Skip to main content



A DFN Project SEARCH Virtual Reverse Jobs Fair was held last recently to develop the confidence and aspirations of interns in securing their future careers path.

The session was part of a DFN Project SEARCH supported internship programme which is a partnership between the leading charity that supports young people with learning disabilities and autism to move into work and Horizons Sixth Form, the Derbyshire Education Business Partnership, and the Royal Derby Hospital.

On completion of the DFN Project SEARCH internship in July, the interns are looking to secure paid work and this event gave the students access to some of the area’s biggest employers including Rolls-Royce, Motorpoint, Severn Trent Water, Bombardier, GF Tomlinson and Morrisons Flowerworld so that they could practice their interview skills and develop their confidence when meeting employers.

This innovative approach was designed to support the DFN Project SEARCH interns who have previously studied at Horizons 6th Form and the Royal School for the Deaf in Derby. The employers thoroughly enjoyed meeting the interns and remain keen to assist the young people to achieve their ambitions. Their involvement in supporting young people with learning disabilities and autism is part of their commitment to inclusion which they collaborate on in the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, supported by First Steps Education and East Midlands Chamber of Commerce.

DFN Project SEARCH has ambitions to get 10,000 young adults with learning disabilities and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade and 20,000 in the next 15 years.

The charity works to build a more inclusive society by helping young people with learning disabilities and autism to access high quality work-related learning through immersive supported internships and leading to improved opportunities to access long-term, full time paid employment.

Latest data from DFN Project SEARCH shows that in the past 12 months, 64 per cent of its 477 interns secured a paid job with 262 of those young people moving into full time work. These outcomes are well beyond the national statistics which show just 5.6 per cent of people with a learning disability or autism who are known to local authorities are in work. The national average wage for its graduates £8.71 which is well above National Living Wage for 25+, despite the fact that the majority of graduating interns are under 23.

DFN Project SEARCH Director and Programme Specialist, Carmel McKeogh: "DFN Project SEARCH is a high aiming programme and we believe that young people with learning disabilities and autism are an untapped talent pool for employers in Derby and we know that with the right training and support they can contribute significantly to the workforce of the area. It is fantastic to have the support of Berni and these amazing employers to help build the skills of the young people so that they can showcase their talents."

Berni Dickinson, D2N2 Employment Engagement Enterprise Coordinator: "Working with local employers to provide opportunities for young people to prepare for employment is so important. By giving these students access to real employers, they’re able to get valuable experience, making them better candidates when it comes to entering the world of work."

Kieran, a student from Horizons 6th Form: "The experience was fantastic. The employers were understanding and helped me feel relaxed. I was fluent in my interview because I knew what I was telling them. The planning I did made me have a great confidence and I went at full force and took it to them. It was a great morning. Thank you to all the employers who interviewed us today."

Debbie Gerring, Head Teacher of Horizons 6th Form: "Our students thrive on the DFN Project SEARCH internship programme. They have so much to offer employers and are an untapped pool of talent. Their determined work ethic, excellent skill set, honesty and resilience shone through the interviews today. The developing partnership we have with these key employers across our City is vital to the future of our young people with additional needs and I hope this event will be the start of us paving the way together into the world of work for our amazing young people."