Amy PechacekDesignated Secretary
Workforce Development Department
201 E. Washington Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7946
Phone: (608) 266-3131
Fax: (608) 266-1784
The Project SEARCH program prepares young adults with disabilities for rewarding careers
LA LACROSSE — Throughout high school, Sterling Solberg heard about classmates completing a program called Project SEARCH. Sterling hadn’t thought much about the program until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
When Sterling started planning his life after high school, he had no idea what interested him. That’s when his mother suggested applying to Project SEARCH.
“At first I didn’t like it, but now I realize how much I’m going to miss going every day and seeing the staff and students,” he said reflecting on the program. .
Sterling has been so successful in his work rotation in the Central Services Department at Gundersen Health that his manager asked him to consider applying for a full-time job in the department. Sterling did just that, becoming the first Project SEARCH intern in his class to be hired into the department.
“Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development celebrates more than 180 Project SEARCH graduates statewide who have explored new skills, expanded their opportunities, and earned a sense of pride through meaningful work,” said DWD Secretary-designate Amy Pechacek. “In Wisconsin, some 171,000 people with disabilities are out of the workforce, but we know many want to work. With our record unemployment rate, helping these people realize their employment potential has never been more important.
The graduation ceremony held at Gundersen Health in La Crosse on Thursday, May 26 marked the end of an immersive work experience. The seven interns recounted their practical 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 such as LE Phillips Career Development Center, TMG, Inclusa, My Choice Wisconsin and the Holmen School District. Across the state, 25 leading employers are participating in Project SEARCH this year.
Project SEARCH is a collaborative effort between the DWD, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, area schools, local employers and long-term care organizations to help trainees develop marketable, competitive and transferable skills leading to a job. Interns complete multiple 10-week rotations to maximize exposure to different career paths, learn employability skills in a classroom, and practical job skills in the business environment.
Started at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996, Project SEARCH has provided training to nearly 1,500 Wisconsin residents since its statewide launch in 2008. For more information, visit the Project SEARCH Wisconsin website.
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development effectively delivers effective and inclusive services to meet the diverse current and future needs of Wisconsin’s workforce. 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, labor and administrative services. To keep up with DWD announcements and information, sign up for press releases and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and instagram.