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Tony Evers, Governor
Amy Pechacek, Secretary-designee

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

May 23, 2023
CONTACT: DWD Communications

DWD, Mitchell International Airport Celebrate Graduation of Seven Local Project SEARCH Interns

Collaborative Program Prepares Young Adults with Disabilities for Rewarding Careers

Jaden Patton
Jaden Patton delivers his remarks to a room full of family and friends at Mitchell International Airport on Friday, May 19. Patton, and six other individuals with disabilities, graduated from the nine-month Project SEARCH program.

MILWAUKEE – Jaden Patton started the year at Project SEARCH with significant barriers that were outside of his control. Throughout the school year, the 21-year-old worked hard on implementing the feedback provided to him by various Project SEARCH support team members, who all agree that he has improved tremendously in his self-advocacy, goal setting, and communication skills.

Patton, a graduate of Milwaukee High School of the Arts, joined six other individuals with disabilities who all celebrated the completion of Project SEARCH on Friday, May 19, during a graduation ceremony that drew friends and families to Mitchell International Airport.

"The Department of Workforce Development this year is excited to celebrate Wisconsin's nearly 200 Project SEARCH graduates, who pushed themselves to explore new opportunities, develop additional life skills, and take pride in the work they have done over the past nine months," said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. "In Wisconsin, more employers are tapping the state's diverse talent pool. Successful programs like Project SEARCH reaffirm that workers with disabilities can bring tremendous skills and talents to any employer's workforce."

The graduation ceremony marked the completion of a nine- to 12-month immersive work experience. The interns recounted their hands-on experiences and talked about their future career opportunities.

In addition to the host site and DWD's vocational rehabilitation division, the local internship experience was made possible by partners including Milwaukee Public Schools, Goodwill Industries of Southeast Wisconsin, and Paradies Lagardere and HMS Host, both employers operating within the airport. Statewide, 28 premier employers are participating in Project SEARCH this year.

DWD's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation oversees Project SEARCH statewide and has supported the program with funding, coordination and technical assistance. The state division also provides vocational counseling and support to program participants.

Project SEARCH is a collaborative effort among state vocational rehabilitation agencies, area schools, local employers, and long-term care organizations to help interns acquire marketable, competitive, and transferable skills that lead to employment. The interns complete multiple 10-week rotations to maximize exposure to different career paths and learn employability skills in a classroom and hands-on job skills within the business environment.

Started at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in 1996, Project Search has provided workforce training to approximately 1,500 Wisconsin residents since its statewide launch in 2008. For more, visit Project SEARCH Wisconsin.

From left to right: Antonio Morales, Adryel Torres, Angel Arenas, Shakayla Trotter, Jaden Patton, RJ Szpara, and Miguel Angel Rosales.
From left to right: Antonio Morales, Adryel Torres, Angel Arenas, Shakayla Trotter, Jaden Patton, RJ Szpara, and Miguel Angel Rosales.


Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development efficiently delivers effective and inclusive services to meet Wisconsin's diverse workforce needs now and for the future. The department advocates for and invests in the protection and economic advancement of all Wisconsin workers, employers and job seekers through six divisions – Employment and Training, Vocational Rehabilitation, Unemployment Insurance, Equal Rights, Worker's Compensation and Administrative Services. To keep up with DWD announcements and information, sign up for news releases and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.