Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development: Wisconsin Recognized as Disability Employment Leader at National Project SEARCH Conference
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11 of 14 Wisconsin Project SEARCH sites receive Employment Outcome Awards, ranking state in top 5 internationally for number of sites recognized
MADISON – Wisconsin's Project SEARCH program is garnering international recognition for its success in connecting hundreds of young adults with disabilities with employment opportunities across the state during the 2015-16 school year. Wisconsin tied Pennsylvania and Virginia for having the 3rd highest number of sites recognized at the 11th Annual Project SEARCH National Conference.
“Project SEARCH is a successful, business-led collaboration that helps young adults with disabilities demonstrate their many abilities to employers through internship experiences, and I'm pleased that this program continues to grow and create even more opportunities for workers and businesses," Governor Scott Walker said. "By tapping the talents of everyone who wants to work through collaborations like Project SEARCH, we will support a strong talent pipeline now and into the future."
Wisconsin's Project SEARCH program is administered by the Department of Workforce Development's (DWD) Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), in collaboration with key partners including the state Department of Health Services and the state Department of Public Instruction. Developed in 1996 by Nurse J. Erin Riehle at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the cornerstone of Project SEARCH is total immersion in a business environment for students with disabilities. In 2014 as part of his Year of A Better Bottom Line, Governor Walker announced an expansion of the Project SEARCH program and allocated $850,000 to expand the number of Project SEARCH sites in Wisconsin from seven to 27 in the following years. Project SEARCH sites in Wisconsin have an average employment success rate of 88 percent, outpacing the national Project SEARCH employment rate by 15 percent.
During this year's Project SEARCH National Conference, held July 24-27, 2017, at Kalahari Resort in Pocono Manor, PA, Wisconsin Project SEARCH sites were among 198 sites from across the world honored. Three Wisconsin Project SEARCH sites were recognized for having a 100 percent successful employment outcome for the 2015-2016 school year: Aspirus Riverview Hospital and Clinics in Wisconsin Rapids, Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells, and Ministry St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield. Six additional sites were recognized for achieving successful employment outcomes between 80 and 89 percent and two sites were recognized for successfully placing between 70 and 79 percent of Project SEARCH participants.
Project SEARCH operates in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland with several other countries in the early stages of site development.
"We are so proud of the remarkable achievements of the Wisconsin Project SEARCH sites!" said Erin Riehle, founder of Project SEARCH. "Wisconsin is a great example of how a coordinated statewide initiative can enhance the effectiveness of the Project SEARCH model."
The program partnership includes a local high-status business, a school, DVR, and a vocational services agency. The business provides onsite training in both a classroom and work setting while the school provides the instructor and DVR works with the service agencies to provide job coaches and other supports to the students while they participate in the program.
The 2017-2019 biennial budget that Governor Walker signed last week includes several initiatives to promote employment for people with disabilities, including:
Invests $35 million in General Purpose Revenue (GPR) to maintain the maximum federal funding for DVR. As a result, the total funding for DVR will be $185 million over the biennium.
$7.6 million in funding to support and expand programs that ensure students with disabilities gain the practical skills they need for life after high school. This includes $6.1 million to fund awards for school districts that successfully place students with disabilities in employment as well as $1.5 million to support the developments of school district efforts to connect students with disabilities with employment opportunities.
For more information on Project SEARCH and other services offered through DWD’s DVR, please visit https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dvr/.
For more information on the Project SEARCH National Conference, please visit http://projectsearch.us/Conference.aspx.