Recently I had the joyful task of attending the Edinburgh Project SEARCH Intern Graduation Awards event. Edinburgh Project SEARCH is a programme for young people in Edinburgh aged 16 to 24 who have additional support needs and are seeking employment.
The project sees them complete three full-time internships over a nine-month period doing real work in real workplaces. As the host employers, The City of Edinburgh Council and NHS Lothian provide the work placements while Edinburgh College and Intowork provide the young people with the day to day training and job coaching.
I describe attending their event as joyful because that is exactly how I felt seeing these young people complete their internship, with some of them already having gained employment within their placements before the nine months were completed.
The joy is knowing the programme works when you consider the challenges these young people, who have additional needs, would face going through a competitive interview process. It is fantastic to see them blossom from training courses rather than being stuck at home. This way they are becoming young workers contributing to society and enriching their lives as well as those of the employees working alongside them.
So far City of Edinburgh Council and NHS Lothian have provided the placements but we need other companies, large or small, to get on board. Whilst there are hurdles to overcome in providing placements for these young people the “project team” fully support both the young people and the employer.
This is not about work experience as many employers will be familiar, where school students come in to a workplace for a week, this is properly preparing young men and women who already deal with challenges to change their lives, hopefully forever, by finding employment.
I can promise that any company that takes part will benefit from it. They and their staff will quickly recognise the valuable contribution these young people can make if given the right opportunity. They will be able to say that their workforce truly reflects the society they serve and that they recognise the wider social responsibility required to enrich it.
I found attending the Edinburgh Project SEARCH awards night intensely emotional. Whilst making the closing remarks I could clearly see tears of joy and pride being shed by the mums, dads and wider family members who had been invited along to celebrate the occasion.
If you represent or run a company that might get involved in Edinburgh Project SEARCH please get in touch with me. I will be delighted to connect you with our team and perhaps you or your company and will do something really special and change the lives of some young people for the better. You won’t regret it.
Councillor Gavin Barrie is convener of the housing and economy committee at Edinburgh City Council. includes matters of employability. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org