Ten Canterbury high school leavers with learning disabilities are being considered as interns for the 2020 intake of Project SEARCH at Canterbury DHB this week.

The year-long pilot, hosted at Burwood Hospital, was a first for Australasia when it launched in January giving eight local young people, aged between 18 and 21 years old, the opportunity to learn skills and gain experience to work in their chosen field.

Now it’s back for 2020, with room for two more interns this time round.

Designed to break down barriers to employment for disabled young people, the programme sees each intern work across three 10-week placements in areas including IT; administration; kitchen and food services; as an orderly; in the physiotherapy, spinal and older persons mental health departments; or in maintenance and stores.

On Thursday August 29 up to 12 potential interns will attend a Skills Assessment Day to interview for their spot in the 2020 programme. Prospective interns will complete a number of interviews and tasks with current interns, Canterbury DHB staff, and the programme tutors and support staff.

Canterbury DHB Chief People Officer Michael Frampton said the programme is an important initiative to ensuring our workspaces are inclusive and that we celebrate diversity.

“Canterbury DHB is committed to creating a workforce that reflects the communities we care for. Of more than 200,000 Kiwis with disabilities who are unemployed – three quarters of them want to be working, but can’t get jobs.

“Another year of Project SEARCH means more opportunity for ambitious young Cantabrians,” he said.

“Through Project SEARCH, we’re aiming to see all our interns employed for at least 16 hours each week. We’re equipping them with real, meaningful work experience and they’re absolutely nailing their jobs.

“Now we need other Canterbury employers to also come to the party and employ these young people. You’d be hard pressed to find more motivated, loyal and hard-working employees. We’ve already seen benefits to our organisation, like improving our processes and policies to be more inclusive, and seeing an even stronger sense of community in those areas where the interns are working.”

Ricky Reeves, one of the current interns who was left legally blind after he had a brain tumour removed when he was nine years old, says Project SEARCH has given him hope he can have a career.

“I had been told previously that people won’t hire me because I can’t see, and it’s too hard. Project SEARCH lets me show everyone I can do it, that blind people can actually do the same jobs as non-blind people.

“My first internship was in admin where I did jobs like binding, photocopying, making up information folders and sending out letters. Now I’m working in IT, and doing special projects around testing telephone lines and beepers. I’ve also done quite a few presentations about Project SEARCH to different groups of people.”

Canterbury DHB Project SEARCH is a collaboration between the health authority, CCS Disability Action, the Blind Foundation, IHC Foundation, Riccarton High School, and WorkBridge.

More information about Project SEARCH can be found here.

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