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11/12/2019

L&I Launches New Program to Provide Job Skills Training to Students with Disabilities

Erie, PA – Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jerry Oleksiak today was joined by legislators, Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper and Erie Mayor Joe Schember to kick off a new program to help students with disabilities get the hands-on job skills training in Erie at Saint Vincent Hospital.

"The preparation and real-life work experience students will receive at Saint Vincent's Hospital though the Project SEARCH program sets them on a path of success and productivity in their adult lives," said Oleksiak. "When people with a disability hold jobs and earn competitive wages, they can achieve greater independence and inclusion in the community, and by creating a climate hospitable to workers with a disability, the commonwealth can tap an undervalued labor pool."

Project SEARCH, developed in 1996 at the Children's Hospital of Cincinnati, is a national model to provide hands-on skills training through strategically designed internships to secondary-school graduating students with disabilities. The program provides on-site education services at host employers for students who are ready to transition from secondary education to the workforce.

The program is a unique, business-led, one-year employment preparation program that takes place entirely at the workplace. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through worksite rotations. The employment site hosts up to 12 interns and is staffed by an education teacher and one to three skills trainers to meet the educational and training needs of the interns. The Saint Vincent – Project SEARCH program will serve students from the City of Erie School District.

At the completion of the training program, students with disabilities are employed in rewarding and competitive jobs. Employers that participate in the program can access an untapped talent pool or labor market.

Project SEARCH is a five-partner system between Saint Vincent Hospital, the Department of Labor & Industry's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Erie County Office of Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities, City of Erie School District, and the Barber National Institute.

For more information about the disability services through the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, visit www.dli.pa.gov/ovr.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Lindsay Bracale or Penny Ickes, L&I, 717-787-7530 or dlipress@pa.gov

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