For more than 75 years, Easter Seals Southeast WI has been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play.
All of us have been troubled by the persistent high employment we have faced as a country and as a state over the last five years. During Governor Walker's State of the State address, he introduced men and women who have found employment through various state programs. One initiative he announced was the "Better Bottom Line," working to help more people with disabilities find competitive employment. Only 20% of adults with disabilities are competitvely employed. In his speech, Governor Walker singled out the Project SEARCH program as a leader in finding employment for those with disabilities. He wants to triple the number of Project SEARCH sites in the next three years. You may ask, "What is Project SEARCH?"
Project SEARCH is nine month internship for young men and women with a disability. The interns work at a local employer teaching transferrable and marketable jobs skills with the support of job coaches and a teacher. It is a partnership between local employers, schools and a local non-profit. The first Project SEARCH site was in Cincinnati's Children's Hospital and now there are over 300 Project SEARCH sites around the world in a variety of business from manufacturing to banking.
Easter Seals in partnership with ProHealth Care, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and the Department of Workforce Development created two Project SEARCH sites in Waukesha and Milwaukee County. We have 24 interns in this school year learning critical jobs skills. Our two employment partners provide support and mentors to assist Project SEARCH interns in their learning and development. We are proud to share that over 70% of our interns have found employment after the completion of their internship. We are not done yet. Easter Seals is talking with local employers about two new sites in the 2015 school year.
A "Better Bottom Line" is more than a slogan. People with disabilities have so much to offer as employees. With our workforce aging, we need to tap into the potential of all types of people, growing their skills, providing mentors and creating a culture of learning and development. Creating these structures will make a bottom line that will make everyone from CEO on down, SMILE!