St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Hammersmith and Fulham Action on Disability (HAFAD) have teamed up to give students with learning disabilities of Cricket Green School in Mitcham the chance to gain valuable work experience.

The trust and the school have been running the Project SEARCH scheme in collaboration with HAFAD and Merton Council since November 2012. The Project SEARCH scheme helps people with moderate or severe learning difficulties experience employment, providing a series of work placements at a host organisation.

Students have been working across different departments at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, including estates and facilities, cardiothoracic outpatients and hospital records. Many are now working on their second placement within the hospital, allowing them to learn and master competitive work skills.

19 year old Reece Edwards from Croydon is one of the students who have taken part in the scheme, working in the catering department. He said: “”My first placement was washing up the plates and cups and making sure they were cleaned well. I really enjoyed this, but once I had learnt how to do this I wanted to move.

“Now I work on the serving line in the hospital restaurant. I found it hard to get the portion sizes right at first but I know them now and I like working in a team and giving good customer service.”

Reece has impressed his mentors so much that he was given the chance to earn a Food Safety certificate, and has recently passed his Level 2 qualification.

Emily Steltzer, Project SEARCH job coach, said: “Training programmes like Project SEARCH are so successful because they are a unique collaboration between an education provider, a service organisation and a business that provides real work experience for students to build their confidence and ensure they gain competitive and marketable skills.”

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