Since its inception in 1996, Project SEARCH has grown from a single program site at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to a large and continuously expanding international network of sites in 48 states and 10 countries. Project SEARCH’s primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities.
Project SEARCH is a business-led collaboration between Baptist Medical Center-Attala (BMCA), Attala & Kosciusko School Districts and The Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services that enables young adults with disabilities to gain and maintain employment through training and career exploration. It is an unpaid internship. The goal for each program participant is competitive employment. To reach that goal, the program provides real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent-living skills to help young people with disabilities make successful transitions to productive adult life. As a result, at the completion of the training program, students with disabilities are employed in nontraditional, complex and rewarding jobs.
What Does a Good Project SEARCH Candidate Look Like?
- MUST HAVE A STRONG DESIRE TO WORK!
- Should be finished with their high school credit requirements for graduation, certification, or completion so that they will be able to focus their entire day on gaining competitive and marketable work skills. Agree to exit high school after successful completion of the program
- Must be between 18-21 years old and eligible for Special Education Services. ● Must be eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation through MS Department of Rehabilitation Services ( School districts will assist with this)
- Must have good attendance record
- Should have caregiver/family support to participate in planning meetings ● Should have a positive attitude
- Basic and effective communication skills (verbal or supported by technology)
- Basic reading and writing skills
- Ability to manage their own self-care (to include appropriate social, grooming and hygiene skills
- Able to pass drug screening and background check
- Must have updated immunizations (including flu vaccine)
- Must complete TB testing
- Must be prepared to make arrangements for transportation for employment upon completion of the program
- Maintain appropriate behavior in the workplace (absent of excessive behavioral reports). Have the ability to take directions and change behavior when needed ● Ability to self-manage health needs while at the program
- Ability to tolerate long walking/standing
- Must have the ability to understand safety
- Should have the ability to understand CONFIDENTIALITY. (Should have the ability to respect the privacy of others to include not listening to other people’s conversations either on the phone or in person, not trying to look at other people’s computer screens while at work.
Transition-to-Work Program-The goal for each program participant is competitive employment. To reach that goal, the program provides real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent-living skills to help young people with significant disabilities make successful transitions to productive adult life. The Project SEARCH model involves an extensive period of skills training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, long-term job coaching, and continuous feedback from teachers, skills trainers, and employers. As a result, at the completion of the training program, students with significant intellectual disabilities are employed in nontraditional, complex and rewarding jobs. In addition, the presence of a Project SEARCH program can bring about long-term changes in business culture that have far-reaching positive effects on attitudes about hiring people with disabilities and the range of jobs in which they can be successful.
Eligibility-Project SEARCH serves young people with disabilities. Typically, these are high school students who are on an Individual Education Program (IEP) and in their last year of high school eligibility. The program can also be adapted to serve out-of-school youth and young adults who are beyond school age. The most important criterion for acceptance into Project SEARCH is a desire to achieve competitive employment.
Program Overview-Program participants (interns) attend the program for a full school year in the host business/hospital, BMCA. The host business provides access to an on-site training room that can accommodate up to 12 interns. The site is staffed by a special education teacher and one to two skills trainers to meet the educational and training needs of the interns.
- Once the program year begins,the first few weeks are focused on intern orientation, hands-on skill assessment, and familiarization with the business environment. Interns develop a career plan, which guides the internship selection process and individualized job search.
- Employment Skills Curriculum:Throughout the program year, the interns work on employability and functional skills for approximately one hour of their day. Training room activities are designed around these focus areas: Team Building, Workplace Safety, Technology, Maintaining Employment, Self-Advocacy, Financial Literacy, Health and Wellness, and Preparing for Employment, and Social and Communication skills.
- Internships:Through a series of three targeted internships the interns acquire competitive, marketable and transferable skills to enable them to apply for a related position. Interns also build communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills which is important to their overall development as a young worker. These are unpaid work experiences-analogous to the clinical rotations that are part of every medical school or business internship program. Potential internship sites are identified through a continuous collaborative process involving the instructor, skills trainers, and business liaison. These internship rotations begin a few weeks after the start of the program. Interns are required to interact with their supervisors via telephone and written communications to arrange a job interview to secure each rotation. A department mentor is identified at each site. The mentor interacts with the instructor, skills trainers, and the intern as a consistent source of guidance and feedback. Interns spend approximately five hours each day at the internships, which includes a thirty minute lunch. Working from a task list, they acquire the core skills necessary to be hired in an entry-level position at the host business site or in the community. Skills trainers and department staff collaborate to provide support for interns. The Project SEARCH staff delivers the training and develops job accommodations and standard work procedures. Once the interns master the core skills, additional skills are layered on to improve their marketability.
Job Development and Community Connections-During the last few months of the program the emphasis is on refining skills, achieving the career goal, and carrying out individualized job development. The Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor becomes an even more important part of the team as the job search process begins. Job development is based on the intern’s experiences, strengths, interests, and skills. Linkages to appropriate services in the community are critical at this stage, as interns prepare to graduate from the program, to ensure a successful transition to employment and adult life. Services are identified in the community that provide assistance with necessary adaptations required to perform a specific job. Job coaching and long-termfollow along are usually arranged through the local Developmental Disability organization. Upon satisfactory completion of the program (95% or better attendance, good attitude, successful skill acquisition at each job site) interns receive a Career Portfolio. The contents of the packet will vary among replicated program sites, but generally the packets contain a resume, letters of recommendation, a competency profile, and any awards or special recognition received while in the program.
Intern Selection-Interns are typically referred to the program through their schools, a family member, or Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and apply in the winter and spring in the year prior to entering the program. A team representative of all the partners: Project SEARCH instructor, host business liaison, VR Counselor, community rehabilitation provider staff, and other appropriate personnel carry out the selection process. The process includes tours, student interviews, hands-on assessments at the host business, and scoring on a rubric related to entrance considerations.Interested parents or high school Seniors should contact the Exceptional Services Department prior to Spring Break of the students final semester to obtain an application and start the information and application process. 662-289-7193.