Students to learn job skills at HSC

Six of the eleven students who will begin training at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg this fall, as part of Project SEARCH.
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Project SEARCH

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg has become the first hospital in Canada to launch a student job program for kids with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Under Project SEARCH, 11 kids from eight Winnipeg school divisions will rotate through work placements at HSC, learning marketable business skills in the process.

Westwood High School student Keera Lyall is thrilled to be a part of the one-year program, which was launched today.

“After the summer is over, I’ll be here, learning how to be a part of the adult world. Health Sciences is so big, but it has lovely people,” said Lyall.

mom and daughter

Allison and Keera Lyall at the launch of Project SEARCH at HSC today.

Her mother Allison Lyall thinks the opportunity to be a part of Project SEARCH is amazing. “She will get great life experiences in a safe environment, and Keera is all about being safe,” said Allison, adding that Keera has William’s syndrome, which causes developmental delays in children.

Project SEARCH is an American-based organization which started at Cincinnati's Children's Hospital and now includes over 300 sites across the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland and Australia. Project SEARCH's primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities.

The proposal to offer Project SEARCH at Winnipeg’s largest hospital was met with overwhelming support, with over 40 departments offering internship positions.

HSC is committed to providing a positive working and learning environment, and Project SEARCH fits right in, said Dana Erickson, Chief Operating Officer for HSC Winnipeg.

“When Project SEARCH approached us, we immediately recognized the value of the program, both to our staff and for our community. We look forward to working with and learning from these students.”

Milton Sussman, President and CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, echoed that sentiment. “We have a wide variety of jobs in the health-care field, and the WRHA is the largest employer in Winnipeg,” said Sussman. “I applaud HSC for this training program. It will allow the students to have dignity, respect and make the transition from high school to adult life.”

Oly Backstrom, President and Chief Executive Officer of SCE LifeWorks – a Winnipeg organization which supports people with intellectual disabilities to work and participate in the community – said when he approached staff at HSC with the idea of Project SEARCH, he didn’t make it all the way through his presentation before it was accepted.

“This is Winnipeg biggest and busiest hospital, and every department here has accepted this program with enthusiasm,” said Backstrom. “The students will each attend a classroom provided by HSC, and each student will have an opportunity to intern in three different departments over the next school year.”

Teacher Meaghan Jones will lead the class. She said the students will spend six hours each day learning employable skills, interning in various departments, reviewing their day and writing in journals. The students will be supported by job coaches.

Each of the students already has completed their credits toward their high school diploma, said Jones. This extra year of work experience will help each of them make the jump from high school to adulthood.

“We develop an individual plan for each of the students. For example, one student might work in medical records, and would need to understand medical terminology. Another would need to know more about technology, if working in an area such as medical device reprocessing,” she said, adding that the students have intellectual and development disabilities or are on the autism spectrum.

Students will be matched with placements that best suit their interests and skills in the fall. Some of the possible placements include departments such as patient services, patient records, housekeeping, medical device reprocessing, and more, added Jones.

The eleven students come from the following school divisions:

  • Pembina Trails School Division
  • Prairie Rose School Division
  • River East Transcona School Division
  • St. James – Assiniboia School Division
  • Seine River School Division
  • Seven Oaks School Division
  • Sunrise School Division
  • Winnipeg School Division

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