Cardiff and Vale College student Andrew Horley has become the first person in Wales to find employment through a major international project which provides employment and learning opportunities for young people in Wales.
Andrew, who is 23 and from Cardiff, was one of 12 CAVC students with conditions such as autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities who were given internships at Cardiff University as part of Project SEARCH, an initiative that started in the USA 20 years ago. Andrew completed three ten-week internships at coffee shops around the university.
Andrew has now found full time employment at Simply Fresh, the supermarket based at CAVC’s City Centre Campus on Dumballs Road in Cardiff. The College’s retail team etc. regularly employs students, with a large number coming from CAVC’s Independent Living Skills Department for people with additional learning and support needs.
Andrew said: “I liked working at the University – I worked in the coffee shops and I enjoyed working with the public. It was helpful in getting me the job here at Simply Fresh although it is different.
“I am happy that I got this job. I did work experience here after I finished my course in Work Skills Level 3 and I enjoyed that. I have fun working here.”
Cardiff University is one of just three universities in the UK to be involved in Project SEARCH, with support from CAVC and ELITE Supported Employment Agency. The scheme is funded in Wales by the wider Engage to Change Project, which works with employers to help young people with learning disabilities and/or autism to develop employment skills through work placements and support into paid employment.
Learning Disability Wales was awarded £10m by the Big Lottery Fund to lead a consortium of organisations to deliver Engage to Change. The Getting Ahead 2 grant was developed in partnership with the Welsh Government to meet priorities for supporting children and young people.
Andrew Ursell, Commercial Retail Manager at Cardiff and Vale College, said: “Andrew has been wonderful – he did a year’s work experience with us as well and he was phenomenal from the very beginning. He got it straight away.
“All Andrew needed was someone to give him a chance. He has the skills but all he needed was the opportunity. It’s great that Andrew worked with Project SEARCH and learned new skills – they support he got on Project SEARCH was fantastic and he’s a genuinely nice boy.”
Cardiff University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen Holford said: “It is great news that Andrew has become the first of the Cardiff University interns from Project SEARCH to find employment. Congratulations Andrew.
“He worked in several of our coffee shops across the University so it’s great that he has been offered a job where he can put that valuable experience to good use. I hope others will follow in Andrew’s footsteps as we continue our involvement.”
Jenna Trakins, Project Manager for Learning Disability Wales, said: “We are delighted that through the first Project SEARCH site established by the Engage to Change project, Andrew has been able to secure employment. With only 6% of people with a learning disability, and 16% of people with autism in employment, Andrew’s success gives hope to other young people who are considering their own work paths.”
Project SEARCH started at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center after its director Erin Riehle wanted to train people with disabilities to fill some of the high turnover, entry-level positions in her department. It is now an international phenomenon found in hundreds of locations in the USA, Canada, England, Scotland, the Netherlands and Australia and the Cardiff University Project SEARCH is the first in Wales.