DFN Project Search



2022-23 Project SEARCH Information Sheet


DFN Project SEARCH is a partnership venture which prepares young people with learning difficulties / disabilities for competitive employment. The aim of the project is to provide young people between the ages of 17-25 years a one year supported internship programme.

This will provide and benefit them with transferable skills through doing different job roles, training in employability and support into independent living skills to assist and place them at an advantage towards a successful and positive transition into adult life.

Originally piloted in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre, where Erin Riehle was frustrated with the high turnover rate in entry level jobs that involved re-stocking supplies.  Erin wondered if people with disabilities could fill these entry level jobs. She turned to the Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development and asked if her idea was possible. Working in partnership with these organisations, the idea of filling a handful of jobs in Cincinnati Children’s Emergency Department grew into a new way of working together to equip young people with skills and opportunities for life and this is where the journey of Project SEARCH began.

Today Project SEARCH has grown to over 67 sites within Britain with its primary objective to secure paid employment for a minimum of 16 hours a week for young people with learning difficulties.

Programme Overview

Interns will be attending the programme for the full school year at London Heathrow Marriott Hotel. Marriott hotel will provide a training room for the interns, the site will be staffed with a tutor/coach and two job skill trainers to support the interns to meet their potential whilst on the programme.

Once the school year begins...the first few weeks of the program are focused on new employee orientation, hands-on skill assessment and familiarisation within the business environment. Interns will develop a career plan which guides the internship selection process and individualised job search.

Employment Skills Curriculum:   Interns will work on the Project SEARCH employability skills curriculum for one hour each morning. During learning time, interns complete eight units of work which include: Team Building, Workplace Safety, Technology, Self-Advocacy, Preparing for Employment, Health and Wellness, Financial Literacy and Maintaining Employment.  They return to the base room for the final 30 minutes of each day, for a reflection and feedback group discussion.

Internships/Worksite Rotations: Through a series of three targeted rotations the interns acquire competitive, marketable and transferable skills to enable them to apply for a related position. On site Project SEARCH staff collaborate with departments to provide ongoing support for the interns. The Project SEARCH staff delivers the training and develops job accommodations and standard work procedures. Once the intern has mastered the core skills, additional skills are layered on to improve their marketability.

Support in Job Placements:  When interns graduate and move on into paid jobs, employers are offered the service of a follow-on Job Coach.  Support and assistance is provided to ensure that the intern maintains employment. Young people who take part in Project SEARCH typically have a 60% success rate of finding employment compared to around 7% if they attend college courses.  Our programme has achieved an average annual employment rate of over 80% since starting in 2016.

Eligibility criteria

  • Be between 17 – 24 years old when starting
  • Willing to secure paid employment
  • Have an EHCP  (Education, Health and Care Plan)
  • Resident of Hillingdon Borough 

Now with our fifth year of enrolment and in continued partnership with Meadow High School, London Heathrow Marriott Hotel (our business host) and Hillingdon Council, we are seeking to recruit our next cohort of (8 - 10) young people onto our Project SEARCH supported internship programme.  



Then we look forward to hearing from you 


or for enquiries contact 01895 443310


Please visit the page links on the top right of the page
to see photos, quotes and information about our
Cohorts of interns, including our current year interns.


Click here to read the latest Project Search Newsletter and previous newsletters.

Here is a Youtube clip about Project SEARCH