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An innovative program that assists people with developmental disabilities by providing valuable work skills and long-term employment opportunities went before the Portland City Council this week. The program, launched by Commissioner Nick Fish in 2017, is slated to expand its valuable work pending Council approval.
For nearly a year, interns from Project SEARCH worked at the Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services in areas that helped them gain valuable skills while doing necessary work that helps the bureaus function—digitizing and archiving records, assembling water safety test kits, and staffing the reception desk.
After the interns’ successful completion of their roles at each bureau, the Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services created two full-time positions, one at each bureau, to hire interns directly from this program to become fully paid bureau employees.
By pioneering this project, the City was were able to mold this program and provide the participants with work in areas that translate to jobs.
“As much as this program benefits people that historically were denied opportunities to do work like this,” says Commissioner Nick Fish, “it also turns out that the people working at my bureaus have really felt pride in welcoming new co-workers and helping to remove barriers in the workplace that a generation ago prevented a lot of people in our community from being able to do public service.”
Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities experience unemployment rates of more than 70 percent nationwide. Since 2012, Project SEARCH has assisted more than 5,000 participants achieve full-time employment.