Nine young people with learning disabilities or autism are being helped onto the career ladder by Renfrewshire Council’s Project SEARCH.

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Project SEARCH is based on a programme developed by Cincinnati Children’s hospital. It brings together education, training and skills development in a real life environment.

Renfrewshire’s Project SEARCH programme was set up last year. Students will work towards a range of SQA qualifications that help get them ready for the workplace. They will be trained in a classroom-based environment and on work placements provided by Renfrewshire Council.

Participants will also receive mentoring from a lecturer and a job coach who will provide help with employability issues such as: CV writing, interview techniques and looking for jobs.

Any student who hasn’t managed to find a suitable job by the end of the course will get a one year follow-up to help them move into employment.

The first Project SEARCH intake worked alongside council colleagues in catering and cleaning services, care homes, recycling centres, leisure centres and with the Town Centre team.

This year’s Project SEARCH trainees are: Jamie Connar, Grant Gallacher, Nathan Johnstone, Lauren Gallagher, Robert Mcleod, Megan O’Brien, Alisha Patterson, Derek Stirrat and Chloe Tallach.

Councillor Mark Macmillan, Leader of Renfrewshire Council, said “Last year’s Project SEARCH intake has done very well and the majority have gone on to secure a job or a place in further education or training.

“The programme was genuinely life changing for them, helping them to develop skills, ambitions, and strong friendships. I’m confident that the students who have just started on their Project SEARCH journey will enjoy the same benefits and arrive at a positive destination by June 2017.

“This project is about concentrating on what people can do. Renfrewshire is really building a head of steam in terms of turning around the local economy and an important part of that is to make sure there are opportunities for everyone – regardless of the personal challenges they face.

“New figures from the Office of National Statistics show that every year between 2009 and 2014 more firms have opened in Renfrewshire than have closed, with a net gain of 140 new businesses in 2014 alone.

“Over the last six years the number of Renfrewshire residents claiming Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit has dropped by 43%. This amazing reduction has been driven by council run initiatives like Invest in Renfrewshire and Project SEARCH.

“On 29 August nearly 220 business leaders from across the West of Scotland came to Paisley. They came to find out more about the economic opportunities available through the £274million worth of infrastructure developments that are underway in Renfrewshire thanks to the Glasgow City Region City Deal.”