Program helps students with special needs prepare for jobs

April 17, 2019 10:25 PM

You might not expect to find a classroom inside a hospital, but at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, it's part of an effort to help students with special needs.

Unemployment is often high for adults with disabilities. Last month, only 34 percent of all working-age people with disabilities were employed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.


Now Gillette is one of a handful of places in the Twin Cities hoping to change that statistic with a program called Project SEARCH. 

It's a program designed for 18-to-21 years olds with special needs or complex medical conditions, meant to help prepare them for the workforce. 

"It's a lot of those soft skills: being professional, teamwork, problem solving, communication. That's the main thing employers are looking for," said Emily Norton, a teacher with Project SEARCH.

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Part of the time is spent working in different rotations around the hospital. Christopher Tucker, 21, said it's helped him discover he has an interest in assistive technology.

"We always have to practice interviews, building a resume, knowing whether or not to show up on time, " he said.

In its first year, the program at Gillette graduated 10 students and all found jobs. Two were hired at Gillette.

The work being done by Project Search is important because of recent downward trends in disability employment. 

The percentages below reflect the number of all working-age people who either have a job or were looking for a job.

The classroom at Gillette isn't the only Project SEARCH location. 

There are sites at various locations around the Twin Cities, including Medtronic, the State Capitol and Embassy Suites in Bloomington.

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Ellen Galles

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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