Alumni Network

Calling all Project SEARCH Interns who have graduated since 2013!

We are setting up an Alumni Network for Project SEARCH Interns to keep in touch, share progress and come together for social events.  We will be formally launching the Network at our birthday party in August and if you would like to join us, please email Rebekah Sutherland or send us a message via our Facebook page or LinkedIn.

May 2023

Previous News

January 2023

Project SEARCH featured in the Universities Scotland campaign showcasing the contribution universities make to the Scottish economy which launched in the Scottish Parliament on 31 January 2023.  To read our case study and learn more about the journey one of interns took from intern to full-time employee, click here.

October 2022

The DFN Project SEARCH University of Aberdeen team have received national recognition for their success in supporting young people with a learning disability into employment.  The programme’s success rate was in the top 10% of all the 120 DFN Project SEARCH sites across the UK, Ireland and Iberia in Session 2020/21.

At the Annual DFN Project SEARCH Conference 2022 in Rotherham, the team was presented with 2 Outcomes Awards from David Forbes-Nixon OBE (Executive Chair of the David Forbes-Nixon Charitable Foundation/DFN Project SEARCH) and Erin Riehle & Susie Rutkowski (Senior Co-Directors, Project SEARCH USA).

The Outcome Awards showcase the programme’s success in securing jobs for more than 70% of our Interns who graduated in June 2021 and who are now in work in a variety of organisations across the North-East of Scotland.

Claire Cookson, Chief Executive Officer of the DFN Foundation/Project SEARCH, said: “At DFN Project SEARCH we believe all deserving young adults should have the opportunity to access a high-quality supported internship, and so I want to congratulate the University of Aberdeen for their remarkable work and success in supporting young adults with a learning disability into employment.”

The team are also celebrating successful outcomes for several Interns who completed the programme in June 2022 and have already started their careers in a diverse range of roles including Apprentice Groundskeeper, Catering Assistant, Customer Service Assistant and Butcher Assistant.

Interns with Outcomes Award TrophyOn-site team with Outcomes Award Trophy

Award Ceremony Presentation

October 2022

July 2022

DFN Project SEARCH celebrates annual Graduation ceremony

A project which aims to increase the number of people with learning disabilities securing employment held its annual graduation ceremony at the University of Aberdeen last week.  The event was particularly special as it was the first ‘in-person’ ceremony that was able to take place on campus since 2019.

The ceremony celebrated the achievements of the eighth cohort of interns 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.

George Boyne, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, who presented the Interns with their graduation certificates, said: “For everyone at the University, working with colleagues and interns on the DFN Project SEARCH initiative is a truly inspirational experience. The interns are excellent role models for young people who are seeking to develop their independence and watching their progress this year has been extremely rewarding as they look to embark upon fulfilling careers. I know that our dedicated team and the young graduates will ensure that Project SEARCH continues to shine as a beacon of good practice and successful collaboration far beyond those of us who had the privilege of attending this year's graduation ceremony.”

Neil Cowie, Principal, who represented North East Scotland College (where Interns are registered students), said: “North East Scotland College is privileged to be involved in Project SEARCH at the University of Aberdeen and to play an important part in the development of this fantastic group of young people.  I know from talking to employers that these interns have made a significant contribution in their placements and I am confident they will take that same enthusiasm and energy into the world of work.  I wish them every success in their futures”.

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.  Norma Curran, Chief Executive, said: “Everyone at VIAS is hugely proud of the achievements of this year's interns. 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”.

One of the highlights of the event was the premiere of a video collage, entitled “The Project SEARCH Year” which was made by the Interns to showcase their progress and achievements during the programme.

In closing the ceremony, Annie Still delivered a heartfelt vote of thanks to all members of the team on behalf of the graduating Interns.

04 July 2022

June 2022

Graduate Success Stories

The success of 3 of our Project SEARCH graduates featured in an article in the Press & Journal -

'I overcame my anxiety and now I have a full-time job' -  Aberdeen teenager hails programme for young adults with learning disabilities (

June 2022
March 2022

National DFN Project SEARCH Recruitment Campaign

We are proud to be supporting the national DFN Project SEARCH campaign to promote programmes like ours across the UK. To read the press release, please click here.

