The Project SEARCH Transition-to-Work Program is a unique, business-led, one-year employment preparation program that takes place entirely at the workplace. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through worksite rotations. The program culminates in individualized job development.
For a high school Project SEARCH program, the students need to be at least 18 years old to be considered for the program. Most student interns are between the ages of 18 and 22, but individuals in the 23–35 age range can be included if funding is available to support participants that are beyond school eligibility. Adult programs typically target young adults ages 35 and under however, consideration of adults older than 35 could be an individual site decision.
Yes, the instructor needs to be on site at the host business all day. The instructor is the on-site coordinator and an integral part of the team. In most Project SEARCH programs the instructor’s role is similar to a case manager or program coordinator for the student interns. The duties include:
- Planning and teaching the Project SEARCH Employability Skills curriculum
- Assisting student interns with interviewing skills and resume and portfolio development
- Coordinating and implementing the Employment Planning meetings to be held at least twice during each internship
- Completing the Vocational Fit Assessment for the student interns and internships with the skills trainer(s), sharing the information with the team, and applying the results for meaningful internship selection and final job development
- Developing internship sites with the business liaison and skills trainer
- Ensuring that the student interns learn competitive, marketable, transferable skills and achieve maximum productivity and quality while on their internships
- Developing work accommodations and work aids with the skills trainer
- Evaluating each student intern’s progress and filling out required documentation for partners, funders, and the Project SEARCH database
- Providing employer education about disability awareness and supervising people with disabilities
- Recruiting student interns for the next Project SEARCH class and creating a pipeline of potential candidates
- Ensuring that student interns are eligible for VR, long-term support, SSI, and other appropriate community, state, and federal supports
- Advocating for and facilitating internal job development at the host business
- Developing relationships with potential community employers
- Marketing the program within the host business and to the wider community
- Interacting with the student interns’ family members/caregivers
Student interns arrive directly at the host business via public transportation (if available in your community) or other independent means (i.e. not a school bus). If possible, they should not report to the high school for any reason while they are in Project SEARCH. Their day includes approximately 1.5 hours of the Project SEARCH Employability Skills curriculum and 5 hours at their internship (including lunch and travel time to the internship sites). To be eligible for Project SEARCH, the students 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.
Typical Project SEARCH Daily Schedule (This is a template and can be modified to fit local transportation and other site-specific needs). The student interns should be on site at least 6.5 hours. Most Project SEARCH programs have a training room at the host business that serves as a home base for the program and is where the employability skills curriculum is taught.
7:50 am Arrival at host business site
8:00 am Project SEARCH Employability Skills Curriculum
9:00 am Internships – learning specific competitive, marketable skills at actual host business work sites.
11:30 am Lunch
12:00 noon Internships (continued)
2:00 pm Return to classroom, review of day, journaling,
2:30 pm Adjournment for day
|Partner||Personnel and Supports||Source of Funding|
|Education||Instructor, curriculum, supplies (sometimes a Teacher’s Assistant or paraprofessional)||FTE for each student from state and local funding.
(Typically need 8–12 student interns to pay for an instructor)
|Vocational Rehabilitation||Sponsors student interns to support skills training and job development. (This is true in many states; however, some states will not fund skills training for young adults still in high school).||State/Federal funding – Student interns must be eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation.|
|Community Rehabilitation Partner||Provides skills training and job development||Vocational Rehabilitation, Medicaid, WIA, etc.|
|Developmental Disability Agency (Long-Term Service Provider)||Provides long-term employment support for retention and career advancement||Possible sources:
|Business||Business Liaison (approximately 10% FTE); onsite classroom/training room; internship sites; hosting of some marketing events, such as open houses and fairs. Typically the Business Liaison is a manager of a large department or from Human Resources, Training and Development, etc.||In-Kind
The process of planning and implementation takes about six to nine months. For a successful implementation, it is ideal to have one year for your planning team to work together. Project SEARCH programs follow the school calendar of their education partner, and typically begin operation in late August, Thus, a planning team should start meeting, at the latest, by January of the calendar year they want to begin. We suggest that you identify a Steering/Planning Team that meets at least monthly. All partner organizations should be represented (especially the host business once they are committed) on the Steering Team. The Team could also include a family member, a young adult with a disability, a disability agency, and other community members such as the Workforce Investment Board, University Center for Excellence, etc.
First, make sure you have all your partners represented and on board to begin the program. The partners must include those in bold listed below (if you are not in the United States, we will work with you to identify the analogous organizations in your country):
- Education: Local School District, Career Technical School, Educational Service Center, several neighboring school districts, adult education organization for adult programs, community colleges, etc.
- Vocational Rehabilitation (both local counselor and area supervisor if possible)
- Community Rehabilitation Partner (provider of skills training and job development). In states where the skills trainer is hired directly by VR, this agency is not required unless it is the long-term support agency.
- Developmental Disabilities Agency or Mental Health Provider (for long term follow along services)
- Workforce Investment Board / WIOA agencies in your community
- Host Business (the planning process can begin before a host business is identified but should include them as soon as they are secured)
- Representation from a disability organization for families
Have a meeting with your local partners to explore the possibility of Project SEARCH in your area and ensure that all partners are committed to implementing the program before moving forward. Feel free to utilize the Project SEARCH videos from this page: Who we Are
Each state has a designated Project SEARCH Program Specialist from the team at National Headquarters at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Your Program Specialist will assist your team through the start-up process. If you have not already made contact with the Program Specialist for your area, please contact us at ProjectSEARCH@cchmc.org. In your email message, be sure to indicate your location and mention your desire to start a new program site.
When all the partners are committed to beginning Project SEARCH, one of the partners will need to complete the Project SEARCH licensing agreement and contract for on-site Technical Assistance. To get this process started, contact our business office at ProjectSEARCHBusinessOffice@cchmc.org. With our Business Office, you can review the technical assistance procedures, the costs for the license/technical assistance, and outcomes associated with both. Once the licensing agreement process has started and payment has been arranged, your Project SEARCH Program Specialist will contact you to arrange the on-site Technical Assistance.