Program helps students with disabilities find jobs

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- A Green Bay program works to help students with intellectual disabilities make a smooth transition into the workplace.

“I see them progressing with picking up their skills much more quickly. That they come to understand the demands of a business, and the professionalism that they wish to see,” says Jean LeJeune, Instructor for “Project Search.”

Since the “Project Search” internship started three years ago in Green Bay, instructors say they’ve seen leaps and bounds of improvement from their students with intellectual disabilities.

“The work ethic that they demonstrate is tremendous,” LeJeune says. “Often the departments, after they finish a rotation, they will make the comment, 'We'd like to keep them, to keep helping out here.'”

That was the case for Andrea Wauters, who graduated from the first “Project Search” program, and now works at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital.

“I work in the cafeteria, and they wanted to hire me for downstairs and upstairs. I do tray passing, dishes, grill, and deli,” Wauters says. “I didn't know what I wanted to do before I started this job. So that was nice to kind of help me know what I wanted to do.”

“Project Search” focuses on students with disabilities, who are in their last year of school.

The program takes place over nine months, teaching up to 12 interns with disabilities the ins and outs of business – all in hopes of landing a job after graduation.

“Just the overall tasks that I did in my second rotation kind of helped me think, realize which career I wanted to go into, which field I wanted to go into,” says Brian Novitski, a “Project Search” graduate.

The “Project Search” program pairs with Bellin Health, HSHS St. Vincent Hospital, SPIRO and CESA 7 – putting students through rotations like critical care, inpatient surgery and food and nutrition.

“This would be a nice introduction to maybe furthering yourself in life, to a great decent job,” Novitski says.

The deadline to apply for next year’s “Project Search” is February 10.

For more: www.projectsearch.us