Hft | Recognition at the Project SEARCH Spotlight Awards

Recognition at the Project SEARCH Spotlight Awards

We’re really proud that our fantastic DFN Project SEARCH programmes, partnerships, interns and graduates received 21 nominations for the recent Spotlight Awards, with *9* making the shortlist. And we were even more delighted that four of our partnerships won their award on the night!

DFN Project SEARCH is a ‘Supported Internship’ programme for young adults with a learning disability. Those who take part have the opportunity to gain meaningful work experience in a large business, as well as take part in an Employability Skills curriculum. There are excellent rates of employment success for those who participate.

The DFN Project SEARCH model is a proven way of helping people with learning disabilities progress into long-term careers. It also helps businesses obtain a more inclusive workforce. Hft supports interns whilst they are undertaking their work experience to develop and enhance their skills, and then continues to provide support for them to both find and sustain paid work as their time on a programme comes to an end.

We’ve shared the detail behind two of the awards we won on the night below, to help show what the interns get involved in, and just what a difference Project SEARCH can make…

Standout Partnership Award

Hft have been working in partnership with Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LUHFT), Greenbank College and Liverpool City Council over the past 12 months. DFN Project SEARCH LUHFT has commenced during an incredibly difficult time. Despite being newly established in Sept 2020, the ambitious partnership has worked collaboratively to secure safe onsite rotation opportunities for all interns on the programme in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While navigating challenges around PPE/social distancing in the dynamic Covid-19 workplace, the programme has offered interns rotations in 12 different areas, including sterile services, pharmacy, waste management, stores, wards, health and safety, and medical records. LUHFT has been incredibly committed and supportive of the partnership to enable this to happen; supporting processes to get interns onsite, working with managers to establish placement opportunities, continually promoting the programme, advocating for employment opportunities, troubleshooting challenges, and much more. The operational team, including Hft’s Employability Coach, Greenbank’s tutor and LUHFT’s Business Liaisons have worked creatively to find innovative solutions to enable interns to access rotations, deliver the curriculum and provide safe and effective on the job support.

All partners of the Steering Group have assisted via regular remote meetings, and additional placement opportunities from fantastic and enthusiastic partners at Liverpool Heart and Chest, Aintree, the Royal and with ISS. This has maximised rotation opportunities for interns and has provided them with a really rich experience that they can take forward into their future careers. Coming to the end of the first year of the programme, interns are in a fantastic position to progress into paid employment.

It is fantastic that this partnership has been recognised through the Standout Partnership award – there has been so much work happening behind the scenes, from securing additional support from external organisations, securing a grant to secure specially adapted onsite accommodation, to beginning something new throughout the ever changing guidance and restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Intern Iftihar Alam says “I feel really happy. This internship has helped me so much, I have received support from my tutor, my job coaches and my colleagues. I have gained new skills (communication skills, teamwork skills, organisational skills) I’ve really enjoyed my time on the internship.”

ValYou Project

The DFN Project SEARCH programme partnership with Bridgend College and Hft was due to be operational in September 21 for the first time. As the pandemic restrictions continued, beginning working onsite within the host business was postponed until January, and then later extended for the rest of the academic year with the third wave of Covid-19.

In order to ensure that interns were getting the best possible experience out of their internship in these challenging circumstances, the team began to implement a ValYou Project for the interns to work on collaboratively.

Project members from Bridgend College and Hft introduced the concept of the ValYou Project to the interns on the programme, and developed a training package in neurodiversity awareness which could be delivered to the host business and employers.

The team also established the job roles which would be needed to achieve the outcomes of the project. This allowed for dedicated skills to be considered and allow interns to work in well matched job roles, as well as allow for development of both existing and new skills.

Interns worked collaboratively on various elements of the project, in roles such as administrative assistant and content creator. The end result has been a fantastic adaptable training package around neurodiversity, that can be shared with host businesses and other employers, and also an opportunity for interns to gain solid experience to include on their CV, newly gained skills and to be in a really strong position when applying for future employment opportunities.


Huge congratulations to all interns, graduates, operational teams and partners involved. The awards are a real endorsement of the efforts and outcomes of the project’s programmes, and it’s been great to see interns flourishing throughout.

Find out more about Project SEARCH