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North Staffordshire students graduate from unique NHS scheme

A joint initiative between University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) Newfriars College and Sodexo has helped 18 young people with disabilities to find employment.

‘Project Search’ is a forward-thinking programme which aims to get young people with additional needs into full-time work. The supported internship programme gives 18-24 year olds with disabilities and learning difficulties the opportunity to work at Royal Stoke University Hospital and gain vital experience to help with future employment prospects.

In 2018 UHNM, in partnership with Newfriars College and Sodexo, launched the first Project Search site at Royal Stoke and now the programme is in its fourth year.

In July, seven of the latest students graduated from the programme after completing a rotation of three placements at UHNM, with five gaining a full time job at the end.

Lorraine Whitehead, Director of Estates, Facilities and PFI at UHNM said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to see another cohort of students graduate with bright futures ahead of them. The project opens so many doors for our students and I am extremely proud that we are able to facilitate this at UHNM.”

More than 50 people attended the graduation celebration, on Friday 15 July including Jane Sawyer, Deputy Lieutenant of Staffordshire, who presented each student with their award. She said: “It’s obvious that the students have worked extremely hard over the past year and the staff members involved have put so much into this project. I am so glad that I was able to hear their personal stories and it was a pleasure to present the awards.”

Rob Millington, Head of Newfriars College, said: “I am really proud of all the students, the staff, and all that have supported Project Search. It’s the end of a long journey but the start of a really exciting future for the students.

“It’s been a difficult two years but credit to everyone who has worked in partnership together including UHNM and Sodexo, who worked together to make their graduation so special.”

Three special awards were also presented amongst the celebrations, including Overcoming Adversity, the Inspiring Intern and Student of the Year.

Stephanie Sale, Curriculum Lead for Project Search, said: “The graduation day is always a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the students leaving us this year. It’s been a tremendous group effort from the students, mentors, numerous departments at UHNM, Sodexo and New Friars College. The students have been an absolute credit to us, the programme and to themselves. Long may it continue.”