Project SEARCH Graduation
Securing employment after graduation is a concern for young adults and parents alike. For students with special needs, the challenge may feel insurmountable. Project SEARCH is a unique business-led transition program for young adults with disabilities. The nation-wide program provides real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent living skills to help young adults with significant disabilities make successful transitions from school to productive adult life. It provides students who want to work a chance to explore careers and develop transferable job skills.
The Mary Washington Healthcare Project SEARCH graduation took place on June 7, 2019. Ten interns from the five Stafford County high schools participated in the program in the Stafford/Fredericksburg area. These ten interns spent the school year gaining valuable work experience and interpersonal skills immersed in various departments throughout Mary Washington Healthcare.
The Mary Washington Healthcare Project SEARCH program is one of several in Virginia, all in partnership with a host employer, a local secondary school, a supported employment agency, and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. In partnership with Stafford County Public Schools and RSVP Inc., Mary Washington Healthcare provides three ten-week rotations through various departments – including filing specimen slides in the pathology lab; sorting medications in the pharmacy; receiving and delivering supplies from materials management; resetting patient rooms in medical imaging, same day surgery and radiology; and a variety of other responsibilities.
Not only do students learn about the healthcare environment, but they also acquire competitive, marketable, and transferable skills enabling them to apply for related positions in the job market. Interns gain communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, which are important to the overall development as a young worker. The entire community benefits as the presence of a Project SEARCH High School Transition Program brings about long-term changes in a business culture that have far-reaching positive effects on attitudes about hiring people with disabilities and the range of jobs in which they are successful.
The ultimate goal for these young adults is to secure competitive employment at the host business or within their community upon completion of the program. Students are currently applying for various positions within Mary Washington Healthcare and in the community. Eight of the future graduates have already secured employment with local businesses.