What is UPMC Project SEARCH?

The Project SEARCH Transition-to-Work program is a unique, business-led, one-year employment preparation program that takes place entirely at the workplace. 

The goal for each Project SEARCH participant is competitive employment. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through worksite rotations. 

Modeled on a nationally recognized program developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Project SEARCH provides students ages 18-21 with real life work experience to help them develop the following skills:

  • Work etiquette/code of conduct
  • Work social skills
  • Interviewing skills
  • job readiness skills

Students learn these skills while participating in three job training rotations at the host site.


How does Project SEARCH work?

Students participate in three targeted rotations at a large host business, UPMC. Each school day, students report to the UPMC host site for classroom instruction and rotations. 

Worksite locations are an integral part of the student’s training. These experiences are planned with the host business, student and Project SEARCH staff.  

UPMC managers at training sites work with the UPMC Project SEARCH staff and students to teach job skills. Students receive continual feedback on skills and progress. Data collection and progress is discussed at monthly update employment planning meetings. 


What are the benefits of Project SEARCH?

Students gain work experience and develop a variety of transferable skills through rotations. Students gain increased independence, confidence and self-esteem. 

All students leave with either a job at the host site, a job in a related business, or with a team to assist them in obtaining employment.

Who is eligible for Project SEARCH?

Candidates for UPMC Project SEARCH should:

  • Be between the ages of 18 and 21
  • Agree that this will be the last year of student services, and accept diploma at the end of the program year
  • Complete high school credits necessary for graduation by program start date
  • Meet eligibility for follow-up services and funding through OVR and/or OID
  • Have desire to explore transportation options including public transportation and travel training when available
  • Be able to pass employer drug screen, criminal check and TB test
  • Be willing to work at least 20 hours a week

Service Availability:

Project SEARCH operates on a school year schedule with applications due the prior school year. Contact for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What types of jobs will the student be doing?
Students learn basic skills such as stocking, assembling, sanitizing, cleaning, customer service, transporting of equipment and supplies. Students learn support functions in their rotations. Rotations vary but may include departments such as Central Distribution, Dietary, Environmental Services, Pharmacy, Radiology and Respiratory.

Who is with the student teaching them the skills?
The Project SEARCH instructor, job trainer, and Department Mentor all work together to train and coach the student. Tasks are modeled and the student is expected to learn to work independently. The goal is independence, trainers and coaches will fade and natural supports in the rotation take place.

How will the student get to Project SEARCH?
Most students begin Project SEARCH being transported by the home school district. It is encouraged and discussed that students should begin travel training and exploring other transportation methods in preparation of an employment outcome.

Who selects the students and what is the selection process?
The student must visit the host business to observe the culture and possible rotations and to meet the instructor prior to being selected. Next, the school district and OVR counselor recommends the student to the program and an application is sent to the school district. The application is completed by the school with student and parent input then submitted to Goodwill SWPA. The selection committee (representatives from UPMC, OVR, OID and Project SEARCH staff) reviews the applications and the student may be invited for an interview. A maximum of 12 students are selected. Letters of acceptance or denial are sent to all parties.

Who to contact:

Elin Renstrom
Phone: 412-586-8290
Email: elin.renstrom@goodwillswpa.org

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