Opportunity Services and Project SEARCH: a successful partnership!

Opportunity Services is a proud partner of Project SEARCH in Minnesota. Project SEARCH provides job skills training and workplace internships for individuals with disabilities, particularly youth transitioning from high school to adult life. Opportunity Services is the Community Rehab Provider in four Project SEARCH sites in Minnesota: Medtronic, Mayo Clinic, Gillette Children’s Hospital and Hennepin County Medical Center. Opportunity Services has been a partner at Medtronic since 2010 and Mayo Clinic in Rochester since 2017. 2018 is the first year Opportunity Services will partner with Project SEARCH at Gillette Children’s Hospital and Hennepin County Medical Center.

Opportunity Services assists Project SEARCH graduates in their job search following completion of the program. The goal for each individual is to find competitive employment in the community. Project SEARCH is the perfect partner for Opportunity Services and its mission: to assist people with disabilities to make meaningful, individual contributions in the community. Opportunity Services works together with the graduates every step of the way: from the job application, interview, skills training, to on-going job coaching to ensure employment success.

Providing students with a professional work setting to gain experience helps them find independence in their employment and beyond. “Project SEARCH is one of my favorite groups to work with,” says Jeremy Gurney, Chief Operating Officer at Opportunity Services. “This program really shapes the individuals’ life, not only in their career but in terms of confidence and overall growth.” Since 2010 91% of the Project SEARCH graduates that Opportunity Services collaborates with have found competitive employment after graduation. This high placement rate has garnered many Outstanding Placement Outcomes awards for Opportunity Services over the years from Project SEARCH.

Brady (pictured above) is a successful graduate of the Project SEARCH program at Medtronic. Following his graduation, Brady started as a contractor at Medtronic and is now working fulltime. As an Assembler he tests the electrical current of batteries that will eventually go into pace makers. Dawn Johnson, Project SEARCH Supervisor with Opportunity Services is quick to share about Brady’s positive attitude: “Brady is an amazing individual. He has quite the sense of humor and adds a lot of energy to the team. He leads breaks, gives high fives to everyone, all while doing the absolute best at his job.” Initially Brady was overwhelmed when applying for Project SEARCH, but he’s very happy he went through with the program. Brady gained valuable experience through Project SEARCH and is now successfully employed doing a job he loves!

Jimmy is a successful Project SEARCH graduate and Food Service Worker at the Mayo Clinic. Jimmy just received his first promotion: stocking food items in the Harwick Building. He was doing an excellent job but expressed his willingness to learn and gain knowledge, now Jimmy has the opportunity to train someone in on his current position and move on to something new. It’s easy to see why Jimmy would gain a promotion- his smile and positive attitude are absolutely contagious! It wasn’t always easy for Jimmy: the transition from school to Project SEARCH was a tough one at first. Once he realized how important the program was to gain experience, he started to embrace the new opportunity. Jimmy’s long-term goal is to stay in food service and become a chef, which he would have never known without a real job experience during Project SEARCH.

Simon is another successful Project SEARCH graduate at the Mayo Clinic. Simon works as a Café Host where he stocks the salad bar, coffee island and greets customers. He has become quite the fixture at the Café, so much so that customers will ask where he is if he has a sick day or vacation! “Simon’s charisma is a perfect match for those spending time at the Mayo Clinic and many customers enjoy talking to him about football and wrestling,” said Betty Lamecker, Supervisor of Supported Employment with Opportunity Services. “Simon is easy going and is quick to help out in the Café wherever needed. He’s truly a great employee!” Project SEARCH helped Simon gain experience in the kitchens at the Mayo, where he prepped and served food. Simon loves his current job and truly enjoys building a sense of community through his relationships with customers.

Brady, Jimmy and Simon are only three of the many success stories from Opportunity Services’ partnership at Medtronic and Mayo Clinic. There are many graduates who found successful employment at other businesses in the community as well. Because this is the first year of the partnership between Opportunity Services and both Gillette Children’s Hospital and Hennepin County Medical Center, we will have to wait to see what success stories come following graduation in May. One thing is for sure: the sky is the limit for Project SEARCH graduates!