Life-changing internship available in the North East of Scotland for young adults with a learning disability

March 4, 2022

The life-changing DFN Project transition to employment programme is now offering young adults aged 16-24 with a learning disability the opportunity to apply for its 2022-2023 intake.

NESCol is a key partner in the initiative, based at the University of Aberdeen, and since September 2013 the programme has provided 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.

DFN Project SEARCH is a transition to work programme for students with a learning disability with ambitions to get 10,000 young adults with learning disabilities and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade. The Aberdeen site offers a one-year Internship programme to twelve young people age 16-24 every year, who are supported to undertake 3 work placements within the University and are registered students with North East Scotland College to study towards City & Guilds qualifications.

The pioneering programme involves total workplace immersion at its very best, facilitating a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on skills training.

DFN Project SEARCH is now calling on young adults and their families to reach-out and take the first steps in their journey towards employment.

Image shows Project SEARCH interns visiting the botanic gardens

Over 1,600 young adults have now graduated from DFN Project SEARCH programmes in the UK, with over 1,475 interns securing full-time paid employment. Typically, 70% of interns have secured employment upon completion of the programme, against the national average employment rate for young adults with a learning disability (who have not entered any post-school programme) of just 5.6%. To date, around 80 DFN Project SEARCH University of Aberdeen Interns are in paid employment across the North East of Scotland.

The programme has also delivered an impressive success rate during the Pandemic with young adults performing brilliantly in front-line roles with the NHS and local authorities.

NESCol Principal Neil Cowie said: “There is tremendous positivity surrounding the Project Search programme and we are looking forward to welcoming the next cohort. All partners are committed to supporting each individual to fulfil their potential and take exciting steps towards a bright and fulfilling future.

“Interns are able to sample new environments and different experiences, carrying out valuable duties in administration, maintenance and estates, business support, catering, healthcare, retail and childcare. I know the impact Project Search groups have had on all those they have worked with and in turn the knowledge, skills and confidence they have built as they begin their career journeys.”

Professor Peter Edwards, Vice-Principal (Regional Engagement and Regional Recovery) at the University of Aberdeen, said: “It has been an enormous privilege for the University of Aberdeen to have hosted the local DFN Project SEARCH programme since September 2013 and we are looking forward to being able to welcome the new 2022/23 intake to campus in August as they begin their transformational journey towards entering employment.

“The skills and experience which our Interns gain during their year with us means that we can offer local businesses and organisations a sustainable pool of talent from which to draw their future employees and support the continuing success of our local economy.  The number of young adults with a learning disability in employment at national level remains stubbornly low and the tremendous successes of our previous graduates who are now in work in a variety of organisations across the region is a fantastic achievement that is testament to the hard work, dedication and commitment of the DFN Project SEARCH team.”

DFN Project SEARCH CEO Claire Cookson said: “We are very proud of our programme here based at the University of Aberdeen and are delighted to support the promotion of the 2022/23 programme.

“Our mission is to build a more inclusive society by helping to create much improved career opportunities for young adults with a learning disability.

“Our life changing programme is proven to work and we are looking forward to engaging with young adults and their families in the North-East of Scotland as we forge ahead with our goal of transforming workplace culture and building a more fair and inclusive society for all.”

DFN Project SEARCH works to build a more inclusive society by helping to create much improved career opportunities for young adults with a learning disability, demonstrating how when given the right support, interns can truly thrive and make a huge contribution to society.

You can learn more about DFN Project SEARCH at or download a flyer.

Advert for Project SEARCH saying We Are Recuiting with photos of previous interns in post