An initiative run by NHS Lanarkshire that helps young people with autism and learning disabilities into employment celebrated its latest graduation ceremony.

DFN Project Search, an internship programme introduced in 2010, is facilitated by ISS which provides facilities management at University Hospital Hairmyres in East Kilbride.

In the past year, University Hospitals Hairmyres, Monklands, and Wishaw each welcomed seven or eight students who received daily employability classes before embarking on three 12-week work placements.

The graduation ceremony took place in South Lanarkshire Council’s headquarters in Hamilton on June 4.

(Image: NHS Lanarkshire)

Professor Jann Gardner, chief executive of NHS Lanarkshire, said: “I was delighted to attend the event to celebrate the graduation of this year’s students.

“NHS Lanarkshire is incredibly privileged to work with these fabulous young people across all our hospital sites as they gain their first experience of employment, and we’re absolutely thrilled to continue to support them and future students on their journey.”

Staff from NHS Lanarkshire and ISS who were hospital mentors to the students also stepped on the stage to commend the graduates.

Among them was William Thomson, a mailroom employee from University Hospital Wishaw, who said: “One of the best positions I’ve had in the mailroom was becoming a mentor when Project Search started 14 years ago.

“All the students have come in with same work ethic and always want to do their best. They go on a journey, starting timid and moving on to have a rapport with colleagues, patients and visitors.”

(Image: NHS Lanarkshire)

Alannah Watson, 18, from Hamilton, one of the graduates from University Hospital Hairmyres, said she was extremely shy when she first started the programme.

She said: “Thinking back to my first day at porters, I didn’t cope well and I didn’t enjoy it but I spoke to managers, sorted a plan and I felt much happier after that and enjoyed having a laugh with the porters.

“My life has changed in a good way since joining the course and I now have a job with the ISS linen team.”

Ross McLaughlin, 19, from University Hospital Monklands, said Project Search helped him become more responsible and mature.

Now working as a porter with NHS Lanarkshire, Ross said: “It has also given me confidence to get a job I want in the future. My placements were in catering, pathology and porters. My favourite was porters as that is the one I could see myself doing as a job,”

Justin Miller, 20, who completed the programme at University Hospital Wishaw, became the first Project Search student to undergo a placement in an emergency department.

He worked as a porter before moving to the day surgery unit to be a clinical support worker.