Howard County Launches Project SEARCH to Help Transition Interns with Disabilities to the Workplace
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced that government offices are the latest Project SEARCH sites in Maryland – an initiative to support employment skills and opportunities for youth with disabilities in their final year of school. During the course of the school year, participants are enrolled in three, 10-week internships covering a variety of career paths to help them transition to the workplace.
“These are capable individuals who are motivated to contribute their best and hope to earn the satisfaction of making an independent living,” said County Executive Ken Ulman. ”They just need access to the right guidance and training to succeed. We can offer that.”
“The best part of being in Project SEARCH is the jobs,” said Matt Higgs, a 20-year-old intern from Clarksville, MD, about his roles in the County mailroom and County Council office. “It is great working with Howard County Government. It will help me get the skills to find a job.”
Howard County departments of Inspections, Licenses and Permits, Public Works, Planning and Zoning, Central Services, Recreation and Parks, and Citizen Services will collectively host 12 interns contributing various entry-level office functions of scanning, filing and data entry as well as stocking and inventorying supplies, and cleaning and general maintenance.
“The workplace is so competitive,” said Howard County Chief Administrative Officer Lonnie Robbins. “In the public sector, we have the flexibility to offer these young people the experience and skills they need to compete on their own. It will be rewarding to see what these young people are able to accomplish because we helped give them a strong start and the right tools.”
In coordination with the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), The Arc of Howard County, the Howard County Autism Society, and the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), the interns will gain marketable, hands-on job skills, along with work-based coaching and an increased sense of confidence that enables them to pursue competitive employment.
“I am so excited that our 18 months of planning have finally made this program a reality and thank everyone involved,” said Kim McKay, Program Manager of Project SEARCH for the Arc of Howard County. “It means so much to the futures of these young people to have this opportunity.”
The interns began an orientation week at the start of the school year in August followed by a series of interviews with their prospective “employers” to ensure a good experience for all concerned. Starting September 15, a typical day will involve an hour of class time with a HCPSS instructor, followed by work-site training and experience. Each intern will have a designated supervisor and mentor at their internship assignment to help them learn and develop.
The program is funded mainly through private grants to the Arc of Howard County from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and the Lisa Higgins Hussman Foundation, state-funded DORS initiatives and will be staffed by a combination of two Arc and two HCPSS employees.
“This program is part of equipping our students for successful lives beyond the academics they learn in school,” said Superintendent Renee Foose. “Our commitment does not end when they leave our halls. I am glad we can be a part of creating great futures for these young people.”
About Project SEARCH
Developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996, Project SEARCH is housed at over 250 sites across 40 states and four countries. Additional Project SEARCH hosts in Maryland include Anne Arundel Medical Center, BWI Hilton and Aloft Hotels, Montgomery County Government, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, University of Maryland, University of Maryland Medical Center and Union Memorial Hospital.
If you have any questions about the program, please call the HCPSS Office of Special Education at 410-313-5355 or download the Project SEARCH brochure.