Project SEARCH

Established in October 2010, Project SEARCH at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital combines real-life work experience through the integration of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. The cornerstone of the program is immersion in the community and partnering with local businesses and corporations to provide our interns with on-the-job experience, job coaching and mentoring that provides the skills and experience that allows them to compete for jobs on an equal footing with other candidates. 

For more information about Project SEARCH, contact our program coordinator at 484.596.5853.

Download and print an intern application (PDF)

Project SEARCH: our approach

In partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and local business partners, Project SEARCH is a unique program that offers adults with disabilities the tools and training they need to work a minimum of 20 hours per week in a job that matches their interests and capabilities. The program is broken down into four sections: classroom training, internships, job development, and on the job support.

Classroom education

During time in the classroom, our Project SEARCH interns are trained in the following skills:

  • Work readiness includes, but is not limited to: education on worker characteristics, professionalism, communication, workplace rules and expectations, conflict resolution, financial literacy, etc.
  • Business communication: developing a resume, writing a cover letter, completing an application, etc.
  • Interviewing strategies and practice
  • Job searching skills
  • Disclosing a disability
  • Building a peer support network with the other interns


Over three 12-week rotations, interns experience:

  • On the job training and valuable, transferable job skills
  • An opportunity to explore various careers and gain on the job experience, which helps strengthen their resume
  • Networking opportunities with professionals in the field
  • Ongoing monitoring and support from peer mentors and job coaches, as needed.

Job development

Following the completion of the three 12-week internships, the Project SEARCH staff works with interns in the following ways to help them secure employment:

  • encourages and supports interns to apply for appropriate jobs.
  • offers opportunities to meet with Project SEARCH staff to complete job searches, fill out applications, prepare for interviews, etc.
  • interns will have support of a job coach on their employment interview.
  • take the job development skills they learned in the classroom portion of the program and put them into action with the support of job coaches, if needed.
  • supports interns as they independently pursue jobs, after the completion of their training.

On the job support

Once an intern secures employment, a member of the Project SEARCH team will provide job coaching support as they transition into employment. Below are example of how a coach could provide support in this phase of the program.

  • Orientation
  • Transitioning into employment
  • Modeling relationships
  • Identifying natural supports
  • Developing strategies
  • Onsite support as well as off site debriefing

Vocational education: Our approach

Project SEARCH could be more than yearlong program that runs Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Interns who have been accepted into the program complete their first of three 12-week internships at the host site for the program, either Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital or Lankenau Medical Center. All internships include classroom education for one hour each day in addition to five hours of internship work.

Interns who are in their second and third internship rotations will continue to patriciate in one hour of classroom education, but their internship site may be off site at another business partner location. Business partners providing internship experience include:

  • Acero Precision
  • DiOrio Agencies, State Farm
  • Dunwoody Village
  • Nielsen-Kellerman
  • Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA
  • White Horse Village
  • YMCA of Greater Brandywine

Through a wide variety of classroom and real-life experience, interns gain a range of skills they'll need in the working world from the job search, application, and interview process to acclimating to the professional environment. They practice:

  • Work readiness and professionalism
  • Appropriate dress for the work environment
  • Physical, mental and emotional coping skills
  • Effective communication techniques
  • Written communication skills
  • How to confidently and proactively disclose a disability
  • Interview strategies and practices
  • Application techniques
  • Developing a peer support network

Job coaches also play an important part in the internship process, ensuring that tasks are properly completed, anticipating and solving challenges, facilitating conflict resolution, and conducting evaluations. Ultimately, the job coach fades out of the intern's day-to-day life, as they gain the skills to master their responsibilities independently.

If an intern does not successfully secure competitive employment at the conclusion of their third internship, they enter into the job development phase. Job coaches support interns during each phase, focusing on job searching, application completion, follow up calls, interview preparation and execution, as well as tracking all progress. 

Real work experience: Our approach

Classroom instruction is a valuable introduction to a real-world job, but nothing prepares Project SEARCH interns better than hands-on experience. By practicing the tasks they will need upon finding a job, interns of Project SEARCH prepare to meet and exceed on-the-job goals.

Project SEARCH interns can choose from a variety of industries and roles to fit their interests and abilities. The Project SEARCH team works with interns to determine the best fit, but if a participant begins an internship and all parties determine that it's not a good fit, the intern will be reassigned to a role that is a better match.

Internship opportunities are individualized based on the intern's strengths, interests and abilities. Some examples of internship job titles and types of work include:

  • Assembly
  • Child care aide
  • Clerical in a variety of settings
  • Customer service
  • Data entry
  • Distribution: stocking supplies
  • Environmental services teams
  • Facilities maintenance assistance
  • Food & Nutrition (prep work, catering and hosting)
  • Human resources assistant
  • Information clerk
  • Laboratory technician
  • Laundry technician
  • Manufacturing
  • Mail room associate
  • Member services associate
  • Office support representative
  • Patient activity assistance or rehabilitation clinical support
  • Patient transporter
  • Receptionist
  • Rehabilitation technician
  • Retail stocking and register
  • Sterile processing
  • Store associate

Many Project SEARCH interns have already gone onto stable and productive full and part-time jobs with companies and organizations like Acero Precision CHOP, Main Line Health, Maris Grove, Paoli Pharmacy, Safe Circuit, Wegmans, YMCA, various community doctor offices and many more.

