Project SEARCH is an educational and work transition program for those with cognitive and/or physical disabilities, is customized to the needs of each participant to help them gain and sustain employment and greater independence. Project SEARCH works with the business community to match their business needs with the intern's talent and abilities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Transitioning into employment
- Modeling relationships
- Identifying natural supports
- Developing strategies
- Onsite support as well as off site debriefing
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.
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.