Project Choice is a supported internship programme for people with learning disabilities, difficulties or autism (LDDA). Led by Gateshead College, internships take place in City Hospitals Sunderland, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS FT, York NHS FT, Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS FT. The focus is ‘work readiness’ and matching skills to employment.
The HR project team leads ensure there are placements across the Trust looking specifically at entry-level jobs to make sure the right learner is allocated to this role. They also work closely with managers to confirm that tasks are clearly understood.
In addition, the programme offers training to staff to become work-based mentors, working alongside and supporting learners. Over 160 staff have been trained to support LDDA, developing unique teaching techniques and skills, which can be transferred across the organisation.
The young learners spend a minimum of 10 weeks in their placement so they are embedded in the team. The Project Choice team uses this time to look at any barriers and potential areas of development. Throughout, the learners are gradually assessed on how ready for employment they are.
Gateshead College run a work experience scheme supported by the Trust. This gives students an opportunity to develop skills for the workplace and ensures young people with LDDA understand the importance of matching their skill sets to work.
A minimum of 14 internships are supported annually, ensuring learners are ready for entry level roles or above. Over 36 interns have been supported and the employment rate has increased to over 77%.