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Quest's Project SEARCH


Quest's Project SEARCH is a one-year training program that provides competitive employment opportunities to high school students with disabilities. Project SEARCH is modeled after a high school transition program in Cincinnati that places these students in internships at local businesses. They obtain work skills and training with the goal of eventually securing employment in non-traditional jobs for people with disabilities.

The program is different from traditional on-the-job-training programs because of the concentrated work experience students receive in one specific area. Students spend their last year of high school eligibility completely immersed at a work site in a business setting and receive intense employment training and hands-on experience under the guidance of teachers and job coaches. This on-site presence helps students understand the employer's needs and efficiently trains them for specific jobs - ultimately giving employers access to a talented underutilized workforce while allowing students to develop job skills for long-term success.

Quest’s Project SEARCH is a collaborative, strategic partnership between private employers, the Orange and Seminole County Public School systems, Vocational Rehabilitation and Quest. Our business partners, Rosen Shingle Creek resort and Florida Hospital, provide classroom space and internship opportunities to participating students. Orange and Seminole County Public Schools donate one teacher who provides daily employment skills training for the entire school year. Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) provides funding to Quest upon placing a person from Project SEARCH in a community employment situation. Quest implements the program, provides a Project SEARCH program director, coordinates collaborators, assists with participant recruitment efforts, provides job coaches to train participants, assists with job placement and implements and evaluates the program.

Quest’s Project SEARCH program is the first one in Orlando and the only one in the country to open more than one work site at the same time. Each site has eight to 12 carefully screened and selected recruits with varying abilities.


To download a Project SEARCH appliation, please click on one of the links below. Please note, applicants must be living in the the county that they are submitting an application for.

Orange County Project SEARCH application

For your convenience, the Seminole county application is a typbale form. Please type in the appropriate information, print it out, sign, then submit it to the staffing specialist at the applicant's school.

County Project SEARCH application


Project SEARCH serves students with significant disabilities who are in the last year of their educational program. Specifically, these are students with developmental or intellectual disabilities who are on an Individual Education Program (IEP). The most important eligibility criterion is a desire to achieve competitive employment. Most students are also eligible for VR and the local or state developmental disability agency. These two agencies are critical for initial training and retention services during the program and once the Project SEARCH graduate is employed.

Program Overview

Students attend the program for a full school year at the host site. The business provides access to an on-site classroom that can accommodate up to 12 students. The site is staffed by a teacher and three job coaches who will meet the educational and training needs of the students.

Once the school year begins, the first few weeks of the program are focused on new employee orientation, student assessment and familiarization within the business environment. Students undergo a hands-on assessment and develop a career plan. This plan guides the internship selection process and the individualized job search.

Employment Skills Curriculum

Throughout the school year, the students work on employability and functional skills for a minimum of one hour of their day. Classroom activities are designed around these focus areas: self-esteem and advocacy, communication, career exploration and job search, interviewing skills, job retention, functional academics related to their internships, money management and independent living.

Worksite Rotations

Through a series of three or four targeted internships, the students acquire competitive, marketable and transferable skills to enable them to apply for a related position. Students also build communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills which is important to their overall development as a young worker. These are unpaid student internships - analogous to the clinical rotations that are part of every medical school or business internship program. Potential student worksites are identified through a continuous collaborative process involving the teacher, job coaches and business liaison.

These internship rotations begin a few weeks after the start of the program. Students are required to interact with their supervisors via telephone and written communication to arrange a job interview to secure each internship. A department mentor is identified at each site. The mentor interacts with the instructor, job coaches and the student as a consistent source of guidance and feedback. Students spend approximately five hours each day at the internships including a 30-minute lunch.

Working from a task list, they acquire the core skills necessary for an open position at the host business site or in the community. Job coaches and department staff collaborate to provide support for students. The Project SEARCH staff delivers the training as well as develop job accommodations and standard work procedures. Once the students master the core skills, additional skills can be layered to improve their marketability.

Job Placement and Community Connection

During the last few months of the program, the emphasis is on refining skills, achieving career goals and carrying out individualized job placement. Job development and placement occurs based on the student's experiences, strengths and skills. Linkages to appropriate services in the community are critical as students prepare to graduate from the program to ensure a successful transition to employment and adult life. Services are identified in the community that provide assistance with necessary adaptations required to perform a specific job. Job coaching and long-term follow along are then arranged. Upon satisfactory completion of the program (95 percent or better attendance, good attitude and successful skill acquisition at each rotation), students receive a "career passport.” The contents of the packet will vary among program sites, but generally the packets contain a resume, letters of recommendation, a competency profile and any awards or special recognition received while in the program.

Student Selection

Students are referred to the program through their schools and/or Vocational Rehabilitation counselor and apply in the winter and spring in the year prior to entering the program. The Project SEARCH teacher, host business liaison, VR counselor, and community rehabilitation provider staff carries out the selection process.

Talented Workforce

Project SEARCH gives employers access to a new, diverse talent stream with skills that match their labor needs. Job rotations at the host site are non-paid internships with on-site support from Project SEARCH staff, meaning there is low cost and low risk for participating businesses. When the program is complete and if a Project SEARCH graduate is hired, employers may also find that performance and retention in some high-turnover, entry-level positions will increase dramatically. Additionally, Project SEARCH is changing corporate culture and helping to add diversity to the workforce.


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