Project Choice students graduate

Posted: 11/08/20

Staff from Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) celebrated the achievements of 12 students last week.

The annual Project Choice graduation recognises the hard work of Project Choice interns over the last academic year. While the event is normally held at the Jubilee Theatre in St Nicholas Hospital, this year’s was a little different. Held virtually over Microsoft Teams, the ceremony was no less positive.

Joined by students, mentors and professionals, the ceremony began with an introduction from Project Choice Area Manager Gayl Keddie and a speech from Project Choice intern Iwan Bell. He said: “We started as a group of strangers and now we’re a group of friends. I can’t tell what we’ll all be doing in a year’s time but I know we’ll all be successful in our own right, whatever we choose to do.”

The ceremony also included words from mentors and CNTW Chairman Ken Jarrold who talked about making the most of the opportunities we are presented with.

Project Choice works with young adults with a learning disability, disability, mental health issue or learning difficulties or autism gain work experience and improve their employability and independence.

Now in its third year at CNTW and NTW Solutions, the programme provides internships within healthcare settings and other NHS partner organisations helping to get people ready for the working world. Support is tailored to each individual with employment options matched to a person’s skills.

A lot of students prefer to learn differently and spend a year in three different placements across the Trust. Many have said it’s the first time they have felt accepted and parents have said the project has given them hope their child will be able to live and work independently.

Simone Simpson, Project Choice Co-ordinator at CNTW, said: “It’s incredibly important to recognise the hard work of our students, especially during such an unfamiliar time. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, they have managed to strive towards their goals with focus and determination.

“We recognise that each student has achieved very different things and each has their own path to follow. Seeing everyone develop is such a privilege and the graduation allows us to collectively celebrate each and every achievement.”

While changes have had to be made and many placements were stopped early this year, the Project Choice team have worked hard to students were supported and given work via remote learning.

Every student from the cohort is moving onto something new following the graduation, including going into further training, a job or an apprenticeship, with one student securing an internship within the Trust’s Informatics department.

The students have been invited to attend next year’s graduation to share their stories with the next cohort.

Project Choice North Tyneside is part of the CNTW Academy and students are supported by staff who take up a mentoring position.

Anyone can be a mentor and the team provides training sessions so they are able to give students the best possible workplace experience. Any team or individual interested in becoming a mentor can get in touch with Simone Simpson or Gayl Keddie for further information.

The Academy is also exploring the possibility of a portering apprenticeship with CNTW.

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust is a leading provider of mental health and disability services in the North East and north Cumbria.