Working for Wisconsin: Project SEARCH Prepares Youth with Disabilities for Workforce, Career Success
Innovative program expands under Governor Walker's workforce development agenda
Madison – During the State of the State Address tonight, Governor Scott Walker highlighted the success of Project SEARCH, an innovative worker training program that allows students with disabilities to gain work experience and develop skills that will help them gain employment after high school.
“Project SEARCH is helping students across Wisconsin develop important skills and work experience that will set a foundation for their career success,” Governor Walker said. “Additionally, participating employers in this business-driven program experience firsthand how people with disabilities have unique skills that can contribute toward their bottom line, as they equip these highly motivated individuals with skills that are in demand.”
Project SEARCH immerses young adults with disabilities in the workplace where they gain and maintain employment through training and career exploration. Project SEARCH partnerships include local businesses, schools, vocational services and disability services agencies, and the Department of Workforce Development‘s (DWD) Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). A Project SEARCH program lasts up to 12 months.
Employers provide an on-site training space, business liaisons and a variety of internship rotations that allow students to complete on-the-job training. Certified Special Education Instructors and career coaches work with interns to provide support and job coaching to ensure the interns’ success. Currently, Project SEARCH has 16 total employer sites across Wisconsin in cities such as Appleton, Green Bay, Marshfield, Madison, Menomonie, Middleton, River Falls, Sauk City, Stevens Point, Waukesha, Wisconsin Dells, and Wisconsin Rapids.
In 2014, Governor Walker expanded Project SEARCH through his Year of A Better Bottom Line initiative. New funding for Project SEARCH is supporting the creation of 20 new sites in Wisconsin by the end of 2017 through a partnership between DWD and the Department of Health Services (DHS). More than 200 students have graduated from Project SEARCH programs in Wisconsin since 2008.
DVR actively serves 17,000 job seekers with disabilities and helped 4,875 consumers reach their employment goals during the most recent federal fiscal year.
For more information on Project SEARCH click here.
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Andrew Jones is a partner in the Milwaukee office of Husch Blackwell LLP.