Project SEARCH begins second year at Baylor Scott & White Health-Lakeway

In September, Austin City Council asked for public feedback on what a paid sick leave policy would entail.

In September, Austin City Council asked for public feedback on what a paid sick leave policy would entail.

With chapters across the nation, Project SEARCH is a business immersion program that bridges the gap between high school and life in the workforce.


Designed for individuals with developmental disabilities who are interested in entering the workforce, the program is open to high school graduates between the ages of 18 and 22, local Project SEARCH instructor Sandy Frankum said.


The joint chapter for Lake Travis and Eanes ISDs began its second year Aug. 15, again partnering with Baylor Scott & White Health-Lakeway as its host business for internship opportunities in the program.


“The goal of the program is getting interns experience in an integrated setting, making the transition between school and business seamless,” Frankum said. “The students are on site and fully immersed in the business every day for one academic year.”




Quinn Reich is an intern at Baylor Scott & White Health-Lakeway for the 2017-18 school year through the Project SEARCH program. Quinn Reich is an intern at Baylor Scott & White Health-Lakeway for the 2017-18 school year through the Project SEARCH program.[/caption]

Through hands-on experience, interns learn skills that can easily be transferred to jobs outside of the medical field, she said. Interns also attend one hour of class each day, with topics that include team building; workplace safety; using technology; improving social and communication skills; how to search for jobs; and how to interview, she said.


Project SEARCH partners with Texas Workforce Solutions to offer follow-up services that help interns find and maintain employment after they graduate from its program, Frankum said.


Of the eight interns from last year’s inaugural group, seven have found employment, she said. Graduates have been working in jobs at Costco, Lakeway’s High 5, Spicewood’s A-Z Dog Ranch and Seton Medical Center in Austin, Frankum said. One intern accepted a job at Baylor Scott and White Health-Lakeway as a dishwasher, she said.




Alex Staley-Nitka is an intern at Baylor Scott & White Health-Lakeway for the 2017-18 school year through the Project SEARCH program. Alex Staley-Nitka is an intern at Baylor Scott & White Health-Lakeway for the 2017-18 school year through the Project SEARCH program.[/caption]

“It was an extremely successful year,” Frankum said. “As we look back, I think the skills that they learned here are very transferable to other jobs. I’m not sure how they would have done on their own.”


The hospital can support 10 interns at a time, but if the program continues to grow, she said the chapter may pursue a second business partner.  Only three interns are enrolled this year, but she said teachers in the districts have identified over 10 candidates for the 2018-19 school year.


The local Project SEARCH chapter was started using grant funds awarded to LTISD by the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, Frankum said. Because of the district’s small size, the program was opened to include EISD to maximize its reach in the area, she said.