A Project Search session.
At the end of his internship, Joe’s goal is to find gainful employment.
At the end of his internship, Joe’s goal is to find gainful employment.

To clarify and build on Adam Man’s Oct. 24  commentary: Employment Matters for People with Disabilities in CTUnited Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Eastern CT is actively  implementing Project SEARCH to promote competitive employment for people with disabilities in our state by partnering with the CT Department of Developmental Services and the Mohegan Sun.

UCP of Eastern CT has 12 new Project SEARCH internships available beginning in August 2020. There are a few other Project SEARCH programs in our state, including one at UConn Medical Center in Farmington, but for Connecticut to make significant inroads, we need more opportunities like this. We encourage other business leaders and service organizations to adopt the Project SEARCH national model.

These internships combine classroom soft skills training and offer total immersion in the workplace for real-life work experience to help young adults with physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities gain marketable skills that lead to competitive employment. UCP’s program at the Mohegan Sun serves two populations: High school students who are on an Individual Education Program (IEP) and entering their last year of high school eligibility; and young adults with DDS support who are between the ages of 18 and 35.

Three Internship rotations are offered to enable young adults to explore career paths and match their abilities with the right job opportunities. Innovative adaptations are supplied where needed and long-term coaching helps this model achieve a high job placement rate. Nationally, a vast majority of graduates are hired, often by the businesses that host the Project SEARCH Program.

A win-win-win

Everyone gains, which is why we want to spread the word. Young adults with disabilities find gainful employment at competitive wages. They also make vital social and business connections. Employers diversify their workforces and fill jobs that are often high turnover positions.

Inclusion programs bring about changes in business culture — as they demonstrate how individuals with disabilities can succeed at a variety of jobs.

One of our inaugural interns, Joe B., has been served by UCP for nearly two years and has grown to be a leader among his peers. Joe’s current internship rotation is in the Grounds Department at the Mohegan Sun where he has taken on the responsibilities of gardening and assisting with grounds and fleet maintenance. Joe is developing strong working relationships and a natural support system within his department. At the end of his internship, he hopes to be gainfully employed at the Mohegan Sun, a business with a vibrant inclusion program and a success rate of nearly 80% for placement.

On the state level, Project SEARCH saves taxpayers money by decreasing state subsidies. On a federal level, Project SEARCH is aligned with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act— WIOA — landmark legislation designed to help Americans, including those with significant barriers to employment, gain competitive employment. Society also benefits by having a more inclusive workforce.

To learn more about UCP of Eastern CT’s program or to qualify for a Project SEARCH internship for 2020, please call us at 860-443-3800 x124 or email jkeatley@ucpect.org.

Jennifer Keatley is the Executive Director of UCP of Eastern CT.

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