Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development


Program Summary:
In 1995 the American College of Healthcare Executives adopted a policy statement that reads, in part, “…healthcare executives must take the lead in their organizations to increase employment opportunities for qualified persons with disabilities and to advocate on behalf of their employment to other organizations in their communities.”

With this statement as a guiding principle, Project SEARCH serves people with disabilities through innovative workforce and career development. Through this process, they also educate employers about the potential of this underutilized workforce while meeting their human resource needs.

Project SEARCH provides employment and education opportunities for transition- aged youth with disabilities through:

  • High School Transition Program—A one-year, worksite-based school-to-work program for youths with developmental and/or physical disabilities in their last year of high school eligibility. Worksites include local hospitals or financial institutions.
  • Vocational-Education Clinic—A highly individualized approach for Cincinnati Children’s patients with disabilities or chronic illness (ages 14 and older) to address vocational, educational, training and employment goals.
Project SEARCH also provides services for adults and for other organizations:
  • Adult Employment Program—Comprehensive employment, job retention, and career advancement services for adults with disabilities. This includes older youth and young adults who have left the public school system.
  • Health Care Training Program—Customized short-term training for adults with significant barriers to employment such as major economic disadvantages, or physical and/or learning disabilities.
  • Program Replication and Dissemination—Tours, individualized consultation, and group workshops for supported employment and special education professionals.

Program Structure/Design: In the High School Transition Program, high school students who have completed academic course work but have not accepted their diploma or other credentials can finish their high school careers in a structured work-based setting with supports and work-experiences that lead to competitive employment. This one-year program focuses on careers in areas and occupations that have not traditionally been open to individuals with disabilities (health care and banking). Throughout the year, participants move through three to four career rotations in various departments within the hospital or bank. The students choose among the following career clusters: assembly, clerical, courier, patient care, sterilization, stocking, and environmental services. During the rotations, students build skills in communication, teamwork, employability, problems solving, and job-specific skills. Students also have opportunities to work on academic, social, and independent living skills during the course of the day. The program uses public school teachers, vocational rehabilitation staff, and workplace staff to support the participants. The Project Search High School Transition program has an unusual level of collaboration between employers, schools, and vocational rehabilitation services.In the Vocational-Educational Clinic, high school age patients in the hospital receive vocational and educational guidance as part of their on-going care. The patients include young people with chronic illnesses, traumatic injuries, and those with rehabilitation issues. Supported primarily by the project’s in-house vocational-education coordinator, clinic patients keep connected to the home high school and to nearby community resources for as long as necessary during care and treatment. The coordinator can provide services that help with re-entry to high school, that explore or implement GED instruction, and that coordinate services with Tech Prep, Work Study, the Transition Program, or other school/work programs, and adult services (e.g. Rehabilitation Services Commission). The coordinator also can participate in medical care consultations and IEP meetings.

States of Operation: OH

Youth Targeted:

Identify the population of participants that are served by this program:
• In-school youth
• Runaway and homeless youth
• Youth with disabilities
• Pregnant or parenting youth
• Youth in foster care or aging out
• Rural youth
• Urban youth
• Minority youth

Profile Year:


Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences:
For high school transition participants, the program activities include classroom instruction in job skills and independent living skills, participation at several worksite rotations and placements beginning after the rotations are completed. Students are given support through on-the-job coaching and work site accommodations with the ultimate goal of independence.
After leaving school, some youth participate in the adult services program for long term job placement. For these participants, program staff members support participants by identifying open healthcare positions, performing job analyses, matching jobs to qualified candidates, identifying and implementing accommodations, coordinating job coaching during initial phases of employment, and adapting orientation for new employees, co-workers and supervisors.

Some participants enter the adult program in the Healthcare Training Program, which leads to employment as Health Unit Coordinators or State Tested Nursing Assistants.


Collaboration: Project SEARCH has shared its program design with other organizations all over the country through its Program Replication and Dissemination program. Project SEARCH has been replicated at Seattle Children’s Hospital, ProMedica Health Systems (Toledo), St. Elizabeth’s Hospital (Northern Kentucky), St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital (St. Louis), and Selby General Hospital (Marietta, Ohio). New replication sites are being added in five other medical centers, a university, and even a county park. Each replication is coordinated by Project SEARCH staff.As a service to the community, Project SEARCH offers educational opportunities for professionals in supported employment or special education with an interest in understanding and implementing their innovative methodologies. Project SEARCH offers an annual schedule of In-Depth Tours and Workshops, and free Half-Day Tours to disseminate the framework necessary to replicate their employment and education programs. Customized consulting services are also available.


Project SEARCH in Cincinnati as of August, 2005
Patients of the hospital had received vocational or educational guidance through the project 634
Students have received training in independent living and employability skills, and specific job skills through the Project SEARCH High School Transition Program 156
High School Transition Program graduates placed in competitive employment at Project SEARCH sites and throughout the Cincinnati metro area 109
Number of individuals who have achieved employment through the Health Care Training Program 319

Third-Party Documentation:

Project SEARCH at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has been identified as a model program by several national organizations:
• Virginia Commonwealth University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Workplace Supports
• University of Iowa Employment Policy Group
• National Transition Alliance for Youth with Disabilities
Project SEARCH has won numerous awards, including:
• Department of Labor; New Freedom Initiative award; 2004
• Association for Persons in Supported Employment, Project SEARCH – National Employer of the Year, 1997
• Inclusion Network Third Annual Leadership Award, 1998
• The National Association of State Directors of Vocational Technical Education, 2000
• Cincinnati Children’s Hospital – Project SEARCH, Outstanding Contribution to Vocational Technical Education, 2000
• National Transition Alliance for Youth and Disabilities, Promising Practices and Programs for 1999-2000
• Ohio Public Images Award of Excellence, 2000
• Division on Career Development and Transition; Project SEARCH / Children’s Hospital: National Employer of the Year; 2001
• Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati Outstanding Leadership Award; 2002
• Inclusion Network Ninth Annual Leadership Award; Project SEARCH High School and Employment Programs at Provident Band; 2003
• The Ohio Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities; Large Employer of the Year Award; 2004

Organization Name: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development
Organization Director: Erin Riehle
Program Name: Project SEARCH
Street Address: 3333 Burnet Avenue
City: Cincinnati
State: OH

Contact Person: Erin Riehle
Contact Title: Co-Director
Contact E-mail: