Young disabled people have told of their hopes for the future as they graduated from a pioneering intern program in Edinburgh.
A total of 22 young adults have just completed the ten-month course which boasts a 93 per cent success rate for finding meaningful employment for those taking part.
The employability programme for young people with disabilities, run by the city council, NHS Lothian, Edinburgh College and charity Into Work, aims to secure long term, meaningful employment for disabled youth in Edinburgh.
Ryan Fullerton, 25, from Bathgate, has autism and left school at 13 because he felt too anxious to continue.
He said: “I applied for Edinburgh Project SEARCH and got accepted but I wasn’t excited about it. I felt like it was the only thing I could do, but after a few weeks it got really good. I didn’t think I would like being in a classroom but it’s been my favourite part.”
Ryan is currently finishing an internship with the Operations department at the Assembly Rooms on George Street and has wowed them so much that he has just received a job offer for the festival period.
Dione Greenhill, 20, from Gilmerton, who has ADHD and is care experienced, is enjoying working in catering in the kitchen at Western General.
She said: “I didn’t think the project was for me, I’ve never had a job before and I didn’t think I’d get one. When my manager told me I got the job I was so happy.”
Keith Preston, 22, from Bonnyrigg, has learning difficulties, which made school hard for him. He said: “I was very shy at school. I didn’t have many friends because I struggled to communicate. I went to college but dropped out because I was really struggling with anxiety.
“I was applying for jobs but didn’t get any, I felt really trapped, like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Then I got Edinburgh Project SEARCH.”
Keith has been working maintaining mobility equipment at the council. Keith explained that his disability can make it hard to put things together but with help he found he had “a real knack for it”.
“I wouldn’t have tried before, because I didn’t think I could do it,” he said.
Cllr Kate Campbell, Housing and Economy Convener, said: “It’s really important that we mark the achievements of these amazing young people. Listening to their experience of the placements makes it so clear just how valuable this project is.”
Hosting the event was Yiorgos Perris, 23, from South Queensferry who has autism and completed the programme last year. He is now working in administration.
He said: “The programme changed my life, I wouldn’t be where I am without it.
“The people I work with are really nice to me and we have good banter. They don’t treat me differently.
“I love payday, I can save up and buy what I want. I bought Marvel merchandise with my first paycheck.”