Project SEARCH Intro – University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Madison, WI


Project SEARCH is an internship training
program that began in 1996 I believe with Aaron Riley at Cincinnati
Children’s Hospital and in the process of hiring students or in individuals
with disabilities she discovered that they wanted to do more of a business-led
model. So it follows the principles of the company and the company really does
determine how the program proceeds, at what speed it goes and how large it is.
It is done in partnership with usually an educational partner, in this case it’s the
Madison Metropolitan School District and with a vocational partner, the State of
Wisconsin Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and with Madison Area
Rehabilitation Centers. We’re the long-term vocational provider. We provide
the job coaches and then we also provide the long-term support. Once an individual
has graduated and is employed at the host business which is the UW Hospital.
They start off each morning with a classroom component where they learn a
variety of different work skills but then they go out and work within a
department. They’re totally immersed within the work culture. My concerns
would be would it interfere with the work of my current employees? Would it
slow productivity in my any of my areas? Would it hurt the service
we provide the patients? From a UWHC perspective it was very painless. The
school staff would come in, learn the jobs and make sure that they had a
student that could be successful in those jobs and then they would teach the
student that work and support that student until they became knowledgeable
enough to handle it themselves. There are some departments that like to
actually do the training themselves. There are other departments that really
like to have the job coach or the teacher provide the training. Project
SEARCH is located in hospitals, it’s been located in banks, insurance companies
also a Walmart distribution center and it holds true within all those
environments that students are learning great work skills and they are totally
immersed within the the culture of the business. The interns have made a big
impact on our efficiency. We bring them in and utilize them in positions as
we would utilize anyone else. They are very capable and highly motivated
individuals that can solve problems for us and you know they also taught some of
our full-time employees some little bit better work ethics as well so. Very
dependable. If these guys are scheduled to be here they’re here. The quality of
their work is just as good as any other employee we have. You know of course
there’s a learning curve, but the more anybody does anything the better you are
at it, the fewer errors that are made. Just through the progression of watching them,
you know do the jobs that we had earmarked for them, they can do so much
more. Project SEARCH taught me how to like, get along with people and like, how
to come like early to work every day. The skills you learn in there will
transfer over to those jobs which ever one you end up with and once you do
start working at an actual job you will pretty much know from the very start
what you’re doing and it will look really good on a resume. I’d show my
colleagues what, what successes we’ve had thus far and at
least start them thinking about how perhaps they might be able to have a
Project SEARCH students in a training rotation if not as it as a hire. I find
it refreshing here at UWHC that our senior leadership is so involved with
allowing us in middle management to have these type of programs. It’s, it’s
something that is very valuable to the community I think and to have a senior
leadership like we do here at UWHC that encourages this type of program and
stuff I think is really cool. I’ve been the Project SEARCH teacher for, I’ll be
going on my third year now and worked with many interns and I’ve seen them
grow so much from the time they walk in the door that first day until they exit
the program.They’re getting positive reviews from their department
supervisors, from there to their co-workers. Why not hire a Project
SEARCH intern? We actually have hired two as paid employees at our hospital and
they do anything and everything that’s asked of them, they do it well, they want
to give a hundred and twenty percent constantly and what more can any
employer ask? It’s been fantastic.

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