Project Search, which is run by the Royal Mencap Society (Blackpool), Blackpool Council, Fylde College and three local special schools, has seen 8 students studying and working in Blackpool for the past 9 months, with a view to getting enough experience to secure work in the town.
In Blackpool, 1.8% of the population have learning disabilities but fewer than 7% of them are in employment. But the success rate of Project Search is 70%.
Find out more: Pathways to employment-making it work for autistic people
The students, taken from Park, Woodlands and Highfurlong schools, took part in two months of learning skills to make them more employable, before going out in to the world of work to gain experience in their chosen careers.
The jobs varied hugely from office working to manual labour, from helping out at the Council’s popular Rover mobile-tip, to help clean the buses at Blackpool Transport with each one giving them the chance to try out different career opportunities.
And this summer seven of the young people graduated having impressed enough to secure a permanent job with two more deciding to go back to full-time education.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said: "Project Search sought to break down barriers and support people with a learning disability to find permanent employment. We have led the way for this type of programme in local government and are already seeing the interest of other organisations in following our lead.
"The students have shown great ambition to get involved with the project at every stage and they are a credit to themselves, their families and the town as a whole. Having a disability should not be a barrier towards getting in to work and becoming independent. Our aim was always that at the end of this first year we would have worked with the students to develop the skills and confidence that would help them gain permanent and full time jobs. I’m delighted with what we have managed to achieve.”
The project will be expanded next year with Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust pledging its support to running a second scheme from September 2016.
This addition of the hospital trust’s scheme will make Blackpool one of the first places in the country to have two public-sector led projects running at the same time.
Gary Doherty, chief executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We are fully behind Project Search and are delighted to be involved. We are looking forward to welcoming and working with our first intake of students."
Watch - Autism Employment Pathways: Deepa Korea (Research Autism)