Interns are typically referred to the program through their schools, family members, or vocational rehabilitation counselors. To participate in the local Project SEARCH program, individuals need to meet criteria including; being between 18 and 22 years old, having dependable transportation, and having a desire to achieve competitive employment.
Within the first few weeks, the program is focused on intern orientation, hands-on skill assessment, and familiarization with the hospital. Interns develop a career plan, which guides the internship selection process and individualized job search. Throughout the program year, the interns work on employability and functional skills for approximately one hour of their day. Training room activities are designed around these focus areas: team building, workplace safety, technology, maintaining employment, self-advocacy, financial literacy, health and wellness, and preparing for employment.
The interns acquire competitive, marketable, and transferable skills to enable them to apply for a related position. Interns also build communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, which are important to their overall development as young workers. Working from a task list, they acquire the core skills necessary to be hired in an entry-level position at the host business site or in the community. Skills trainers and department staff collaborate to provide support for interns. The Project SEARCH staff delivers the training and develops job accommodations and standard work procedures. Once the interns master the core skills, additional skills are layered on to improve their marketability.