A new University of Guelph partnership will help local high school students with developmental and communication disabilities gain valuable work experience this fall.  

Working together with the Upper Grand District School Board and the Wellington Catholic District School Board, U of G will offer internships that provide school-to-work training through Project SEARCH. 

U of G’s participation as a Project SEARCH site will be the first site in Guelph and at a Canadian university. Founded by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in 1996, the program has a robust strategy to support both students and employers as they work together to build career prospects and job-ready skills.  

Janet Doner smiles for a portrait while standing against an ivy-covered wall
Janet Doner

“In touring a Project SEARCH site in Toronto, it was evident how well-supported the program is and how incredibly transformative the experience can be, both for the participants and for employers and supervisors,” said Janet Donor, manager of campus and community integrated learning in the Experiential Learning Hub and business liaison for Project SEARCH Guelph.  

“Many students end up being hired afterwards by the employer and employers learn to identify and break down barriers to inclusion with the support of the program’s skill trainers.” 

Investing in inclusive leadership 

By participating in Project SEARCH, Experiential Learning also sees the opportunity to develop U of G students’ inclusive leadership skills.  

Several strategies to engage U of G students in Project SEARCH and support their career readiness are in the works, including the development of mentorship training for U of G students who are in volunteer and paid positions alongside Project SEARCH participants.  

Additionally, the Career Education Peer Helper team will be able to extend their resume and interview preparation support to participants. A specific mentorship program for U of G students, similar to the Campus Friends structure, will also be developed in collaboration with the Project SEARCH teacher and skills trainer. 

Host a Project SEARCH Intern 

Participants in Project SEARCH may be deaf/hard of hearing or have mild intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities or speech/language impairments. Through Project SEARCH, they will complete three 10-week internships over the course of 10 months, gaining more than 700 hours of hands-on work experience in roles in-demand in the labour market.  

In June, a Project SEARCH staff member will come to U of G to identify internship opportunities on campus.  

Departments or units interested in hosting an unpaid Project SEARCH Intern can reach out to Janet Donor at jdoner@uoguelph.ca 

Additionally, the program is looking for a space on-campus that can accommodate approximately 15 people daily and Experiential Learning welcomes recommendations of underutilized spaces that the program could access.