Five students who have been on a life-changing journey preparing them for the world of work shared their stories at this year’s Project SEARCH graduation ceremony.  

Project SEARCH, run in partnership with Bath College, Bath and North East Somerset Council and Sirona Health and Care, is a year-long employability programme for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities.  

Ashley Westcott, from Bath, was the first student to receive a full-time permanent position as a result of the project and is now working with the housekeeping team at the Assembly Rooms.  

The 22-year-old was cheered by family and friends as he collected his certificate at the graduation ceremony and spoke about his work placements.  

Young people aged 18 to 24-years-old are placed on three 10-week work placements as part of the Project SEARCH programme.  

Mr Westcott said: “It feels good to be working. The people at the Assembly Rooms are friendly, I got to know them when I was at my work placement and it progressed from there.  

“They saw what I could do and they put in a good word for me. At times I thought I wasn’t going to get a job. I think I’ve grown in confidence, my work placement at the recycling centre helped me with this.  

“When you’re on your lunch break everyone talks to each other and brings you into the conversation. If someone wants to get a job they should come to Project SEARCH.  

“If I hadn’t signed up to this course I would be sitting at home and I didn’t want that, I wanted to be working.”  

Students Kyle Longstaff, Gabriella Falcone, Katie McDonald and Chelsea Lovell also graduated at the ceremony, held at the Guildhall.  

Throughout the year, the group have learnt about health and safety, equality and diversity, customer service and finance.

They took part in mock interviews with the Bath Building Society and helped to host the Project Search European conference.

Bath College Principal Matt Atkinson said: “For the young people we work with, we’re doing everything we can to prepare them for the world of work.  

“We have 9,000 students that come to the college to study with us. Of all the programmes we run, Project SEARCH probably has the most impact on peoples’ lives.  

“The problem with the education system is it assumes that everyone will go one way. What Project SEARCH does is recognise that we can develop very personal individual programmes.  

“Working and earning money gives people a sense of purpose, a sense of participation in society, and Project SEARCH allows young people to do just that.”  

Alan Hale, Chairman of Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “It was so nice to be able to attend the Project SEARCH conference and share time with the people who make a difference to students’ lives.  

“I’m very proud to stand here representing this council and know we’re playing a big part in doing that. We must all talk to people about Project SEARCH and let them know what’s happening.”  

For more information about Project SEARCH visit https://www.bathcollege.ac.uk/product/project-search

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