCH is a collaborative project between the University, Aberdeen-based charity Inspire and Aberdeen College. The three Aberdeen partners were selected to carry out the project by the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability (SCLD) which oversees the initiative in Scotland.  The programme is also supported by Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council who have funded some of the programmes resources.

The one-year programme sees 12 Project SEARCH Interns, who are all students from Aberdeen College, spending a month in a classroom environment before embarking on work placements in various roles and departments within the University.

Project Coordinator, Kelly Ho from Inspire and Project SEARCH tutor Andrew Thomson from Aberdeen College, are delivering the project, which originated in the USA and has been rolled out in sites across England, as well are in Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Falkirk in Scotland.

Neva Haites, Vice Principal for Development at the University of Aberdeen, said: “We are delighted to be able to host this fantastic project at the University.

“I look forward to watching the progress of the team and the Interns over the next year, and hope that they find the time they spend at the University rewarding as they study to attain their vocational qualification.”

Maura Lynch, from the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability, added: “The Scottish Consortium for Learning Disabilities is delighted that Aberdeen University is the first university in the UK to run a Project SEARCH programme.

“At a time when the employment rate in the UK is improving the number of people in Scotland with a learning disability in Scotland in employment has fallen from 15.5% in 2011 to 12.9% in 2012.

“This partnership approach is a real opportunity to train with a prestigious employer and gain the skills to get a job.

“We wish the Project SEARCH partners at Aberdeen University every success in this exciting new venture.”

Anne O’Bryan, Project Search UK Programme Specialist for Europe, commented: “The Project SEARCH international team is very excited about this first university programme in the UK. The University of Aberdeen has formed an excellent partnership with Inspire, Aberdeen College, and Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Councils. We look forward to valuable learning and great results from this team.”

Rob Wallen, Principal of Aberdeen College, said: “We are delighted to be a partner in the delivery of this programme, which provides a fantastic opportunity for 12 local young people to find out what type of work appeals to them most and to develop their readiness for employment.”

Guests at the official launch took the opportunity to meet with the Interns and other members of the Project SEARCH team to view the work they have undertaken so far as part of their induction programme.