Increase representation of persons with disabilities in the workforce.
Project SEARCH was launched at Dow’s Michigan Operations (MiOps) in September of 2016, championed by MiOps site director, Rich Wells. The program employs interns with moderate cognitive and/or developmental disabilities during their final year of secondary school. The interns receive classroom instruction on work skills, daily living skills and social skills while also receiving real-world experience in Dow’s labs, plants and offices. This population currently experiences an 80 percent unemployment rate in the state of Michigan and Project SEARCH aims to change that statistic by assigning the interns to three 10-week internships throughout the school year, rotating to gain new skills and experiences. The ultimate goal is employment within our community at the end of the program.
As Project SEARCH interns, students were placed into a variety of roles at MiOps in Midland, Michigan. The interns rotated between three different roles during the program year, each focused on building employability skills. They were able to spend time in the classroom for the first hour and last half-hour of the day, with the majority of their day being spent in the workspace. On June 14, 2017 Dow celebrated the graduation of our first Project SEARCH interns. Through this initiative, six students’ lives were positively impacted along with each and every employee who had the opportunity to meet and interact with them.
Dow is deeply committed to a workplace that values diversity, inclusion and respect for all persons. Project SEARCH helps break down stereotypes by challenging us to raise our expectations about people with disabilities. We are proud to have provided these young people with the opportunity to challenge the status quo and gain lifelong skills while also enabling an enriching experience for our employees. Project SEARCH presents proof positive that differences are not something to be intimidated by – but rather celebrated and embraced.