Project SEARCH

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has partnered with Cricket Green School and Action on Disability to give young adults with learning difficulties the chance to gain valuable work experience, in a programme called Project SEARCH.  Project SEARCH is an international training programme aimed at supporting young people with learning difficulties into paid employment, running at 30+ sites across the UK.

What is it all about?

The Project SEARCH programme is a nine month long training and employment opportunity for adults aged 18-24 with a learning difficulty, which takes place entirely at the St George’s Hospital site. Project SEARCH provides real life work experience combined with training in employability and independent living skills, as well as formulating a CV, to help young people with learning difficulties to make successful transitions from school to productive adult life. The goal for each student is competitive employment somewhere in the community using the skills they have acquired at St George’s.

What is happening this year with Project SEARCH at St George’s?

Project SEARCH has been running at St George’s Hospital since November 2012. There are currently 6 trainees based at the hospital for one academic year, where they gain 30 weeks of placement experience in different departments in the hospital, such as medical records, medical staffing, logistics, catering, sterile services department and the post room.  The trainees are matched to their placements in terms of skill, abilities and interests, and this differs for each student. The trainees are supported by their job coach and their tutor to learn the skills required in each placement, until they can perform the tasks independently. They receive additional support from their mentors who work alongside them in each department.

The trainees also receive classroom based learning, supported by their tutor. They have been learning about social skills, employability skills and health and safety in the hospital. The trainees receive training from Mitie, a sub-contracted company within St George’s Hospital that provides soft and hard facilities management services including catering, domestic cleaning, vending and a help desk. All trainees that completed the two day Health and Safety in the Workplace course with Mitie passed and received a Level 1 qualification.

One trainee has worked in the Ingredients café with Mitie, in wash-up; collecting trays and loading them into the dishwasher and wiping tables.  She is currently working in the catering stores, preparing food for the patients and chopping food for the salads.  Through her training with Mitie, she has a Food Safety Level 1 certificate and has attended training in food allergies.  She also works in the office, preparing training packs, filing, laminating and stapling.

Another trainee has worked in the post room, sorting the mail onto the trolley in the correct order of departments, delivering the post to each department independently, and collecting and sorting the mail into internal and external post.  She labels parcels and uses the franking machine. She has recently started her next placement with Mitie in the Ingredients café in wash-up.

One trainee has worked in the sterile services department, pushing a trolley to deliver clean instruments to theatres and collecting the used instruments, before scanning them into the sterile services department to be cleaned.  She is currently working in the post room.

Another trainee has worked with the porters department, transporting patients on wheelchairs and beds and using the tele-tracking system to accept jobs and to take notes about the details of each job.  She has also shown excellent research skills, working in the office, refining her skills of researching, compiling posters, certificates, PowerPoint presentations, writing the Christmas newsletter last year, as well as printing, laminating and stapling. She currently works in medical staffing, sending emails, copy-typing policies and filing.

Another trainee has worked independently in the garden, raking and collecting leaves, using the leaf blower, planting bulbs and watering the flowers. She is currently working with the sterile services department.

One trainee has been working within the training and development centre, entering data from staff records of training onto a database independently.  She has also been photocopying and putting together staff training packs.  She is currently working in medical records, folding letters, checking clinic lists and also works in logistics with Mitie, delivering consumables to the wards.

What happens after Project SEARCH?

The trainees have showed that people with learning difficulties can be as productive, highly skilled and reliable as any other working member of staff. They will be fully supported into employment in the future, as the project can provide employers with all the support they need as trainees start work, which might involve a job coach as they start in their new position.

Project SEARCH is also taking place in GlaxoSmithKline headquarters in Brentford, partnered with West Thames College and Action on Disability- see:

If you would like to hear more about Project SEARCH and how you could support us, please contact:

Bethany Madigan, Project SEARCH Tutor, 07867313754,

Catherine Pymm, Employment Advisor/Job Coach with Action on Disability, 07824959798,