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Scott Walker, Governor
Reginald J. Newson, Secretary

Department of Workforce Development
Secretary's Office

201 E. Washington Avenue
P.O. Box 7946
Madison, WI 53707-7946
Telephone: (608) 266-3131
Fax: (608) 266-1784
Email: sec@dwd.wisconsin.gov

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
CONTACT: DWD Communications, 608-266-2722
On the Web: http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dwd/news.htm
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WIWorkforce
On Twitter: @WIWorkforce

A Better Bottom Line: Lt. Governor Kleefisch, DWD Secretary Newson Recognize 2014-15 Project SEARCH Interns at St. Elizabeth Hospital

Seven high school students with disabilities to take part in this year's program at hospital

APPLETON – During a formal kick-off event today, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Reggie Newson met with St. Elizabeth Hospital's newest group of interns who are taking part in a training and education program geared toward students with disabilities. The program, called Project SEARCH, is a national program that provides students with disabilities with skills and work experience that will help them succeed after they finish high school.

Since 2008, 140 students with disabilities have graduated from Project SEARCH programs throughout Wisconsin. Besides the program at St. Elizabeth Hospital, Project SEARCH sites operate in Menomonie, Marshfield, Appleton, Madison, Middleton, Milwaukee and Waukesha.

"We thank St. Elizabeth Hospital for its enthusiastic support for this program, which helps young people with disabilities develop valuable workplace skills and training," Lt. Governor Kleefisch said. "On behalf of Governor Walker, I wish the newest group of interns the very best during their time in Project SEARCH and in years ahead."

The cornerstone of Project SEARCH is immersion into the business environment. Five days a week, Project SEARCH interns report to St. Elizabeth Hospital to learn employability skills in a classroom and hands-on job skills. During their time in the program, they participate in internship rotations where they gain real-life work experience.

"Employing persons with disabilities is at the center of Governor Walker's declaration of 2014 as the Year of A Better Bottom Line in Wisconsin," Secretary Newson said. "Through innovative programs like Project SEARCH, along with other partnerships through our Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, employers are providing opportunities for persons with disabilities and improving their bottom line as a result."

Recognizing the many partners who make Project SEARCH possible, Secretary Newson continued, "St. Elizabeth Hospital, Appleton Area School District, Valley Packaging, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation have all shown remarkable dedication to the success of these students."

DVR staff, teachers and hospital human resources staff participate in the screening and selection process for Project SEARCH interns. Career coaches from Valley Packaging assist the interns on the job to insure that they have the supports they need to be successful.

Partnering agencies receive pre-paid training and technical assistance required for all Project SEARCH initiatives. The training is provided by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). Project SEARCH was developed at CCHMC in 1996 by Nurse J. Erin Riehle, then the director of the Emergency Department there. Project SEARCH is now an internationally recognized model of employment training for young adults with disabilities.

Governor Walker this year signed legislation for a $35.4 million expansion to the Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) worker training program as part of his Blueprint for Prosperity Initiative. The funding included $850,000 to create 20 new Project SEARCH sites in Wisconsin over three years.

The Governor proclaimed 2014 as the Year of A Better Bottom Line to highlight successful operations thanks in part to the contributions of people with disabilities, while urging other employers to consider an often overlooked skilled and capable workforce.

DVR assists over 17,000 individuals with disabilities, and in fiscal year 2014, it helped 4,415 job seekers with disabilities achieve their employment goals. These newly employed individuals are projected to earn $78.3 million annually, more than double the taxpayer investment in their services.

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