Wishaw couple find true love and new jobs thanks to employment programme
Gemma and Ross Johnstone are set to celebrate their first Valentine’s Day as Mr and Mrs after meeting at a night out to celebrate the success of Project Search Lanarkshire.by Ross Thomson
A young Wishaw couple got more than they bargained for when they took part in an employment programme – finding true love as well as permanent jobs.
Gemma and Ross Johnstone are set to celebrate their first Valentine’s Day as Mr and Mrs after meeting at a night out to celebrate the success of Project Search Lanarkshire.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Project Search is a training and employment programme for young people with additional support needs.
It combines a college course with on-the-job work experience in one of the three Lanarkshire University Hospitals including Wishaw.
Gemma completed her placements in what was then Wishaw General, working in medical records, practice development and training and library.
After graduating from Project Search, Gemma was successful in getting a job with NHS Lanarkshire as a data processor.
She said: “Project Search showed me what I was good at and I liked being busy with lots to do. I enjoyed getting a job where I could help people out.”
It was during a Project Search night out in December 2013 that Ross first spotted Gemma and knew she was the girl for him.
Ross took part in the programme in 2012/13, completing placements in Wishaw’s medical laboratories, mail room and porters’ room. After graduation, he successfully gained employment as a medical lab assistant at University Hospital Monklands – where he still works.
Speaking of their first meeting, Gemma said: “Ross sat down and asked lots of questions about me. He gave me lots of compliments about my hair, dress and jewellery before he asked me out. I said yes right away!”
Love blossomed for the pair and, four years later, Ross surprised Gemma with a marriage proposal on their anniversary.
Ross said: “I invited Gemma round for dinner and we swapped anniversary cards. I told her to bring her card and open it upstairs as I had another present for her. At the end of my message in the card, I wrote ‘PS turn around’. When she did, I was down on one knee and asked her to marry me – she said yes.”
Gemma and Ross married at Dalziel Park on July 7 last year and had the best day of their lives before enjoying a honeymoon at Disneyland Paris.
Gemma – who now works as a clerical assistant within NHS Lanarkshire’s workforce team – said: “Project Search made me more independent, gave me lots more confidence and introduced me to my husband! I would tell everyone to go for it if they get a chance. It changed my life.”
Ross said: “If it wasn’t for Project Search, which opened up opportunities for me, I wouldn’t be working where I am. More importantly, I would never have met Gemma. I would say to anyone interested in taking part to get applying.”