A group of budding East Ayrshire students have completed training on a project set up to help train young people with learning disabilities and autism spectrum conditions.

The DFN Project SEARCH programme has been providing valuable employment skills to its target audience for the last 10 years.

The latest 'interns' to take part in the programme celebrated their graduation from the scheme at an event organised by East Ayrshire Council, NHS Ayrshire and Arran and Ayrshire College.

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Three of the seven graduates have already been offered posts as a result of their placements in East Ayrshire.

The interns completed 36 weeks of training and gained practical experience within different areas of UHC, East Ayrshire Council and local businesses.

Guests from NHS Ayrshire & Arran, East Ayrshire Council and Ayrshire College attended the ceremony, along with family and friends, to watch the seven young interns be presented with their completion certificate by East Ayrshire Provost, Councillor Jim Todd.

Joshua Wallace, an intern who completed work placements in NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s Procurement Department, Marks & Spencer and the Park Hotel, said: “When I joined Project SEARCH it gave me work experience opportunities.

"I am now so much better at communicating with others. I now feel that my life has a purpose.”

Cumnock Chronicle: East Ayrshire Provost, Jim Todd presenting the completion certificatesEast Ayrshire Provost, Jim Todd presenting the completion certificates (Image: NHS Ayrshire & Arran)

Callum Lindsay, one of the interns, added: “Before Project SEARCH I wasn’t very confident and wasn’t sure where to start with work and work experience.

"Project SEARCH gave me the opportunity to get that work experience and gave me the confidence to go for interviews.

"I feel like I have grown as a person throughout the year and it’s been a great experience that I would recommend to anyone considering joining the course."

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Claire Burden, NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s chief executive, said: “This is a wonderful example of partnership working with a tangible, positive impact for both participants and employers.

"We are fully committed to continuing our collaboration with East Ayrshire Council and Ayrshire College to deliver the DFN Project SEARCH for local 17- to 29-year-olds with learning disabilities and autism spectrum conditions.

"My heartfelt congratulations and warm wishes to the 2023 intern graduates.”