A GROUNDBREAKING project led by Furness College to support students with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum conditions into jobs is expanding.

Following the successful launch of a programme at Furness General Hospital in September 2022, the college’s DFN Project Search supported internship programme will be replicated with new host business partner BAE Systems Submarines from September 2023.

There are currently eight young people on the project completing internships at Furness General Hospital in Barrow to start their path to paid employment.

Furness College’s Assistant Principal for Curriculum Sue Hannan said she had been approached by BAE Systems as a direct result of the positive impact of the programme at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay.

She said: “We are delighted to be launching a second DFN Project SEARCH Supported Internship programme in Barrow.

“Health services and BAE Systems are the two largest employers in our area creating multiple opportunities to help young adults with learning disabilities and/or autism spectrum conditions to secure the skills needed for competitive employment.”

BAE Systems Submarines Engineering Director Jon Shaw said throughout his career he had seen first-hand the value that interns could bring to an organisation.

“The development and building of the Royal Navy's Submarines at BAE Systems in Barrow is a huge undertaking and one of the most exciting and complex feats of engineering on the planet and we need to grow our workforce,” he said.

“The DFN Project SEARCH Supported Internship programme provides BAE with the opportunity to continue to improve its competitiveness through access to a terrific pool of local diverse talent - talent which we may have missed through traditional recruitment processes."

DFN Project SEARCH is working with the host employer to develop the programme, which will enable successful candidates aged 18 to 24 to take up roles across a range of disciplines including logistics, catering and site services with more options under development.

Sian Foster, DFN Project SEARCH Operations Manager for England, said the new project is a wonderful opportunity for young adults with autism and learning disabilities, to transition out of the world of education and into the world of work, through an intensive year of support.

She said: “The high aiming programme will support its interns to layer on all the marketable and transferable skills needed to enter into paid employment. We are thrilled that Furness College is widening its supported internship offer to encompass opportunities within a different sector and this wonderful collaborative partnership is excited to see what the young adults can achieve.”

Applicants will go through a rigorous selection process with the successful candidates working five days a week in BAE Systems supported by college staff, job coaches and mentors from the host business.

The interns, who all have educational health and care plans, experience three different work rotations across the academic year with the clear aim of achieving full-time employment at the end of the programme The college partners with a range of organisations on the initiative including Cumbria County Council and the Department for Work and Pensions as well as the host employer organisations.