We are recruiting - #Thefutureisnow

March 2022

Project SEARCH Session 2022/23

We are now receiving applications to join Project SEARCH in September 2022. For further information, please see our Recruitment Section.

New Programme Licence Holder

DFN Project SEARCH, a leading charity supporting young people with learning disabilities and autism to move into work, has announced that Values Into Action Scotland (VIAS) will be the new license holder for its prestigious University of Aberdeen programme.

VIAS will be providing the Job Coaching support for the programme, working alongside the education provider North East Scotland College to support interns through three term-long  rotations during their internship year.  In addition to the 1-2-1 Job Coaching to DFN Project SEARCH interns, VIAS will also work with the partners to secure employment opportunities for the interns of the programme both inside and outside of the University to meet the students’ aspirations.

Click here for further information.

DFN Project SEARCH Graduates are Frontline Heroes

Aiden Hutchison and Emma DuguidTwo former DFN Project Search interns have been working as frontline heroes since graduating from the programme.

Aiden Hutchison has been working as a Kitchen Assistant through ASA Recruitment and is pictured at Kingswood Care Home where he has been helping to prepare meals for residents, which he then delivers to their rooms, complying with current regulatory guidelines for Covid -19.

Emma Duguid is a Domestic Assistant for Aberdeenshire Council at Bennachie View Care Home. Emma has been performing a crucial role – cleaning and deep cleaning residents’ rooms, corridors, windows and all the touch surfaces in the home.

Aiden and Emma have both had to adapt to the new ways of working including wearing PPE – they really are our very own frontline heroes.

DFN Project | SEARCH logo



At the Annual DFN Project SEARCH Conference 2022 in Rotherham, the team was presented with 2 Outcomes Awards from David Forbes-Nixon OBE (Executive Chair of the David Forbes-Nixon Charitable Foundation/DFN Project SEARCH) and Erin Riehle & Susie Rutkowski (Senior Co-Directors, Project SEARCH USA).

The Outcome Awards showcase the programme’s success in securing jobs for more than 70% of our Interns who graduated in June 2021 and who are now in work in a variety of organisations across the North-East of Scotland.



Gold Accreditation for Project SEARCH

The Project SEARCH University of Aberdeen team is the first organisation in the North East of Scotland to be awarded Developing Young Workforce Quality Assurance accreditation at gold level.



Project SEARCH International Conference, Arizona, USA

The project was named as achieving the highest employment rate of all Project SEARCH sites in Europe for session 2013/14.



Green Gown Awards 2014

The project was shortlisted as a finalist in the prestigious national Green Gown Awards 2014, which recognise exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges across the UK.


Project SEARCH European Conference

Project SEARCH Aberdeen was named as the foremost ‘up and coming’ new Project SEARCH site in Europe at the European Conference which took place in Glasgow in June 2014.

Project Search - group photo

Aberdeen City Council Children's and Young People's Services Awards

The project received the 'Raising Achievement' Award at the Aberdeen Children's and Young People's Services Awards in June 2014 in recognition of work to raise achievement and support integrated working within the city.

Project Search - group photo



North East Scotland College Student Achievement Awards

Five Interns were nominated to receive a Student Achievement Award through the North East Scotland College, of which two were successful. These Awards are intended to recognise students who have overcome adversity and/or who have shown outstanding innovation in their approach to their studies and work.

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December 2013

SURF Award

In December 2013, the Project SEARCH programme within Scotland (including the Aberdeen programme) won a SURF Award. SURF is Scotland’s independent regeneration network, with an overall objective to improve the health and wellbeing of residents in Scotland’s disadvantaged communities. Each year, a competition is run to highlight, celebrate and share some of the best examples of regeneration initiatives across Scotland. Project SEARCH was recognised in the Support to Work category.

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