A partnership is formed to bring job opportunities to young adults with disabilities in northeast Arkansas. St. Bernards Medical Center is working with Little Rock-based ACCESS and Arkansas Rehabilitative Services. Educators from area schools are being trained on the program, which is called Project SEARCH. Vice President of Human Resources at St. Bernards Lori Smith says the project will bring job training and employment assistance for those with disabilities.
"We envision that this will help with the employment rate in the region," said Smith. "It will help families who may be fearful about what may happen to the child later on when thier parents are no longer able to care for them. This is designed to give those young adults a life of independence they have never dreamed of."
The program provides nine months of vocational training to those who qualify for the program. Project SEARCH Arkansas director Jenny Adams says the 20 educators being trained are the main drivers of the success of the program.
"These special education teachers are the drivers of the program. They will recruit those who are qualified and help them through the application process."
The program allows for those from 18-35 to apply for the program. Smith says a pool of employers is being formed to partner with Project SEARCH:
"What we want to see are employers who are excited about taking these individuals and giving them jobs to help them with the next stages of their life."
Project SEARCH has sites in Little Rock and Hot Springs. There are over 400 sites across 44 states and six countries. St. Bernards is hosting the first work training site in Eastern Arkansas. An additional site will start this fall in Malvern.