Project SEARCH Arizona – Enhancing Employment Training Opportunities for Young People

Project SEARCH logoSonoran UCEDD
DDNN Summer 2013

Project SEARCH Arizona launched its first site four years ago at then UPH Hospital, now University of Arizona Medical Center (UAMC) | South Campus. Based on the internationally recognized employment training program model developed at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Hospital Center in 1997 by Erin Riehle and Susie Rutkowski, program launch culminated after a year of planning among community partners led by Sonoran UCEDD.

Project SEARCH trains young people with intellectual/developmental disabilities for competitive employment in the community through daily classroom instruction and 5 hours of immersion within a host business department to acquire marketable employment skills and training. The second program year, 2010-2011, expanded the training opportunity to students in their final year of high school in addition to young adults who have already exited school.

Last fall saw a second high school transition program roll-out at the University of Arizona, the migration of the young adult program to UAMC | University Campus, and site launch at Medtronic in Tempe. Current expansion efforts for this fall, 2013, include a new site in Estrella Mountain Community College (Avondale) and at the Sheraton Phoenix Airport Hotel for a total of six sites in the state.

Pathways to Employment: The ADDPC provides funding for  Project SEARCH program expansion and  recently produced a video featuring program graduate Daniel Morales, now employed as a Transporter in the Security Department at UAMC | South Campus.Intern recruitment is in progress for the following 2013/2014 programs:

  • Project SEARCH Distribution Logistics (Avondale)
  • Project SEARCH Medtronic (Tempe)
  • Project SEARCH Sheraton (Tempe)

Contact Laura Schweers for application materials.

Project SEARCH follows key program elements such as robust employment training in an integrated work environment; site development led by the host business; opportunity for career exploration through rotations; focus on competitive employment outcomes; and reliance on collaboration across business, education, and other agency partners and stakeholders in the community.

Sonoran UCEDD is grateful to the national site and to all of its dedicated partners for their efforts to improve employment outcomes for young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Partners include these and more: AZ Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, Pima County Joint Technical Education District, AZ DES Vocational Rehabilitation, AZ DES Division of Developmental Disabilities, SAGE Easter Seals Blake Foundation, The Centers for Habilitation, Western Maricopa Education Center, SouthWest Skills Center at Estrella Mountain Community College, and Pima and Maricopa County school districts.

For more information about programs and intern recruitment, please contact Laura Schweers ( /520.626.0677) or visit