DFN Project SEARCH celebrates annual Graduation ceremony

July 13, 2023

A project which aims to increase the number of people with learning disabilities securing employment held its annual graduation ceremony at the University of Aberdeen last week.  The event was particularly special as it represented the programme’s 10th anniversary of supporting young people in the North East of Scotland.

The ceremony celebrated the achievements of the class of 2022/23 who graduated from the DFN Project SEARCH programme – a collaborative project which provides real-life work experience, combined with training in employability and independent-living skills, to young people with learning disabilities and/or autistic spectrum conditions who want to go on to find paid employment.

George Boyne, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, who presented the Interns with their graduation certificates, said: “We are delighted to have hosted this unique programme on our campus for 10 years. For everyone at the University, working with colleagues and interns on the DFN Project SEARCH initiative is a truly inspirational experience and the annual graduation ceremony is a time for celebration as we recognise the hard work, dedication and commitment of our interns. They are excellent role models for young people who are seeking to develop their independence and watching their progress this year has been extremely rewarding as they look to embark upon fulfilling careers.”

Neil Cowie, Principal, who represented North East Scotland College (where Interns are registered students), said: “North East Scotland College is privileged to be involved in Project SEARCH at the University of Aberdeen and to play an important part in the development of this fantastic group of young people.  I know from talking to employers that these interns have made a significant contribution in their placements and I am confident they will take that same enthusiasm and energy into the world of work.  I wish them every success in their futures”.

The ceremony also included contributions from the Co-Chairs of Values Into Action Scotland (VIAS), which holds the licence to operate the DFN Project SEARCH programme in Aberdeen.  Norma Curran, Chief Executive, said: Everyone at VIAS is hugely proud of the achievements of this year’s interns. Their growth as individuals and as role models has been inspirational. We are excited to see their next steps and wish them all well for a bright future. We are grateful to our partners at DFN Project SEARCH University of Aberdeen for making all of this possible for this inspirational group of young people”.

One of the highlights of the event was the premiere of a video collage, introduced by Cameron Barney and entitled “The Project SEARCH Year”, which was made by the Interns to showcase their progress and achievements during the programme.

In closing the ceremony, Jason Cobb and Greg Mackay delivered a heartfelt vote of thanks to all members of the team on behalf of the graduating Interns.