Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH began in 1996 at the Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. Frustrated by the high turnover of staff in entry-level roles, the hospital saw an opportunity to build on its diversity initiative. They decided to train people with learning disabilities to fill some of these roles.

Working in partnership with Great Oaks Vocational Training College and the local authority, the initiative evolved into an internship employment programme. It is offered in over 300 sites worldwide.

Learn more about the worldwide Project SEARCH programme.

The Project SEARCH programme in NHSScotland

The programme aims to connect young people who have learning disabilities and additional support needs, with competitive employment. There are no formal entry requirements. However, applicants must participate in an interview and assessment process to be accepted on to Project SEARCH.

Interns are supported through placements with large employers, such as NHSScotland, where they get hands-on experience. They also have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and abilities, while learning practical and vocational skills. This helps to prepare the interns for the world of work.

Project SEARCH success story

Ross Johnstone

Ross works as a medical laboratory assistant (MLA) at University Hospital Monklands, NHS Lanarkshire. He started his career as an MLA through the Project SEARCH programme. Ross impressed his team so much that he was offered a full-time permanent position. Ross’s positive attitude and professionalism have led him to become a mentor, supporting new Project SEARCH interns at the hospital.

Watch the video below to learn more about Ross’s story.

Video used courtesy of the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability.

I’m Louise Brown. I’m a Senior in Biochemistry at Monklands Hospital and Ross is one of our employees.

Ross is a Medical Laboratory Assistant, or MLA. His tasks involve opening and labelling a numbering samples and getting them prepared for analysis for the biochemistry and haematology department. He also carries out quite a lot of office duties, form scanning, just basically helping out biomedical scientist staff in the lab with different jobs.

I think it’s given him the confidence to realise he can do things, so he has transferred the social skills he has learned here to other areas of his life. He’s more sociable outside as well. He’s in a relationship at the moment. He is hoping to get a house in the next few weeks [where] he’ll move in himself, so he’s becoming an independent person. That’s great to see.

I’m Ross Johnstone, I’m aged 22. I work here at Monklands Hospital as a Medical Lab Assistant, also known as MLA.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my boss, Louise told me that [I] got nominated for an award, and I went “Really? Is this not The Oscars or something? Am I nominated for something, for Best Actor or something like that?”.

It was surprising, but also overwhelming. I have to say [I’m] really over the moon for myself and everyone out there.

Ross’s personality was always there, begging to get out. He just didn’t have the process to follow to make that happen. I think the confidence of coming to work every day and to be part of the team has allowed him to show exactly who he is. His personality really does shine through every day. He’s just an absolutely lovely boy. It’s kind of given him the ability to be exactly who he was supposed to be and given him the confidence to become an independent person, which is brilliant.


Project SEARCH near you

Project SEARCH has been running successfully in a number of Boards in NHSScotland for some years. Learn more about programmes near you and view more success stories:

If you’d like to find out if NHSScotland is involved in a Project SEARCH programme in your area, please contact your local NHS Health Board.