Skip to main content

Personal blog: How DCW tech and training is helping one Project SEARCH intern

A photograph of Erin O'Donnell, Clywd Alyn's Community Assistant and DFN Search Intern. She smiles as she sits at a desk with a Chromebook in front of her.

A photograph of Erin O’Donnell, Clywd Alyn’s Community Assistant and DFN Search Intern. She smiles as she sits at a desk with a Chromebook in front of her.

Hi! My name is Erin and I am an intern from Project SEARCH, currently on a placement as Clywd Alyn’s Community Assistant. I have autism, dyspraxia and a mild learning disability. My disabilities are a part of me but not all I am! I have things that I need support with, but I have help with them and have lots of amazing things I can do because of my disabilities. I would not have it any other way.

I do not know what job I would like to have in the future, but I know that my dream job would be anything that helps other people and would make a positive impact on their life.

How I got involved with Project SEARCH

Hft work in partnership with Clwyd Alyn Housing Ltd and Flintshire County Council to deliver Flintshire Project SEARCH, which helps local young people with learning disabilities and/or autism develop the knowledge and skills to get into paid employment, with support from a job coach.

I found Project SEARCH in 2020 because I had already started a college course at Coleg Cambria that September, but it wasn’t for me. One of the college staff suggested I try out Project SEARCH, and it is the best decision I have ever made!

Whilst being on Project SEARCH I have worked on building up my confidence and self-esteem to do things I felt scared of or nervous about doing. I am now so much more confident in myself and feel I can do anything I put my mind to – and a lot of that is down to the lovely staff at Project SEARCH! My long-term goal is to be happy and settled in a paid job whilst still being supported.

Clywd Alyn’s new Community Assistant

Clwyd Alyn work in partnership with Project SEARCH and are one of their host businesses. I discovered Clwyd Alyn whilst working on Project SEARCH because some of Project SEARCH’s placements are based within Clwyd Alyn (for example, Project SEARCH have been offered a Catering Assistant placement at the Court House Café, and also the Community Assistant role that I now do!).

Since I have been with Clwyd Alyn, I have found out they are housing association working with local residents and partners to help address poverty across North Wales communities.

Clwyd Alyn has given me the opportunity to have a placement with them, working as a Community Assistant, and as part of my role I have:

  • Made posters using Canva to promote community events/activities
  • Written case studies about my fellow interns and published these on social media, to raise awareness about Flintshire Project SEARCH
  • Met local people and partner agencies who work hard to make communities nicer places to live

I have really enjoyed going out into the communities, but I have found talking to new people hard. I just need to build my confidence and I think it will come easier to me.

On my placement I’ve also enjoyed learning how to interview my fellow Project SEARCH classmates, to then write case studies about how they are getting on in their first rotation and what they would like to do in the future. I’m also learning how to use Sprout Social to post these across different social media sites.

Here are three links (1,2,3) to Erin’s case studies, found on Clwyd Alyn’s Facebook page.

How Digital Communities Wales is helping

I heard about Digital Communities Wales through Project SEARCH and while I have been working for Clwyd Alyn, they very kindly donated some Chromebooks for myself and my classmates on Project SEARCH.

Whilst being on Project SEARCH, I have completed an online safety course with DCW which was very informative and interesting. I really enjoyed it, even though we had a few technical issues on the day! The training has benefited me because I have learnt more about keeping myself safe online, which is very important. Whilst I’m on my placement I will be completing some more online training that DCW has given me access to, so I can learn lots of new skills that will help me in future jobs.

My Chromebook has helped me with my Community Assistant placement – for example allowing me to complete work I have been given by my mentors and by Project SEARCH and by helping me learn new digital skills.

My note to employers…

To any organisation thinking about giving an opportunity to someone with a learning disability and/or autism, please give them a chance! Just because they might need a bit of extra support and might think differently to you, does not mean that they could not add value to your team. In fact, because people with learning disabilities and/or autism often think differently (‘outside the box’) they might suggest different ways of doing things and/or propose great solutions, you had not thought of before!

Written by Erin O’Donnell, Project SEARCH intern at Clywd Alyn housing association.

Want to develop your digital skills too?

Here’s a link to Digital Communities Wales’s Essential Digital Skills training course

Here’s a link to Digital Communities Wales’s webinar programme