Gorleston hospital scheme helps young people into work

In an unemployment blackspot like Great Yarmouth, finding a job is often a struggle for young people - and the difficulty is only magnified for someone with a learning difficulty.

However, the borough's James Paget University Hospital is toasting the success of its first eight graduates from a pioneering scheme to give young people with learning disabilities a helping hand into the work place.

Eight trainees, aged 17 to 24, are in the final weeks of a year-long work placement at the hospital in Lowestoft Road, Gorleston, combining experience in jobs ranging from housekeepers and waste porters to linen and stores assistants.

Four of the youngsters, who are happy to confess they started off with very little confidence of being able to hold down a permanent job, have now secured permanent positions at the hospital with a further two likely to do so.

Trust chairman John Hemming was quick to praise the success of the scheme, Project Search, which is being trialled by the government at 14 sites nationally, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital being one of the first to take it up.

Welcoming the expansion of the scheme to accommodate a further 12 trainees at the JPH in September, he said: 'This has been an incredibly rewarding project for all concerned. The students have benefited substantially and grown in confidence during their time in the JPH and now possess skills which make them valuable employees.'

The scheme has been run in partnership with Great Yarmouth College, each trainee starting the working day with an hour in the classroom, learning employability and personal development skills under the supervision of tutor Cassie Clarke.

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She said she had been in special needs education for 25 years and this project offered more hope of students progressing into work than anything she had seen before.

'It gives us the chance to support them with any barriers or anxieties that they have and that support is still there when they get a job. In terms of developing their confidence and independence it is fantastic,' she said.

'People who hardly uttered a word now have a long conversation with you. They have really come out of their shells and are doing things they never thought they would be able to do.'

Stephen Taylor, job coach for Remploy, the government support organisation for people with disabilities, said: 'Without this sort of scheme a lot of these young people would not get a job. They need the whole year to get to grips with work.'

Samuel Panton, 18, who lives near Beccles, described the scheme as 'brilliant' and said he was delighted to have landed a job as a health records clerical officer.

Because he is severely dyslexic, a system of colour codes has been developed to ensure medical records are delivered to the correct place.

Liam Kennedy, 18, of Caister, who now has a fulltime job in theatre stores, said: 'I started with little confidence and that has grown throughout the year.'

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