In 2015, WestBridge Vocational engaged in a service program to prepare young adults with significant disabilities to succeed in competitive integrated employment. Six years later, more than 30 individuals have completed the rigorous Project SEARCH program, and 70% of them have secured an employment opportunity of their choice.
History Of Project SEARCH and Our Partner
Project SEARCH was developed in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center with a premise that because the hospital served individuals with significant disabilities, it should also commit to hiring people in this group. Today, there are more than 600 Project SEARCH sites globally. WestBridge Vocational is fortunate to be a part of the only program west of Asheville in NC.
It takes a collaborative effort among community partners to make a mission-driven community program successful and sustainable. We have two passionate partners in the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (NCDVR) and Southwestern Community College (SCC). The collective efforts of WBV, NCDVR, and SCC are the platform for the one-year program on the SCC campus. A combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through worksite rotations culminates in competitive employment opportunities for the individuals served.
Project SEARCH Is Rewarding.
For me, the most rewarding part of Project SEARCH is the transformation of the young adults throughout the year-long program. Many times, we see individuals enter the program who are struggling with various barriers. It is impressive to see these young people break those barriers and build confidence and self-esteem as they work through classroom instruction and worksite rotations. It is also rewarding to complete the program and achieve the ultimate goal – competitive employment in an integrated setting. For our local communities, the Project SEARCH model can promote changes in business culture attitudes about hiring people with disabilities for jobs to be successful.
This Year’s Interns
The six interns year’s year’s Project SEARCH will graduate from the program next May. We will provide updates in subsequent newsletters sharing their successes as they venture out into the working world. If you would like more information on Project SEARCH or would like to become involved, please reach out to us here at WestBridge Vocational.