'Being autistic has helped' - Project Search helps young people into work in Cardiff

By ITV Wales reporter Kate Lewis

A pilot project in Cardiff helping young people with learning difficulties and autism to gain work experience has proved a success for both the individuals and the health board who signed up as the host business. 

So far this year, seven young people from Ysgol Y Deri in Penarth and Woodlands High School in Ely have swapped school for the world of work completing two 10-week blocks as interns in various departments within the country’s biggest hospital, University Hospital of Wales, as part of Project Search.

From postroom to porters, housekeeping to pharmacy, the young people, aged 16 to 19, have honed their skills while also easing some of the pressure put on the busy departments.

"They turn up on time every single day, they work hard when they are here,” Caroline Sutton, Medicine Supply Manager, told ITV Cymru Wales.

“They are always looking for things to do. They know there are always jobs to be done and they are always happy to do whatever we ask of them."

Dylan Royle said the project has helped him become an adult

Dylan Royle, 18, felt he had ‘outgrown’ school and said the project offered him new challenges and opportunities. 

"School was getting a bit boring and I wanted to be an adult in the real world”, Dylan told ITV Cymru Wales.

"It made me an adult as I have my own responsibilities, time management. I know how to get on to a bus, off a bus, which stops to take."

These new life skills mean Dylan has grown in confidence and feels more comfortable applying for jobs and a place in college. 

Alberto Flores David, 19, is also coming to the end of his second 10 week placement.

He feels it is the sense of responsibility that he will take away with him once he finishes his placement in the pharmacy department that is the biggest result. 

"A lot of the time in school if you make a slight mistake it’s a pat on the back or ‘are you going to do it better next time’ whereas here it's you’ve got to fix that mistake,” he said.

"It’s your responsibility to un-mistake what you did and I’d say that’s really given me a bit of a push definitely, having a bit of weight on my shoulders thinking if i do this wrong it’s on me rather than the teacher sort of fixes it and it’s given me freedom as well.”

Alberto says having responsibility has given him a sense of independence

Alberto is Autistic and was a pupil at Ysgol Y Deri in Penarth.

He said being part of the scheme has showed him that within the world of work being Autistic can have positive outcomes

"I could say being autistic has been helpful to the team work sometimes,” he told ITV Cymru Wales.

"Definitely when it comes to problem solving, what do we do here,  it just clicks easily to me whereas for others it's quite hard to think outside of the box.

"It comes a bit easier for me in that way, so being autistic has definitely helped in problem solving and different ways to make things easier."

This current placement, offered by Cardiff and Vale Health board, will come to an end within the next few weeks.

However, a number of the interns have already been successful in gaining employment within the organisation and others are currently in the process of applying for jobs and college courses. 

Project Search in numbers

The pilot project will now run for a second year starting in September, when the number of interns on placement will increase from 7 to 10.

There are now calls for more businesses to come forward to allow more young people with additional learning needs to gain meaningful and worthwhile experience.

Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for education, employment and skills, Sarah Merry, said: "Project Search has been successful in ensuring young people with additional learning needs can access good-quality work experience placements and provision to support them in finding future employment.

"It is encouraging to hear that all seven interns currently remain with the health board with twos ecuring employment as a direct result of their involvement with the project.

"The expansion of the project relies on organisations coming forward.

"They are invaluable in helping to support more young people to become ambitious, capable and prepared to work whilst championing confident individuals ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of our communities.”