Disability employment charity partners with theme park on internship programme

The scheme aims to upskill candidates with disabilities who want to find meaningful employment

DFN Project SEARCH, a transition to work charity, is working with a Rotherham-based theme park to help young people with learning disabilities and autism, living locally, gain work experience and meaningful employment.

The Gulliver’s Valley DFN Project SEARCH programme is delivered in partnership with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Rotherham Opportunities College and Newman Special Educational Needs school. It is a “total workplace immersion” facilitating a combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on skills training for programme attendees.

DFN Project SEARCH’s “transition to work programme” for students with learning disabilities and autism aims to get 10,000 young adults into full-time paid jobs over the next decade. So far, over 1,480 young people with learning disabilities and autism have now graduated and secured full-time paid employment through DFN Project SEARCH programmes in the UK.

Local councillors, including David Roche, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, Sharon Kemp, Chief Executive and Anne-Marie Labanski, Strategic Director of Adult Care, Housing and Public Health, visited Gulliver’s Valley Theme Park to meet the interns and show their support for the initiative.

The park’s Managing Director Julie Dalton hosted the tour on August 17th, where council members met with six programme interns, all from Rotherham and aged between 19 and 24. During the tour, the six interns shared insight into their personal journey on the programme and working day across various roles, including retail, cleaning, housekeeping, maintenance and animal care.

DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said: “We are very proud of the team at Gulliver’s Valley Theme Park and the amazing work they are doing here in supporting our programme interns to obtain valuable work experience that will help transform their lives.

“It is very pleasing to have local council representatives visit the resort and meet some of our inspiring interns and showcase the fantastic work they are doing here at Gulliver’s and have the opportunity to demonstrate how young people with autism and learning disabilities, when given the right support, can truly thrive and make a huge contribution to society.”

Julie Dalton, Managing Director of Gulliver’s Theme Park Resorts, said: “It’s been lovely to welcome Rotherham Council and representatives from DFN Project SEARCH to Gulliver’s Valley so we can highlight how we have been involved in the programme and showcase the amazing work of our current group of interns.

“Inclusivity is vital to us, and we always said that our aim for Gulliver’s Valley was for the park to become a really important part of our community, providing jobs and opportunities for local people, including those who may find it difficult to get into the job market. We work closely with each individual to understand them and help support them the best we can to do the jobs in hand.”

Councillor Roche said: “I am delighted that Rotherham Council has been able to support this pioneering initiative which is having such a positive impact on the lives of young people from our borough. As well as improving their chances of finding employment, it is helping to develop the life skills, independence and confidence which will benefit these young people in all aspects of their lives.

“This perfectly aligns with our ethos that all people have the opportunity to make sure each day in their life is meaningful. Doing things that have a purpose, being in ordinary places doing things most other people in the community would be doing, doing things that are for the individual, making sure they receive the right amount of support and are in touch with local people, developing friendships.”

To find out more about DFN Project SEARCH, click here.

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