Project SEARCH is a 10-month transition-to-work program for youth with intellectual disabilities that takes place entirely at a workplace. Students prepare for employment through a combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, hands-on training through 3 co-op rotations, and individualized job development.
The Project SEARCH model was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996 and has since spread to 600+ sites worldwide. The model boasts a strong success rate – about 75 percent of students secure quality employment within a year of graduation.
In their final year of high school, Project SEARCH Toronto students are immersed for 10 months of learning and co-op placements at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and UHN Toronto Rehab. A typical day begins and ends with classroom instruction, led by a Toronto District School Board (TDSB) teacher based at UHN Toronto Rehab’s Rumsey-Neuro Centre. Topics focus on life skills that will help make students successful in the work place, such as money management and building professional communication skills. Students are supported at their co-op placements by the teacher and job & skills developers from Community Living Toronto. After graduation, Community Living Toronto provides personalized employment support so students secure quality jobs.
Project SEARCH is powered by partnerships including the business site hosts (Holland Bloorview and UHN Toronto Rehab), an educational partner (TDSB) and a developmental service partner (Community Living Toronto). The Project SEARCH program model was introduced to Ontario as an innovative best practice by the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN). United Way Greater Toronto’s Career Navigator program is an important partner for Project SEARCH Toronto. Career Navigator is the signature program of United Way’s 10 year Youth Success Strategy and promotes success for youth facing multiple barriers through interconnected education, training, job placement, soft skills and wrap-around supports.
All partner organizations are involved in providing leadership for the operations of Project SEARCH Toronto.
Project SEARCH was developed as an internship program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the headquarters for the organization with the intention of increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Most students enroll in the internship program in their last year of high school while they are in the process of transitioning from high school to work. Throughout the program students are given the opportunity to explore a variety of career paths to determine which field is the right fit for them. For more information on the history and story of Project SEARCH visit www.projectsearch.us.
Community Partners in the Project SEARCH Toronto initiative