The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a unique, business-led, one-year, school-to-work program that takes place entirely at the workplace. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and relevant job-skills training through strategically designed internships.

The goal for each student participant is competitive employment. The program provides real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent living skills to help youths with significant disabilities make successful transitions from school to productive adult life. The Project SEARCH model involves an extensive period of training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, long-term job coaching, and continuous feedback from teachers, job coaches, and employers. As a result, at the completion of the training program, students with significant intellectual disabilities are employed in nontraditional, complex and rewarding jobs. The presence of a Project SEARCH High School Transition Program can bring about long-term changes in business culture that have far-reaching positive effects on attitudes about hiring people with disabilities and the range of jobs in which they can be successful.

View the Project Search Presentation from Founders Erin Riehle and Susie Rutkowski here:

How the Program Works

Through the course of an academic year, Project SEARCH students participate in employment related instruction and rotate through two to three internships that are individually crafted to capitalize on each student’s individual interests, and vocational goals and potential. Each rotation lasts about 10-12 weeks.

Interns work closely with an on-site team, including an instructor, job coach and job developer. The team assists the intern until the task assigned can be performed independently. Agencies are available throughout the program year to provide vocational counseling and guidance. The on-site team, student, family, vocational rehabilitation counselor, and school representatives meet regularly to discuss issues, progress, and career goals.

Graduates are prepared to meet employer expectations and to move into a job development phase. They leave the program with a professional portfolio which includes a resume, solid professional references, recommendations, and real-world work experience.

Job placement is the final goal of the program. Students can accept a job offer at any time during the school year if a match is found (at the host site or elsewhere in the community) and the team is in agreement.

Once successfully employed, graduates receive follow-along services to retain employment.


Typical School Day

The Union County Project SEARCH Program follows the Union County Educational Services Commission District calendar.
The following schedule times are only an example.

  • 8:30: Arrival at Overlook Medical Center

  • 8:30 to 9:30 am: Employability Skills Class

  • 9:30 to 11:30 am: Report to internship, rotating between three a year

  • 11:30 am to Noon: Lunch with coworkers

  • Noon to 2 pm: Resume internship

  • 2 to 2:30 pm: Class debriefing and dismissal

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