Building futures with Project Search

Published: Oct. 18, 2023 at 4:50 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As a young adult, it can be difficult to figure out how to balance a career. How do you develop workplace social skills and even more, how do you do all of this while struggling with a disability?

It’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Project Search has some answers. For the past 12 years Project Search has aimed to help young adults with disabilities make the transition from high school to adult responsibilities. Individuals between the ages of 18 and 22 have the opportunity to intern with the program at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

“The goal of Project Search is to find competitive, integrated employment in the community,” Project Search instructor Lisa Laqua explained, “whether that’s here in the hospital or in other businesses, we work toward getting them in places that have both typical and atypical individuals as employees.”

Project Search focuses on teaching participants important job skills, life skills and independent living skills.

“They are working with select individuals to teach them all kinds of things,” Talent Development Specialist Jessie Beyer agreed. “How to write a resume, how to balance your checkbook, how to plan your finances for the month.”

The interns have previously completed their senior year of high school and have deferred their graduation until the next year. They spend the school year working with three different departments within Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

“It depends on their interests,” Beyer said, “so we have some interns who are really interested in patient care, so they have had the opportunity to be on some of our inpatient units and our ER, our ICU, they’ve really embraced taking in Project Search interns and showing them how to be on that department doing some of the non-clinical work, which really helps our staff.”

“Our success rate speaks for itself,” Laqua added. “We average 80 percent of our interns finding competitive integrated employment on graduation. We’ve had quite a few years where 100 percent of them have found placement. So it’s really about what the need of the student is, what the desire of the family is, but our goal ultimately is to place them in employment.”

Project Search hosted an open house meet and greet on October 17 with the staff and current interns. For more information on Project Search visit the Project Search website.