DFN Project SEARCH celebrates graduation ceremony

DFN Project SEARCH celebrates graduation ceremony

A project which aims to increase the number of people with learning disabilities securing employment held its graduation ceremony at the University of Aberdeen last week.

The ceremony celebrated the achievements of the class of 2023/24 who graduated from the DFN Project SEARCH programme - a collaborative project which provides real-life work experience, combined with training in employability and independent-living skills, to young people with learning disabilities and/or autistic spectrum conditions who want to go on to find paid employment.

Tracey Slaven, University Secretary and Chief Operating Officer at the University of Aberdeen presented the interns with their graduation certificates.

She said: “We are delighted to have hosted this unique programme on our campus for 11 years. Graduation ceremonies are always special and the Project SEARCH event is a proud moment not only for the families of the graduating interns, but for all our colleagues in the University and beyond who have supported them during their journey.

"Our graduating interns are wonderful ambassadors for young people in the workplace who can champion neurodiversity. Our ceremony reflects how Project SEARCH is instrumental in paving the way for change beyond education and the workplace and into society more generally.”

Neil Cowie, Principal of North East Scotland College where the interns are registered students, said: “Our graduates can look back on their time with Project SEARCH with enormous pride. It’s a major milestone and one which sets every individual on an exciting path. The dedication each individual has shown and the talent and energy demonstrated in so many different ways during the programme provides a tremendous platform to thrive in work and in life.

"Celebrating the achievements of the interns is always a highlight of the year for all connected with NESCol and our valued Project SEARCH partners. What I enjoy even more is hearing about what happens next, where the hard work and skills that have been built lead to. With Project SEARCH those stories never fail to inspire and we are very grateful for all that the interns have brought to the programme and to everyone who has played their part in supporting the class of 2024.”

The ceremony also included contributions from the co-chairs of Values Into Action Scotland (VIAS), which holds the licence to operate the DFN Project SEARCH programme in Aberdeen.

Chief executive Norma Curran said: “Everyone at VIAS is hugely proud of the achievements of this year's interns. Their growth as individuals and as role models has been inspirational. We are excited to see their next steps and wish them all well for a bright future. We are grateful to our partners at DFN Project SEARCH University of Aberdeen for making all of this possible for this inspirational group of young people."

Highlights from the ceremony included contributions from graduating interns Lewis Pickering, Rebecca Thomson, Jamie Maciver and Katie Anderton and the premiere of two videos showcasing the achievements of interns past and present.   

Thanks were extended to the on-site team and to the representatives of all organisations which had supported the programme during the year, including funders (Aberdeenshire Council and Shell UK Ltd) and several local businesses who had generously provided sponsorship and/or external placement opportunities.

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