FAQs about Project SEARCH
Who funds Project SEARCH or who pays for what?
||Personnel and Supports
||Source of Funding
|Instructor, curriculum, supplies (sometimes a Teacher’s Assistant or paraprofessional)||FTE for each student from state and local funding. (typically need 8–12 student interns to pay for instructor)|
|Vocational Rehabilitation||Sponsors student interns to support job coaching and job development. (this is true in many states; however, some states will not fund job coaching for young adults still in high school).||State/Federal funding – Student interns must be eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation.|
|Community Rehabilitation Partner||Provides job coaching and job development||Vocational Rehabilitation, Medicaid, WIA, etc.|
|Developmental Disability Agency (Long-Term Service Provider)||Provides long-term employment support for retention and career advancement||Possible sources: Medicaid Waiver DD Support CMH Board Ticket-to-Work|
|Business||Business Liaison (approximately 10% FTE); onsite classroom/training room; internship sites; hosting of some marketing events, such as open houses and job fairs. Typically the Business Liaison is a manager of a large department or from Human Resources, Training and Development, etc.||In-Kind|
What is the role of the instructor?
The instructor remains on site at MSU all day. He is the on-site coordinator and an integral part of the team. In most Project SEARCH programs the instructor’s role is similar to a case manager or program coordinator for the student interns. The duties include:
– Planning and teaching the Employability Skills curriculum
– Assisting the student interns with resume and portfolio development
– Coordinating and implementing the Employment Planning meetings to be held at least twice during each internship
– Coordinating the Family Involvement Program with the Family Liaison and other family members
– Developing internship sites with the business liaison and job coach - Ensuring that the student interns learn competitive, marketable, transferable skills and achieve maximum productivity and quality while on their internships
– Developing work accommodations and work aids with the job coach - Evaluating each student intern’s progress and filling out required documentation for partners, funders, and the Project SEARCH database
– Providing employer education about disability awareness and supervising people with disabilities
– Recruiting student interns for the next Project SEARCH class and creating a pipeline of potential student interns
– Ensuring that all student interns are eligible for VR; long-term support; SSI; and other appropriate community, state, and federal supports
– Advocating for and facilitating internal job development at the host business
– Marketing the program within the host business and to the wider community
Below is a graph that shows the approximate amount of time that the teacher will spend on the various Project SEARCH-related activities. The activities and time allotted will vary depending on the time of the year.
Are the student interns on-site all day?
Yes, the student interns arrive directly to the host business via public transportation (if available in your community) or other independent means (i.e. not a school bus). If possible, they should not report to the high school for any reason. Their work day includes approximately 1.5 hours of Employability Skills curriculum and 5 hours at their internship (including lunch and travel time to the internship sites). To be eligible, the student interns should be finished with their high school credit requirements for graduation, certification, or completion so that they will be able to focus their entire day on learning competitive and marketable work skills.
Typical Project SEARCH Daily Schedule (This is a template and can be modified to fit local transportation and other site-specific needs). The student interns should be on site at least 6.5 hours. Most Project SEARCH programs have a training room at the host business that serves as a base for the program and where the employability skills are taught.
7:50 Arrival at MSU Classroom
8:00 Employability Skills Curriculum
9:00 Leave for Internships
9:15 Arrive at Internships – learning competitive, marketable skills
12:00 Internships (continued)
2:00 Return to classroom, review of day, journaling,
2:30 Adjournment for day
Below is an annual timeline that notes the major components of the program.
How old do the student interns need to be to begin the program?
For a high school Project SEARCH program, the students need to be at least 18 years old to be considered for the program. Most student interns are between the ages of 18 and 22, but individuals in the 23–30 age range can be included if funding is available to support participants that are beyond school eligibility. Adult programs typically target young adults ages 30 and under however, consideration of adults older than 30 could be an individual site decision.
What if the student interns need more classes to fulfill their graduation requirements?
Student interns should have their necessary classes completed. If a student intern needs one or two classes and the Project SEARCH Instructor is “highly qualified” to deliver the academic credit within the Project SEARCH program, school districts might make an exception.
Can high school graduates and/or adults be in the program?
Project SEARCH was originally designed for transition-aged youth. Many communities are beginning to extend this training opportunity for young adults who have graduated and want to work in a competitive setting. Project SEARCH classes typically include 10 to 12 student interns. A blended model could be designed that includes young adults (ages 30 and younger is recommended) with high school transition-age youth. These individuals also need to be eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation, WIA, or a Developmental Disabilities agency, or they could pay privately. Adult candidates need to go through the same application process as the students, including interviews, assessments, etc. Some communities are designing Project SEARCH programs for only adult participants. The basic model components still apply to an adult program. With no school involved, one of the participating agencies or several agencies needs to fund the instructor position. Compliance with wage and hour regulations becomes more critical with an all adult program.
Can the student interns be employed before the Project SEARCH program year is over?
The goal of the program for each student intern is competitive employment. A student intern can accept a job offer during the school year if a good job match is found (at the host site or elsewhere in the community) and the IEP team is in agreement. At this time, the student intern becomes an employee and assumes an employee’s schedule. For reporting and insurance purposes, the intern can maintain student status for the remainder of the school year.
Do the student interns have to rotate to other internships if they like the first one?
Project SEARCH is designed to give student interns the opportunity to have a variety of work experiences, to explore different careers, and to learn competitive work skills in a wide range of settings. This process helps to refine each student intern’s career goal and to prepare each student intern for employment. However, if a student intern can gain additional marketable skills and if there is a strong possibility of being offered a competitive job, it is often productive for that individual to do multiple rotations at a single internship site.
How do the student interns get to the program?
Wherever public transportation is available, Project SEARCH programs should take advantage of this resource. Vocational Rehabilitation, the school district, community rehabilitation programs, and families can work together to provide travel training before the program begins. Some communities provide travel training through the public transportation organization. Qualified student interns may be eligible for a para-transit system. Most qualified student interns are eligible for reduced transit fare but need to follow the eligibility process. Even though students with disabilities are entitled to school transportation, Project SEARCH strongly recommends that student interns use this transition year to learn to navigate the public transportation system independently. For families that need assistance, the schools can purchase the bus fare. In rural communities, the school may need to provide busses to the host business. Some small communities utilize other transportation resources such as community vans.
How many student interns are employed at the host site and what happens to the ones who are not hired?
Our research has shown that about a quarter of the student interns may be hired at the host business. The other student interns will need to find employment in the community using the skills they acquire through their internship experiences. The program partners—the school, Vocational Rehabilitation, families, and the Community Rehabilitation Partner (CRP)—should work together during the planning process to design the job placement process. The Project SEARCH instructor and job coach typically will be able to assist student interns through the application process at the host business when there is an opening that is a good match with the intern’s abilities. The CRP usually takes the lead in the employment process for the remaining Project SEARCH student interns.
What do the student interns wear during the Project SEARCH day?
Many programs select uniforms that reflect the host business environment and have the student interns wear a polo shirt with the Project SEARCH logo along with the host business logo. Other programs ask that the student interns wear business casual, scrubs, or other attire suitable to the host business environment. All Project SEARCH student interns are badged by the host business and participate in similar on-boarding and orientation procedures as typical employees. Whether the student interns wear the Project SEARCH logo or not, we believe it is a strong marketing and education tool for the Project SEARCH staff to wear attire with the logo.