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Paige Parr - Project SEARCH Statewide Coordinator
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Due to COVID-19, some Project SEARCH sites may experience operational changes. All sites have the best interest of their interns, staff, and communities in mind when determining the type of program they are able to operate. Questions related to operation during COVID-19 can be directed to: DVRProjectSearch@dwd.wisconsin.gov
Project SEARCH is a business led collaboration that enables young adults with disabilities to gain and maintain employment through training and career exploration. Continue reading...
The Project SEARCH National Conference will be held in Baltimore, Maryland July 25-July 28, 2022
Project SEARCH was developed at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, a research environment that fosters visionary thinking and innovation.
It all began in 1996, when Erin Riehle was Director of Cincinnati Children's Emergency Department. Erin felt that, because the hospital served individuals with developmental disabilities, it made sense that they should commit to hiring people in this group. She wondered if it would be possible to train people with developmental disabilities to fill some of the high-turnover, entry level positions in their department, which involved complex and systematic tasks such as stocking supply cabinets.
As a starting point, Erin presented their ideas to Susie Rutkowski, then the special education director at Great Oaks Career Campuses. Erin and Susie formed a partnership that was instantaneous, and together they launched Project SEARCH.
Project SEARCH is a business led collaboration that enables young adults with disabilities to gain and maintain employment through training and career exploration.
A 9-12 month program, Project SEARCH provides total immersion in a large community business. Students with disabilities are offered a workforce alternative for their last year of high school. All participants must be eligible for services with the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). At some sites, young adults who have completed high school may be eligible to participate in Project SEARCH.
The Project SEARCH partnership includes a local high-status business, a school, DVR, a Statewide Service Provider and a disability services agency, such as a managed care organization. The business provides an on-site training classroom, business liaison and rotational internships for on the job training. The school provides an instructor.
DVR works with a local Statewide Service Provider to supply Skills Trainers who support students onsite in their internships as needed and assist with final job placement. The disability services agency provides follow along services for any eligible student who is hired at the business site or in the community.
Each day, students report to the host business, learn employability skills in the classroom and job skills through their internships (usually 3-4 internships during the year). Students are encouraged to use public transportation when available, just as they would when employed after high school.
Students and their teams meet monthly for progress reports and to continually refine their career goals and determine concrete next steps. Managers from the host business work with the teacher and job coaches to support the students every step of the way.
The ultimate goal upon program completion being the students' competitive placements at the host business or in the community, based on the skills and experience learned in their Project SEARCH experiences.
Project SEARCH sites must be licensed by the flagship business, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, and must comply with standards of model fidelity (trademarked and copyrighted). Technical assistance is provided by the founders of Project SEARCH to ensure consistency in approach and data collection for this evidenced based program.