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Developmental Disabilities Services

Developmental Disabilities Special Payments

Employment rate of Project SEARCH student-interns at the time of graduation

Current Value




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Story Behind the Curve

Job skill acquisition in complex internships arranged by Project SEARCH is achieved through several internship rotations over ten months at the host business. Job placement upon graduation is assured through vigorous job development provided by Project SEARCH staff, Advisory Council members, and the host businesses. For participants not employed at graduation, job development services continue until employment is achieved. There may be times when students go into higher education instead of directly into employment and would, therefore, not be considered employed.

During the first four years of the project, only one Specialized Service Agency and school district were involved with Project SEARCH. While the employment rate was 100%, there were only a total or 2-3 student interns each year. The project expanded in FY 16 to three school districts and two additional developmental disabilities services agencies resulting in total of 20 student interns. In FY 17, an additional developmental disabilities services agency participated resulting in 22 student interns.

In FY 20, three graduates refused employment due to COVID-19 safety concerns. This caused a precipitous drop in the employment rate. There were 16 interns who graduated in FY 20 of which 9 were employed. If it had been safe for the three to accept employment, it would have raised the employment rate to 75%; lower than in recent years but still a respectable rate.  The FY 21 69% rate was lower than past years due to COVID-19.

The FY23 data shows the numbers have risen again to close to pre-COVID-19 levels.


This initiative is based on a partnership with National Project SEARCH, a model recognized for its effectiveness in preparing youth with developmental disabilities for the workforce. The developmental disabilities services agencies who facilitate Project SEARCH are Lincoln Street Incorporated, Rutland Mental Health Services and HowardCenter. Project SEARCH training programs in FY 22 were hosted by Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Rutland Regional Medical Center and University of Vermont Medical Center.

The high schools who participated in Project SEARCH are within the South Burlington, Rutland City and Hartford school districts. The Vermont Agency of Education and the HireAbility Vermont participate on the state and local steering committees along with the Developmental Disabilities Services Division and local developmental disabilities services agencies. In addition, Project SEARCH is monitored by the National Cincinnati Children Hospital Project SEARCH and guided by a local business advocacy council at each site.

What Works

The success of Project SEARCH is founded on a model that provides total immersion across genuine work settings in Vermont businesses. Department heads provide mentoring, training, continuous feedback, and job search references to young workers learning complex skill sets in the real job market. Host sites hire from the internship class and job development in other businesses results in very high employment rates upon graduation from high school or shortly thereafter.

Notes on Methodology

Action Plan

The Developmental Disabilities Services Division will continue to provide ongoing support to Project SEARCH by facilitation of the state and local steering committees. Continued work on securing stable participant school district participation will take place as per the recommendation of the National Project SEARCH audit.

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