Progress Housing Group along with Hft, DFN Project SEARCH, Runshaw College, Lancashire County Council and South Ribble Borough Council, have formed a partnership to give local young people living with learning disabilities and autism vital work experience within Progress Housing Group to help them to secure meaningful employment.

Earlier this week, we held a launch event to celebrate the start of the Project Search programme in South Ribble and welcome the first interns. The Mayor of South Ribble, Councillor Jane Bell, opened the event and presented the interns with their new work passes.

The Project SEARCH programme will see ten interns from South Ribble, aged 19 to 21, working across various roles within Progress Housing Group from next week (Monday 4 October 2021).

DFN Project SEARCH is an international charity that aims to get 10,000 young adults with learning difficulties and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade. The charity's pioneering programme combines classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on skills training.

Over 1,480 young people with learning disabilities and autism have already graduated from the programme and gone on to secure full-time paid employment in the UK.

DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said: "We are very proud to be launching our programme here in South Ribble with our new partners.

"We are delighted that the Mayor of South Ribble could welcome our first cohort of interns who are at the very start of their DFN Project SEARCH journey to obtain valuable work experience that will help transform their lives."

Jacqui De-Rose, Group Chief Executive for Progress Housing Group, said: "We're all very excited to welcome these fantastic young people to Progress Housing Group 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 own contribution to help address that."

Mayor of South Ribble, Cllr Jane Bell, said: "We're very honoured to welcome these young people to South Ribble's Civic Centre to embark on their careers.

"It's very important that everyone should be able to have equal opportunities when it comes to the workplace, and I'm thrilled that South Ribble Borough Council can work with the DFN Project SEARCH programme and partners to help support people with learning difficulties and autism in our community. "I wish all of our interns the very best of luck on their programme, and I look forward to seeing their careers flourish."

Andrew Horner, Divisional Director Hft, said: "Hft are proud to be expanding our support to young adults with learning disabilities and autism into this exciting new programme. Our Employability Coach will work with the fantastic cohort of interns alongside our dedicated new partners, supporting them to gain valuable skills and experience during their time working with Progress Housing Group. We are eager to see the interns begin their first roles and start their journeys towards paid employment."

Iain Calderbank, Special Educational Needs and Disability Team Manager, Lancashire County Council, said: "The Local Authority SEND team always take great pride in helping children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities to achieve their full potential. This collaborative multi-agency project, which has been designed with full commitment from all partners, will ensure that the supported interns have the support foundations in place to be able to build towards their future aspirations. We look forward to watching these young people on their journey and would like to wish them the best of luck. 

Matt Barr, Assistant Principal, Runshaw College, said: "At Runshaw College, we believe that education changes lives and we aim to provide our students with the best opportunities to progress into further or higher education, training or employment once they complete their main course with us. Being part of the Supported Internship programme allows us to provide an amazing opportunity for our students to work within a key local organisation and to develop vital employability skills and competencies in order to be successful.

"It is a real privilege to be part of this programme. We are all immensely proud of the interns and are excited to see them progress and develop and to be successful in securing lifelong employment."

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

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