RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There’s a program within Wake County public schools creating a pipeline into the workforce for people with disabilities.
CBS 17 caught up with Summer Stallings, Joshiah Phillips, and Colton Rawls while the three worked their hospitality jobs at the Embassy Suites in Cary. All are graduates of Project Search—a school-to-work transition program for people with disabilities available through Wake County public schools.
Interns are completing their senior year of high school and can be between the ages of 18-22.
“It’s not just about learning the skills of the job but it’s more about learning how to be included into a setting,” said Brandi Pittman, one of the instructors.
The program, which started in Ohio, now serves nearly 700 hotels and hospitals worldwide. Here in Wake County the interns follow the traditional school year calendar while getting specific training for jobs in hospitality.
“The difference in school would be having to sit still for a long [time],” said Rawls.
Since 2019, 21 interns have completed the program.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, just over 19 percent of the country’s disabled population were employed – up from almost 18 percent in 2020 following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Project Search, the percentage of 2020-2021 grads employed is more than 73 percent, but it’s not just a job secured—it’s a front row seat to an independent lifestyle.
“The goal is to say I can do this, and not only did I do it, but it was hard, and I worked through something and now I’m stronger for it,” said Pittman.
There are ten new interns this year—two more than the incoming class last year.