DFN Project SEARCH Celebrated

DFN Project SEARCH, a life-changing supported internship programme for young adults with learning disabilities and/or autism spectrum conditions, has recently launched in Dundee.

DFN Project SEARCH is a business-led one-year transition to employment programme for adults with a learning disability or Autism spectrum conditions or both. DFN Project SEARCH in Dundee is a collaboration between Dundee and Angus College, NHS Tayside Employability Services, and Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership.

The programme, which began in August 2021, was previously delivered at Dundee and Angus College’s Gardyne Campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic but is now being delivered at Ninewells Hospital.

DFN Project SEARCH was celebrated at a recent launch event in Ninewells Hospital, highlighting the journey and success of the first group of students to complete the programme.

Five out of the seven candidates from the first Dundee programme secured employment by the end of the course with one other moving into the voluntary sector.

Some of the young people who were the first to complete the programme have shared their experiences: 


Ryan’s story

“Before DFN Project SEARCH, I was mainly doing part-time work or whatever job that I could get but I was not necessarily physically able for them. This impacted my health to the point where I wasn’t able to work for a good while. The volunteer practitioner at my pipe band encouraged me to apply for DFN Project SEARCH. The main barrier for me would be admitting when I’m not able to do things, I’m like a workhorse, I keep going and wasn’t able to admit when I was struggling. The staff started to notice I was struggling and they would talk to me about it and support me.

“I enjoyed my rotations with the ICT department, doing the dual monitors scheme. I was going around the college replacing monitors and setting them up with dual monitors. Through this, I also reorganised the store room and I was getting compliments from other campuses on how well the store room was organised. I also enjoyed getting to do a little teaching, some lecturers were not familiar with the dual system, so I took the time to show them how it was done and they were very grateful for this DFN Project SEARCH has helped me become more confident in myself.”

Everyone deserves the right to aspire to the very best future, yet only 4.1% of people in Scotland, with special educational needs and disabilities, go on to secure full-time paid employment. DFN Project SEARCH works hard to challenge and change cultures, demonstrating how young people with a learning disability can enrich the workforce, bring incredible skills and talent, encourage greater diversity, and meet a real business need.


Amy’s story

Amy felt like she struggled throughout her time at school and felt that she could have benefited from additional support after leaving school at 16.  Amy joined the prepare DFN Project SEARCH in January 2021, which was delivered online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the completion of this course Amy was successful in gaining a place on DFN Project SEARCH in August 2021. She was placed on rotation in the college setting and as a result, her confidence and adaptability grew. Amy has been successful in gaining a role within the Supported Education Department at Dundee and Angus College as a support worker.

DFN Project SEARCH #InclusionRevolution initiative encourages UK businesses to recognise the social and economic value of employing young adults with special educational needs and disabilities. It has the ambition to support at least 10,000 young adults with a learning disability into jobs by 2030.


Ciaran’s story

“Before DFN Project SEARCH, I had tried several courses at the college. I applied for DFN Project SEARCH to gain some experience. I was worried that they wouldn’t understand my disability because Autism is not that well known. But I received a lot of support and I am proud of everyone on this course and what we were able to achieve. I was in Clark’s Bakery helping out, doing a variety of roles and I now have a job there. DFN Project SEARCH has benefited me massively, it has given me the kick start I needed to try different things.”

Jane Roscoe, Director of Curriculum and Attainment for Dundee and Angus College attended the recent celebration event at Ninewells Hospital and said, “At Dundee and Angus College, we place our students at the heart of what we do and this is very apparent when you consider the purpose and direction of our strategy and vision. As a college, we aim to create more successful students and in doing so change lives and create thriving communities. We can only do this by establishing meaningful partnerships that ensure the best possible experience and outcomes for our students, employers, and the wider region.

“DFN Project SEARCH is a fantastic example of this. In partnering with NHS Tayside and the Dundee Health and Social Care partnership, we are committed to increasing aspirations and positive destinations for those currently facing barriers to education, training, or employment.  By working together we have created supported employment internships so that our students are equipped to take those positive first steps into the world of work.

“We are delighted to be driving forward Project SEARCH working in partnership to challenge and change cultures, demonstrating how young people with a learning disability can enrich the workforce, bring incredible skills and talent, encourage greater diversity, and meet a real business need.”

There are currently eight students taking part in the DFN Project SEARCH programme this year, with applications now open for August 2023.

Businesses are being asked to consider the social and personal benefits to those potential employees, plus the financial and business case for them as employers. 

Opportunities to get involved in Dundee’s DFN Project SEARCH include offering a placement opportunity or becoming a mentor.  

Scott Dunn, Head of Development for NHS Tayside, said, “NHS Tayside is delighted to partner with Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership and Dundee & Angus College to support the implementation of the DFN Project Search initiative.

“We are proud to help and be involved in creating potential life-changing experiences and opportunities for young people with challenges in their lives.

“We have been hugely impressed by the effort and commitment the participants have shown during their work placements across services, in both clinical and non-clinical areas.”

For more information please visit Project SEARCH | Dundee & Angus College (dundeeandangus.ac.uk)