Project SEARCH

What is it?

Project SEARCH Transition-to-Work Programme is a unique, business-led, one-year employment preparation programme that takes place in the workplace. The intensive programme helps young people aged 16+, with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum conditions, become extremely focused on their career with a desire to get paid employment. The programme has an average UK success rate of 66% of young people into jobs.

“The national employment rate for people with learning difficulties and autistic spectrum conditions is around 6%, yet 75% of these young people want to work.”

The programme allows interns total immersion within the workplace whereby they participate in three workplace rotations to explore a variety of job and career paths. Individuals achieve specific transferable work skills necessary for progression into paid employment. A partnership between Enterprising DG, Dumfries and Galloway College and Employability and Skills allows students to gain the skills they require for employment and have the opportunity to work towards achieving the Dumfries and Galloway Employability Award.

“Employability supported me into a job that I like and feel I am good at!”

What does Project SEARCH involve?

Project SEARCH brings together education, training and work skills in a genuine working environment. Students also benefit by gaining increased independence, confidence and self-esteem, and participate in career exploration, work interviews and employment skills, increasing their overall level of ability for job seeking and the likelihood of finding and keeping a permanent position.

  • Participate in a variety of internships in a local service
  • Acquire competitive, transferable and marketable job skills 
  • Develop interpersonal and social skills
  • Develop links to support agencies
  • Receive work-based individual instruction, coaching, support and feedback
  • A seamless approach to transition that develops vital life skills

“The recruiting manager was so impressed with my interview and the skills I had learned during my time on Project SEARCH that they decided to hire me.”

Helping interns realise their potential

“I liked Project SEARCH because it has given me better skills to find a job and good experience in working. The staff helped me to look for jobs and they were very helpful when I needed them.” - Charlotte, age 20

“Project SEARCH was able to help me get experience in logistics and also get my forklift licence. It will help me get a job and I really enjoyed it and also allowed me to meet new people.” - Euan, age 17

“Project SEARCH has taught me lots of skills and has given me some qualifications to help me find a decent paid job. I like that the course gave young people a chance to gain experience in a working environment.” - Matt, age 24


In Scotland there is a significant employment gap between disabled people and non-disabled people of working age. Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Disabled Person, disabled people have the same rights to work as non-disabled people, so the Scottish Government has set out an ambition to at least half this employment gap. 

Of all the programmes to help disabled people get into work, Project SEARCH has the highest success rate. It originated from a pilot in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre. Since its inception, Project SEARCH has grown to become a large and continuously expanding international network of sites. In the UK the franchise is operated by The DFN Charitable Foundation, a UK registered charity, that also holds the franchise for Spain, Portugal and Ireland. 

The Scottish Government’s Disability Delivery Plan “A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People” is exploring opportunities to promote the model as part of the alignment of learning and skills provision. The model is listed as best practice in the 2010 Ofsted Review, the DWP Sayce Report and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission Review.

For further information on Project SEARCH please refer to the Project SEARCH website 

Where can I find more information?

Training Room 2, Cargen Tower, Garroch Business Park, Dumfries, DG2 8PN

Tel. 01387 260060

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This project has received funding from the European Social Fund.