Niagara Health became the first host of Project SEARCH in Niagara with four interns from Csc MonAvenir starting their roles at the St. Catharines hospital this week. The interns, pictured centre, front row, in black, are (from left): Aaron Vanblaricum, Damien Hicks, Desiree Arsenault and Alexis Vernon. They are seen here with Niagara Health staff, Csc MonAvenir and March of Dimes of representatives.
Niagara Health welcomed four new team members this week, whose presence at the St. Catharines hospital marks the beginning of an important relationship for all involved.
The quartet are secondary school students from Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir (Csc MonAvenir), who have the exciting opportunity to participate in Project SEARCH, a hands-on work experience program that prepares young people living with developmental and intellectual disabilities for the labour market when they graduate. The students will work in Environmental Services and Dietary Services.
This is the first Project SEARCH program to launch in Niagara.
“We’re incredibly thankful to Project Search, Csc MonAvenir and in particular, École secondaire catholique Saint-Jean-de-Brébeuf in Welland, and March of Dimes Canada for this tremendous partnership opportunity. We are looking forward to welcoming Project SEARCH participants to our hospital community and learning from one another,” said Fiona Peacefull, Niagara Health’s Executive Vice-President, Human Resources. “We’re building a culture of inclusion and belonging, and I am grateful to my Environmental Services and Dietary Services colleagues for creating transition-to-work opportunities.”
Project SEARCH is an internationally successful school-to-work model for young people with varying developmental or intellectual abilities. During their final year in high school, students are fully immersed in in-demand labour roles with a leading community organization. They also learn employability skills and plan their careers with guidance from March of Dimes Canada, the local vocational rehabilitation services counsellors.
The program serves as a transformative opportunity for young adults, fostering development of confidence, character and a sense of purpose. Project SEARCH also creates disability confidence in recruitment and retention, and builds a truly inclusive workforce culture. Trained graduates of the Project SEARCH program may be hired by their host organization upon graduation or supported by an employment agency partner to connect with other community employers.
The partnership with Project SEARCH is also a first for Csc MonAvenir. In addition, Csc MonAvenir is the first French Catholic school board in Ontario to be Project SEARCH educational partner.
"Csc MonAvenir is extremely proud to be part of this project as the first French-language school board in Ontario and around the world to partner with Project Search,” says Nicole Mollot, Director of Education. “This internship opportunity gives four students from École secondaire catholique Saint-Jean-de-Brébeuf a taste of the job market.
"Congratulations to the students taking part in this project! I would like to acknowledge the collaboration of the staff who made this project possible: Julie Roy, teacher and Karen Sidey, educational advisor at Csc MonAvenir, as well as Michelle Gagnon, skills trainer from March of Dimes Canada. These three people work in close collaboration to develop students' skills in relation to the job market and open up possibilities for their future. This project demonstrates our support and commitment to helping students reach their full potential."
Project SEARCH programs held at other hospitals have shown that hospitals are natural champions of such transformative community initiatives. Niagara Health is exploring the opportunity to increase the number of students and departments of placement for them at the hospital after this initial intake, with the goal of creating an ongoing partnership between Project SEARCH, Csc MonAvenir and March of Dimes Canada.
"Project SEARCH bridges the school-to-work transition for youth and young adults by providing a supported pathway to the workforce, ensuring individuals of all abilities have the financial means to avoid or escape poverty and live well with disability. We’re thrilled to be partnered with Niagara Health and Csc MonAvenir to support the Project SEARCH interns on this journey.”
“Navigating the school-to-work transition can be a very challenging time in a young person’s life,” says Lesley Smith, March of Dimes Executive Director and Vice-President, Skill Development and Employment. “As youth and young adults seek out their aspirations and economic independence, this crucial transition time can be extremely challenging, especially for individuals with disabilities.
"These challenges can result in an unsuccessful transition where on may end up unemployed or underemployed in low-wage jobs with minimal career prospects. Project SEARCH bridges the school-to-work transition for youth and young adults by providing a supported pathway to the workforce, ensuring individuals of all abilities have the financial means to avoid or escape poverty and live well with disability. We’re thrilled to be partnered with Niagara Health and Csc MonAvenir to support the Project SEARCH interns on this journey.”
Photo: Fiona Peacefull, Niagara Health Executive Vice-President, Human Resources, welcomes Project SEARCH interns to Niagara Health.