By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Gov. Scott Walker visited Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield on Tuesday to speak with several participants in Project SEARCH, a program that works to enable individuals with disabilities to gain employment.
Walker has toured Project SEARCH programs across the state. He said that the program is “a way to focus on the abilities not the disabilities but the abilities that people have.”
Project SEARCH is a nine-to-12-month program, and students that participate “are offered a workforce alternative for their last year of high school,” said a press release from Ministry Health Care. Students have the chance to experience three to four internships throughout the course of the program and learn vocational as well as life skills.
Walker said that Project SEARCH is expanding, and his goal is to make 27 such programs across the state.
“Employers are increasingly telling us that they need more employees. They need more people willing to work,” Walker said. He added that employers find Project SEARCH graduates to be “great employees, incredible dedication and devotion to their jobs and to their organizations.”
“If done right, it adds value both to the sponsoring organization and to the individual, and that’s been a common thread across the state,” Walker said.
Project SEARCH involves collaboration between local high schools, businesses, the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and local vocational and disability services agencies.
“Students and their teams meet monthly for progress reports and to continually refine their career goals and determine concrete next steps. Managers from the host business work with the teacher and job coaches to support the students every step of the way with an ultimate goal upon program completion being the students’ competitive placements at the host business or in the community,” the release said.
Walker also spoke about his thought process as his presidential campaign has concluded.
“The biggest thing is just for me is getting out around the state. And then obviously when you take on potentially a campaign like that, it consumes a lot of your time,” Walker said. “The last three weeks really my focus has been on tours and listening as opposed to giving speeches. I think it’s important to listen to people and to hear what their concerns are, hear what their hopes are.”