Photo Caption: Idriss Ibrahim works as a banquet attendant and, like the other interns, one of his favorite things about working at Embassy Suites RTP is that he gets to keep the tips he earns from the hotel’s guests.
NCDHHS is in partnership with Alliance Health, the Wake County Public School System and Embassy Suites to help implement Project SEARCH, where interns with disabilities are spending their senior year of high school working and learning in one of the nicest hotels in Cary.
Project SEARCH interns complete a program that consists of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through multiple internships. By the end of the year, the interns will have completed three training rotations in their areas of interest at the host business, Embassy Suites, in Cary.
Brandi Pittman, of the Wake County Public School System, is the instructor for the Project SEARCH program at Embassy Suites RTP. The interns tackle subjects like business etiquette for email in the workplace.
Pittman, along with other job coaches, completes the interns’ assessments and provides constructive feedback in each of the 10 job areas.
Last year, more than 73% of Project SEARCH interns nationwide found competitive, integrated employment at the conclusion of their internships. “This is a huge adjustment – they’re finally getting to work by themselves,” Pittman said. “For many of the interns, this is the first time they’re getting to experience independence.”
The Embassy Suites RTP has nine floors and 273 rooms. There’s a banquet hall, a dining room and a vast gleaming kitchen. And there’s always plenty of work to be done. Project SEARCH interns get experience throughout the hotel including the laundry, the kitchen, the front desk and serving as room attendants.
Embassy Suites RTP’s core values, which include service, perseverance, respect, inclusion and teamwork, guide how the hotel treats its guests and its employees.
“What we get to experience with these interns directly aligns with our core values,” said Embassy Suites RTP’s General Manager Michael Rowley. “We are 100 percent involved and on board – this is a great community project.”
Project SEARCH began at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and is headquartered there. It currently has 787 sites across 48 states and 10 countries.
There are 15 Project SEARCH locations across the state. Of those, four are for adults and 11 are school-based. Eleven of the locations are in healthcare and hospital settings and two are at hotels.
When the interns complete the program, they go to work in jobs that pay a competitive salary and work alongside other people with and without disabilities.
“Project SEARCH is making a big difference in the lives of people in this state,” said Adrienne Kittle Program Specialist for Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Statewide Coordinator of Project SEARCH. “Working with our program partners and the fact that the interns are getting real-world experiences is key to the success they’re finding in competitive integrated employment upon their completion of their internships.”