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Job training program for young people with disabilities expands to SDSU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, May 23, 2013

CONTACT: Communications Officer Patrick Baker at (605) 773-5990 or patrick.baker@state.sd.us


Job training program for young people with disabilities expands to SDSU


Project SEARCH currently operating in Aberdeen and Sioux Falls, expanding to Brookings


PIERRE, S.D. – Project SEARCH, a program that provides employment training opportunities for young people with disabilities, has expanded to Brookings and added business advisory councils in Aberdeen and Sioux Falls.


Project SEARCH is a partnership between businesses, local school districts, the S.D. Department of Human Services and S.D. Department of Labor and Regulation. Internship programs have been operating at Avera Health Care Systems in Sioux Falls and Aberdeen for three years, and a third site at South Dakota State University in Brookings will begin training students in August. 


“Project SEARCH is a perfect example of how businesses can work together with state and local governments to make a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who is in Seattle this week participating in the National Governors Association institute on employing people with disabilities. “Gainful employment in the competitive labor market is the preferred outcome for any of our citizens, and this program gives young South Dakotans with disabilities the tools they need to succeed as they enter adulthood.”


Those participating in Project SEARCH are primarily students with intellectual disabilities, 18 to 21 years old, who have completed all individual requirements for high school graduation. Participants are assigned a job coach, attend employment training classes and work in the business environment, rotating through three different internships over the course of a school year. Full-time employment with benefits is often the result. 


Of the first two classes to complete Project SEARCH programs in Aberdeen and Sioux Falls, about 67 percent are meeting or exceeding the program’s definition of competitive employment:  working year-round, 16 hours per week or more, at minimum wage or higher; and working within an integrated business setting alongside co-workers with and without disabilities. A dozen students recently graduated and are either competitively employed or are currently working on job-placement goals in the community.


“It’s a pleasure to witness the growth of a program as successful as Project SEARCH,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Cabinet Secretary Laurie Gill. “Expanding to a new community and establishing business advisory councils, where employers provide interview training and job placement assistance, are significant milestones for Project SEARCH and its students in South Dakota.”


Founded by Erin Riehle in Cincinnati in 1996, Project SEARCH has expanded to more than 200 locations internationally. For more information about the program in South Dakota, contact DHS.


About DHS

In partnership with its stakeholders, the South Dakota Department of Human Services’ mission is to optimize the quality of life of people with disabilities through the programs and services offered by its divisions. Learn more by visiting the department’s website, dhs.sd.gov, and viewing the 2013 DHS Strategic Plan.


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