From education to employment

Rotherham Council chiefs meets talented young interns on visit to life-changing transition to employment programme at Gulliver’s Valley

A party of senior Rotherham councillors and officers visited Gulliver’s Valley Theme Park (@GulliversValley) to meet with talented interns who are obtaining life-changing work placements at the resort. 

The Theme Park recently partnered with a leading transition to employment charity DFN Project SEARCH to give young people with learning disabilities and autism in the area vital work experience to help them to secure meaningful employment.  

Managing Director of Gulliver’s Valley Julie Dalton hosted the resort tour on August 17th where Rotherham Council members met with six programme interns, all from Rotherham and aged between 19 and 24.  

During the tour the six interns met with various Council members and shared insight into their personal journey on the programme and working day across various roles including retail, cleaning, housekeeping, maintenance and animal care. 

The Gulliver’s Valley DFN Project SEARCH programme is delivered in partnership with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Rotherham Opportunities College, Newman Special Educational Needs school and Gulliver’s Valley as the host business. 

DFN Project SEARCH is a transition to work programme for students with learning disabilities and autism with ambitions to get 10,000 young adults with learning difficulties and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade. 

The pioneering programme is total workplace immersion at its very best, facilitating a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on skills training.

Over 1480 young people with learning disabilities and autism have now graduated and secured full-time paid employment through DFN Project SEARCH programmes in the UK.  

DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said:

“We are very proud of the team at Gulliver’s Valley Theme Park and the amazing work they are doing here in supporting our programme interns to obtain valuable work experience that will help transform their lives.” 

“It is very pleasing to have local council representatives visit the resort and meet some of our inspiring interns and showcase the fantastic work they are doing here at Gulliver’s and have the opportunity to demonstrate how young people with autism and learning disabilities, when given the right support, can truly thrive and make a huge contribution to society.” 

Julie Dalton, managing director of Gulliver’s Theme Park Resorts, said:

“It’s been lovely to welcome Rotherham Council and representatives from DFN Project SEARCH to Gulliver’s Valley so we can highlight how we have been involved in the programme and showcase the amazing work of our current group of interns. 

“Inclusivity is vital to us and we always said that our aim for Gulliver’s Valley was for the park to become a really important part of our community providing jobs and opportunities for local people, including those who may find it difficult to get into the job market. We work closely with each individual to understand them and help support them the best we can to do the jobs in hand. 

“It has been a real pleasure to work with our interns who have made such a positive impact on our team at Gulliver’s Valley as well as our wider business.” 

The group from Rotherham Council included Councillor David Roche, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, Sharon Kemp, Chief Executive and Anne-Marie Labanski, Strategic Director of Adult Care, Housing and Public Health. 

Councillor Roche said:

“I am delighted that Rotherham Council has been able to support this pioneering initiative which is having such a positive impact on the lives of young people from our borough. As well as improving their chances of finding employment, it is helping to develop the life skills, independence and confidence which will benefit these young people in all aspects of their lives. 

“This perfectly aligns with our ethos that all people have the opportunity to make sure each day in their life is meaningful. Doing things which have a purpose, being in ordinary places doing things most other people in the community would be doing, doing things that are for the individual, making sure they receive the right amount of support and are in touch with local people, developing friendships.” 

DFN Project SEARCH works to build a more inclusive society by helping to create much improved career opportunities for those with learning disabilities and autism through 70 supported internships schemes across the UK, and the charity is succeeding even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Latest data from DFN Project SEARCH shows that in the past 12 months, 141 interns secured full-time well-paid work. DFN Project SEARCH interns secured these roles when the country was in lockdown with many of the roles classified as key workers. 

You can learn more about DFN Project SEARCH at   

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