Friday, July 27, 2012

Business-led program for students with disabilities cited for high job-placement rate

PITTSBURGH, July 27, 2012 – The UPMC Mercy Project SEARCH program, which helps high school students with disabilities become valued employees in meaningful competitive jobs, received an Employment Outcome Award for its class of 2010-11 at the 6th International Project SEARCH Conference held in Austin, Texas, July 24-27.  Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania implements the program which was cited for achieving a job-placement rate of more than 60 percent. It was one of more than 70 Project SEARCH programs across the country that received Employment Outcome Awards.

            The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a unique, business- led, one year school-to-work program for students with disabilities, grade 12 or higher, who have completed their high school academic requirements, but have deferred taking a diploma that takes place entirely at the workplace. Hosted at UPMC Mercy and UPMC Passavant Hospitals, the program has helped over 30 Allegheny County students obtain employment.
            “Project SEARCH changes lives and Goodwill is proud to be an integral part of this outstanding program.  We congratulate the Project SEARCH staff, teams, and students of UPMC Mercy Project SEARCH on this award,” said Holly Opatick, Director of Transition Services at Goodwill.  The cornerstone of the program is total immersion in the organization, with students reporting to the host business, learning employability skills and marketable job skills, while participating in three job-training rotations during the school year.

            “In addition, Project SEARCH brings about positive cultural change within the work site organization by overcoming stereotypes and helping employees to see students with disabilities as unique individuals who can make real contributions to the organization and the greater community.”

Since its inception in 1996, Project SEARCH has grown from one original program site at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center to over 200 across the United States and Canada, England, Scotland, and Australia. Project SEARCH's primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities.

UPMC Project SEARCH Partners: UPMC, the County of Allegheny Department of Human Services Office of Intellectual Disability (OID), Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR).

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