Enabling Employment

By Akira Le Fevre - Mana Taurite (Equity) Team

Project SEARCH is a business led internship for high school leavers aged 18 to 21 years old who have learning disabilities, and who want to enter the workforce and is hosted by the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB). Interns spend a year at Burwood Hospital learning about the work environment in a classroom setting, while doing real work at the same time throughout the hospital. CCS Disability Action is driving the project and Riccarton High School is the managing school.

The total immersion one year internship is designed to give students marketable work experience and skills to compete for a job in their chosen field. 

Project SEARCH is a one year programme that provides the young interns with the skills they need to enter the workforce with confidence. Designed to break down barriers to employment, the programme sees each intern work across three 10-week placements to explore a variety of career paths. Interns are provided practical hands-on training, education, and career development as well as comprehensive support throughout the programme. 

Project SEARCH was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, a research environment that fosters visionary thinking and innovation. It all began in 1996, when Erin Riehle was Director of Cincinnati Children’s Emergency Department.

Erin felt that, because many patients had learning disabilities, it made sense that they should commit to recruiting people from this group. She wondered if it would be possible to train people with learning disabilities to fill some of the high-turnover, entry-level posts in her department, which involved complex and systematic tasks such as stocking supply cabinets.

As a starting point, Erin presented her ideas to Susie Rutkowski, then the special education director at Great Oaks, a vocational training college. Erin and Susie formed a partnership that was instantaneous, and together they launched Project SEARCH.

Project SEARCH is now a world wide programme with over 600 sites running the programme each year. 

Here in Ōtautahi, Project SEARCH is based out at Burwood Hospital with a team of educators and skills trainers and a designated job developer who supports the young interns during their 12 month programme and then for the following year to help keep them on track to finding paid employment. Of the seven interns who graduated in 2021, four have been offered contracts by the CDHB. Three graduates are now employed fulltime working in the Christchurch Hospital Supplies Department, as an orderly, and an administration officer in Clinical Records.

The CDHB are excited to see the progress of the 2022 Project SEARCH interns and look forward to supporting them in finding empowering mahi.

For info visit: https://www.projectsearch.nz/

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