As many local companies continue to struggle with developing consistently strong workforces, the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services is working to place individuals with both intellectual and developmental disabilities in jobs where they can make the most impact. At the same time, they are hoping to break down barriers and change perceptions about these individuals.
“We start with trying to find strengths and interests of the individuals who come to us for help in finding employment,” said Linda Cudd, the director of Adult Service for the MCBDDS for the past 12 years. “Some have never been exposed to employment opportunities before so we have job developers who get to know the individuals and find out what jobs match their strengths.”
With a relatively new program – a partnership with Miami Valley South Hospital called “Project Search,” the Board is working to break the barriers around young people with disabilities entering the workforce and providing them with internship opportunities resulting in full-time employment. “Project SEARCH” started in Cincinnati.”
“It’s really a hands on practice program and students get on the job experience and training,” Cudd said.
Today this program has grown to more than 300 sites across the nation and the world and is in its second year at Miami Valley South, in partnership with Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC) and Montgomery County Board of DD Services.
The students at Miami Valley South are trained in cleaning surgical instruments, washing carts, decontamination processes, stocking supplies, surgical preparation, operating room preparation and other tasks. In addition they are also taught basic interviewing skills. The program lasts for nine weeks.
According to Mark Weaver, the perioperative services manager at Miami Valley South, the two young men they hired from the Project SEARCH inaugural class went through the same interview process the same other prospective employee. “We realized while they were here working as interns that they were such a help that we had to have these kids,” Weaver said. “They were making a huge difference.”
Today, they are both patient care technicians and Weaver said they have a work ethic that is “contagious” and they are always looking for more work to do.
“They have single handedly helped boost our morale and improved our surgical room turnover time significantly,” he said. They are among the best employees we have.”
This story originally appeared in the Dayton Daily News.