Programs » Project SEARCH at the University of Guelph

Project SEARCH at the University of Guelph

Upper Grand District School Board and Wellington Catholic District School Board students with disabilities will have the exciting opportunity to gain skill building opportunities through Project SEARCH at the University of Guelph beginning in September 2024.

About Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH is a unique school-to-work training program for students with disabilities. Students are immersed at a host business and get more than 700 hours of hands-on work experience geared to in-demand roles in the local labour market. They learn employability skills and plan their careers with guidance from a teacher and skills trainers. March of Dimes supports graduates and their employers following the completion of the program to assist in attaining competitive employment.

The Project SEARCH model was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996. Currently, there are 750+ Project SEARCH sites worldwide. The program reports that approximately 70% of students are employed within a year of graduation. This reflects the overall success of the program for graduates and their employers.

Many sites call the Project SEARCH students “interns” to reflect their roles in the workplace and the unique nature of their work placements and training. 

Successful candidates who join Project SEARCH will:

  • Participate in a variety of work experiences within the host business during three 10 week internships 
  • Acquire competitive, transferable and marketable employability skills
  • Gain increased independence, confidence, and self-esteem
  • Obtain work-based individualized coaching, instruction and feedback
  • Develop links to employment support and other service agencies

Project SEARCH provides training for students who have intellectual or communication disabilities! Eligible students may have mild intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, speech/language impairments or be deaf/hard of hearing.

What Project SEARCH Looks Like

There are two facets to the Project SEARCH program: employment skills instruction and employment skills application. Each day begins in a classroom where students learn employability skills. After the class, the majority of each day is spent in hands-on training. The work placements are selected to ensure that students develop the skills that are in demand in their local labour markets. Students end their day back in the classroom, reflecting on the day, journaling their key learnings, problem solving, and planning. The program runs for approximately 10 months. 

The teacher and skills trainers are onsite at the host business daily. In the classroom and on-the-job, they teach both the hard and soft skills needed for workplace success. In addition, students receive guidance from mentors who are experienced staff of the host business. The mentors act as advisors to guide the students’ skill development. The mentors share real-world performance expectations, help the students reflect on the competencies they are developing and give open, candid feedback.  

The ultimate goal is to support students to be successful in their post-graduation search for competitive employment, utilizing the skills learned in the work experiences and throughout the program. Some students may be hired by the host business where they trained. Others find employment in a range of industries in their local communities.  Each student is supported by a local employment service provider during programming and following graduation. Employment Service Providers provide individualized support for students as needed for a minimum of one year. This includes assistance searching for a job, onboarding and maintaining employment. Some students may be hired by the host business where they trained. Others find employment in a range of industries in their local communities.

Intern Application Process

Thanks for all of the applications to Project SEARCH at the University of Guelph for the 2024-25 school year.  The steering committee will be reviewing the applications over the next few weeks and will be reaching out to the students' schools to collect more information. Successful applicants will gather at the Wellington Catholic Education Centre on Tuesday, April 30  for a skills assessment day.


Project SEARCH at the University of Guelph is made possible by the support of the Upper Grand District School Board, Wellington Catholic District School Board, March of Dimes Canada and the University of Guelph.

Contact Us

For more information, please contact our local Project SEARCH Committee Lead Jeffrey Mawhinney at [email protected].