How Project SEARCH helps prepare young adults with disabilities for workforce

Ten Project SEARCH interns were celebrated in a graduation ceremony at McHenry County College on May 21 in the college’s Luecht Auditorium.

Project SEARCH, which launched in September 2020, aims to prepare young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to obtain competitive employment for a productive adult life.

The interns successfully completed three, 10-week long internships at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital. The model of the program involves an extensive period of skills training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, long-term job coaching, and continuous feedback from instructors, skills trainers, and mentors. Students learn complex, systematic tasks that directly result into transferrable, employability skills.

Some of their tasks at the hospital included ordering, restocking, or delivering supplies; preparing food; greeting patients and guests; helping to sanitize; and other small projects. They also gained experience applying for jobs, interviewing, building a resume, problem solving, and practicing time management and critical thinking.

“I couldn't be prouder of this group of interns,” said Shannon Ciezadlo, Lead Employability Instructor, Parents Alliance Employment Project Together at Project SEARCH Huntley Hospital. “They applied to over 200 jobs and attended countless interviews, demonstrating immense resilience and determination. Despite the challenges they faced, they kept their heads held high and approached each opportunity with great optimism. Congratulations to all the interns for their remarkable efforts and achievements.”

The interns are in the process of obtaining competitive employment with local employers, and many have already secured jobs at locations such as Valley Hi Nursing Home, Dollar Tree, BTM Industries, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and Village Pizza and Pub.

Project SEARCH is a partnership with host employer Northwestern Medicine, the Parent’s Alliance Employment Project, McHenry County Workforce Network, and MCC. MCC serves as the academic partner for the project.

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