Bright young graduates from across Renfrewshire have successfully completed an employability programme.
And now, local businesses are being encouraged to give the students a chance to succeed in their workplaces.
A total of 12 young people took part in the fourth cohort of Project SEARCH – a workplace-focused employability programme for students who have learning disabilities and/or autism.
Graduates are now looking to link up with businesses to secure employment. A total of 11 students graduated, with one student already gaining employment within a local hotel before the end of the programme.
The Renfrewshire programme is a partnership between Renfrewshire Council and Glasgow Clyde College, with students completing work placements in a wide variety of roles across the Council and in local businesses.
The Council has now set up a Project SEARCH Business Advisory Committee to encourage businesses to get involved.
Committee member Hugh O’Neill, Technical Director at Weee Solutions Ltd – a waste management company which specialises in electronic waste – is a Project SEARCH advocate and encourages local businesses to employ people with additional support needs.
Hugh initially took on Project SEARCH graduate Ross McCreadie for 12 weeks in 2018 before offering him a full-time post – and has provided a work experience programme for one of this year’s graduates.
Hugh said: “Ross was a great road into the programme for us and is now a permanent member of the team. There’s nothing he can’t do, other than operate a forklift.
“We had the confidence to take someone on and it has worked out really well for us.
“On the Business Advisory Committee, we consider businesses which would be a good fit for Project SEARCH students. We’re looking from the outside in, giving our thoughts and ideas.
“Some companies may be nervous about taking on someone with additional support needs, but it works. It’s beneficial to both parties.”
In the 2018/2019 programme, students worked in business in sectors including administration, recycling, hospitality and leisure.
Renfrewshire Council Leader Iain Nicolson said: “Project SEARCH is a great route into the workplace for young people of all abilities, and equips students with transferrable skills they can use in all areas of life.
“Each young person works with a team that includes their family, college lecturer and job coach to create an employment goal, and this helps them move into the world of work.
“The experience they gain, and the skills they develop, will be invaluable in life, as well as in their careers.
“Everyone who took part should be very proud of their achievements.”
Project SEARCH has been running in the USA for almost 20 years, and now more than 30 programmes in the UK are helping young people with learning disabilities gain employment in their local area.
In its first four years in Renfrewshire, Project SEARCH has provided more than 130 different placements, with each student taking on up to 600 hours of work experience.
More than 60 percent of graduates have secured employment, and more than 80 percent have remained in employment for more than 12 months.
To find out more about Project SEARCH, or to discuss joining our Business Advisory Committee call the team on 0141 618 7296, or visit www.investinrenfrewshire.com.
Photo: Front row, left to right: Alastair Wylie; Michael McMorrow; Sean Forbes; Victoria Quinn; Scott Hutcheson; Andrew Mcsorley. Back row, left to right: Rehan Shafiq (Project SEARCH graduate); Ian Stewart ( Project SEARCH job coach); James McGuire (Renfrewshire Leisure co-production officer); Ryan Cooper (Project SEARCH graduate); Sandra Wright (Project SEARCH lecturer); Claire McGarrigle (Project SEARCH job coach); Kirsty McCallum (Project SEARCH graduate); Michael Moran (economic development assistant manager)