A group of young people with special educational needs have celebrated at a graduation ceremony after completing a one year educational course at the hospital.

The scheme, dubbed Project SEARCH, helped young people work within Musgrove's hospital environment for an academic year where they were helped to gain key skills.

Maria Nicholls, job coach at Project SEARCH, said the Class of 2023 have been a roaring success.' She said:

“This year’s Project SEARCH has gone really well with all of our nine interns successfully placed across 17 different departments at the hospital."

“We had so many new departments come on board and every one of them accepted our interns into their team and embraced Project SEARCH.

“For the first time ever, we were able to offer placements in our dental laboratory, audiology department, goods-in area, Wordsworth ward, Jubilee Building dishwashing area, children’s unit, maintenance department, and the Somerset Larder restaurant.

“It’s difficult to single out our interns, but Kelsi, Tom and Reuben in particular have exceeded expectations during their time with us, and this has led to even greater opportunities for them.

“Kelsi spent her first placement at the Musgrove Park Academy and simply thrived in that environment.

“We actually struggled to find her an area to work in after Christmas, but she took the initiative and managed to find her own placement on the children’s unit, which was a really impressive thing to do by herself.

“In her third term, she worked on Wordsworth ward, and has actually secured a contract there as an assistant administrator – a huge success!

“The first assignment for Tom was in our cleaning stores, and he then moved onto our day surgery centre – one of the longstanding areas that supports Project SEARCH – before taking his final placement in the main kitchen with our catering operational manager Amanda Vickery.

“Tom’s dream job has always to work in the catering industry as he loves making teas and coffees for people.

“At the awards night, Tom stood up and talked about his experiences, before to our amazement, he was offered a position on Wordsworth ward straight after the ceremony – he’ll be making teas and coffees and helping to keep the ward tidy, as well as sitting and chatting with patients who feel lonely.

“Reuben began his Project SEARCH stint in Somerset Larder, and while he initially felt that hospitality was for him, he actually found his feet doing healthcare assistant work.

“He has now taken up the Better Healthcare course, is completing his care certificate, and is looking to start shortly as a healthcare assistant on Eliot ward.

“Thanks to the team on Eliot, such as senior sister Vicki Burgess, activities coordinator Kelly Needham, and our learning and development team, Reuben was put on the right path to a job – amazing news for him.

“So far, five of the nine interns have secured paid employment by the end of their year and we’re still working with the other four to find jobs too.

“The real theme that we’ve found with this year’s Project SEARCH intake has very much been teamwork and team spirit. There has been a real collective culture since day one of wanting to work – it was really impressive and it’s humbling to be a part of that.”

Hayley Peters, chief nurse at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, added: “Our Project SEARCH interns have been so well received in all of the 17 departments, and the overall feedback I’ve heard from colleagues is that they’ve benefited as much as the interns have,” she said.

“The awards evening was so emotional and is always the highlight of my year. I am so proud of the amazing achievements of our interns, as well as the way our colleagues support people of different backgrounds to thrive.

“Everyone who came along could see the outstanding efforts of our interns, not just our teams, but also the interns’ families too – they were so proud of their loved ones.”