Entrance criteria

While Project SEARCH can benefit a number of people, there are certain practical, medical and legal guidelines that must be met before someone enrolls in the program. Project SEARCH interns must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age and have completed high school
  • Meet eligibility requirements for Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR),have an open OVR case and the OVR counselor must be in support of the application.
  • Maintain appropriate behavior and social skills in the workplace
  • Take direction and feedback
  • Communicate effectively
  • Independent transportation and/or utilize public transportation when available for travel to and from the internship site.
  • Desire to work competitively in the community

Please note: Acceptance into the Project SEARCH program is contingent upon a satisfactory health screening to include substance abuse testing and flu shot, if required based upon the time of year. If the applicant fails the substance testing portion of the health screening, they must wait 12 months to reapply to Project SEARCH. Acceptance into Project SEARCH is also contingent upon background checks to include child abuse clearance and other clearances as required by Main Line Health.

Community impact

The positive effect of more people achieving gainful employment is obvious, but the community benefits of Project SEARCH are not only for the interns. A combination of funding from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital and many generous donors covers the costs of training the businesses that hire Project SEARCH graduates. The businesses gain proficient employees who work hard, like learning and take pride in their jobs. Businesses who hire Project SEARCH graduates also enjoy excellent employee retention in jobs that typically suffer from high turnover, offering job-training savings that boost the company's bottom line.

Ways to get involved

Main Line Health System was Project SEARCH's first business partner. Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital is always expanding the number of companies and local businesses involved in Project SEARCH, enriching the number of opportunities within interns' reach and facilitating the hiring of excellent employees.

Our job coaches aren't the only ones helping the program intern achieve their goals. Peer mentors are employees of the Project SEARCH business partners who all step up as a natural point of support for the intern as they transition into their internship. They complete the participant's initial training and become a natural point person for any questions, as well as meeting with the intern and Project SEARCH staff on a routine basis to ensure everything goes smoothly.

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Frequently Asked Questions

As adults with disabilities prepare to tackle the working world, they and their families may have questions about the Project SEARCH program.

What internship opportunities are available?

Some of the internship positions available include central supply technician, central sterilization processing, data entry, environmental services attendant, food service assistant, inpatient therapy aide, linen room and fitness center attendant, mail room staff, retail stocking, laboratory technician, information clerk, patient transporter/unit attendant, receptionist, member service, unit coordinator, child development aide, human resources assistant and many more.

Does Project SEARCH provide transportation?

No. Interns are responsible for transportation to and from their Project SEARCH internship.

How long is each internship rotation?

Each rotation lasts for 12 weeks. In the seventh week, interns meet with the Project SEARCH team, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), their support networks, and support staffers to review their successes and start planning their next placement.

What does a typical day include

Interns will participate in one hour of classroom education and 5 hours of their internship rotation throughout their 12-week rotation. The internships are Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Are interns required to receive a flu shot?

Yes. All employees, interns and volunteers throughout the Main Line Health System receive an annual flu shot.

Can interns request time off for an outside appointment?

The program is developed to be flexible enough so interns can continue to participate in routine medical appointments and therapy appointments. It will be important to inform the Project SEARCH Coordinator of any routine appointments so that the program can be adjusted as necessary.

What is appropriate work attire?

Interns are expected to have a clean, neat appearance and should dress according to the requirements of their position, as outlined by their department's specific dress code. Clothing, hair, fingernails and jewelry should be neat, clean, safe and otherwise suitable for a health care environment.

Do interns bring their own lunch?

Interns may bring their lunch or purchase lunch in the cafeteria, if the internship site has a cafeteria. Interns are encouraged to eat with their co-workers and peers at the internship sites.

What is a job coach?

A job coach provides support to the intern and the internship department. A job coach is responsible for ensuring that each intern completes assigned tasks properly. The job coach reports complications and challenges to the Project SEARCH Coordinator. The job coach facilitates conflict resolution and will help develop strategies that support interns in completing their responsibilities independently. The goal of job coaching support is to fade out and the intern will be independent in their tasks. Once the job coaches fade out, the intern will have the natural support of the peer mentor. The Project SEARCH team will then complete routine check ins and can come back in, if needed.

Job Coaching support is provided to all interns during their internship rotations. As long as an intern secures employment, either during their internships or during the supported job development time frame, job coaching support will be provided in employment through Project SEARCH.

What is a peer mentor?

A peer mentor is an employee of the business partner. Identified as a natural support for the intern, they will complete the intern's initial training and be the go-to person in the department if the intern has any questions. The peer mentor will also meet with the intern and Project SEARCH staff on a routine basis (weekly or bi-weekly) to ensure that everything is going smoothly and all issues/concerns are resolved.

Is job placement guaranteed at the conclusion of the program?

No. However, if interns meet the requirements for an available position with the company hosting their internship, they're encouraged and supported to apply and can complete additional job development within the program.

If Project SEARCH isn't a fit, can an intern withdraw?

Yes. Interns can leave the program at any time.

Do interns have to wait until the end of the program to begin a job search?

No. Interns can begin their job search as soon as they're qualified for employment. If they're hired, they will then move into the supported employment portion of the program.

What does my Project SEARCH program look like once I secure employment?

Once an intern secures employment, their internship rotations will conclude. The intern will focus solely on their employment. Job coaching support will be offered to all interns as long as they secure employment during their internship rotations or during their supported job development time frame. Intensity of the support will depend on the intern's needs.

What if an intern misses a day?

He or she is responsible for scheduling time with the Project SEARCH Coordinator to review what was missed and plan a way to make up the work.

What screening does the program complete?

All interns are referred to the program by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), which is a government agency that helps people with disabilities become productive members of society. Each intern has been referred as an appropriate candidate by the professional rehabilitation counselors at OVR. Project SEARCH completes criminal background checks, child abuse clearances and drug screens for all interns. All interns receive a TB QFT screening and a flu vaccination (during flu season). All interns will be required to show proof of COVID19 vaccination and fully immune by the start of their program. Religious and medical exemption will be allowed. This is in accordance with Main Line Health policy.

Is employment only found in the business partners?

No. Fifty percent is within business partners and 50 percent is in the community. We strive to do what is best for the intern.