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Our Project SEARCH wins award, continues to thrive ​​​​​​​

Despite challenges presented by Covid-19, the North East London branch of DFN Project SEARCH – a collaboration between Whitefield Academy Trust and Barts NHS Trust – has got off to a flying start this term. 

Thanks to tremendous support from Whipps Cross Hospital, and the adaptability and hard work of the interns and job coaches, the Project has recruited a full set of interns and is one of the few in the UK which is still running a full programme.  At the same time Whipps Cross Hospital has received an award from DFN Project SEARCH nationally for achieving excellence and achieving employment outcomes of over 70%.

Usually the Project SEARCH office, next to Whipps’ café is a hive of bustling activity, with training sessions, job coaching and one-to-one coaching. This year, however only 8 people can be in the office, so as to maintain distancing. Interns have been split into two separate ‘bubbles’, and Whipps Cross has made a second room available during the induction period as well as extending access to its hospital lecture theatre. Employability teaching sessions are being duplicated in the morning and afternoon with each group.

Interns rotate through three job placements in different hospital departments during the year-long Project SEARCH programme. This year sees midwifery added to the roster of departments that they will have the opportunity of working in.

Between March and July, interns were forced to work from home, but daily Zoom calls with their job coaches and tutors ensured that the programme kept on track and that interns retained a sense of community, routine and normality.  Job coaches and tutors used the time to cover all the employability work that could be done remotely – looking at how to create CVs, job interview techniques and building ‘job portfolios’ for each intern. 

Project manager at Whipps, Janet Wingate-Whyte (Project) says that the Project returned to Whipps in July, they were “made to feel really really welcome” by all the hospital staff and she praises Barts’ “absolute commitment” to the programme. Interns, she says are made to feel “part of the fabric of the hospital”.

This years interns in the Whipps Cross garden
This year's interns in the Whipps Cross Hospital garden
Alan Gurney,  Whipps Chief Executive meets the interns on their first day
Alan Gurney,  Whipps Chief Executive meets the interns on their first day 

About DFN Project SEARCH

DFN Project SEARCH provides and internship programme that provides real-word job experience, support to find full-time paid work and then subsequent support for both ex-students and employers once they are in work. If you would like to see our web site dedicated to Project SEARCH in North East London, you can find it at www.projectsearch.org.uk

Project SEARCH started in the US and spread internationally, each country may have many separate Project SEARCH operations, serving a particular region. In the UK its work is coordinated by the DFN Charitable Foundation. You can find the DFN Project SEARCH website here.

Since 2013 Whitefield has run the DFN Project SEARCH programme in North East London in partnership with Barts Health NHS Trust. SEARCH's training and job placement offers an unparalleled success rate, and in 5 of the last 6 years over 70% of students who complete placements moving into full-time work. The programme has proven so successful that it now takes special needs students from many other schools.