St Andrew’s inaugural Project SEARCH participants celebrated the completion of their internships this month with a graduation ceremony marking the beginning of exciting new chapters for each member of the team.
One of those interns is Micaiah, who joined Project SEARCH at St Andrew’s in 2022 with some nerves, excitement, and a big dream of becoming a pastry chef.
Micaiah joined alongside five other participants as they embarked on the year-long internship program which is designed to provide young adults with disabilities the opportunity to gain real work experience and secure pathways into stable and rewarding employment.
“When I started I was pretty nervous, but also pretty excited to be starting something new in my life after finishing school,” Micaiah said.
“I want to be a pastry chef. I love working with pastry and sweets and I also really enjoy chocolate work.
“So, I started in the hospital kitchen and then transitioned to working at the Little Birdee Café in the hospital as well.”
Now one year later, with a range of skills and experience gained through Project SEARCH, Micaiah has secured employment with a luxury hotel and is one step closer toward achieving his dream.
“Since graduating, I’ve been able to get a job at a hotel where I’ve been working on making plates of dessert look beautiful for in-room dining guests,” Micaiah said proudly.
“Through Project SEARCH, I’ve experienced more than I ever could have on my own. It helped me to get started, which is often the most challenging part for me. I also found myself fitting in faster than I thought I’d be able to and it’s great to be around others who can relate to you and your situation.
“I feel a lot more comfortable working now. Although, it’s still exciting and nerve wracking at the same time!”
Throughout the program, participants are supported and guided every step of the way by the Project SEARCH team, including job coaches Lisa and Zoe, as well as the hospital departments who welcome them into their teams.
“As job coaches we wear many hats, but primarily we work alongside the interns so that we’re on hand to support them in their learning. Everyone is different, so we help by developing unique strategies for each participant to help them learn,” Zoe said.
“We focus on the participants strengths and attributes, help them gain skills and confidence, and ultimately help them to find a job at the end of the program.”
As the interns embark on the next stage of their lives and careers, the search begins for a new cohort of participants to join Project SEARCH at St Andrew’s.
“We feel extremely proud of each of the interns, but it does also feel bittersweet. We really get to know them over the year and we build relationships with their families and loved ones as we all work together to help each participant achieve their goals,” Lisa said.
“We have plenty of opportunities for interns to gain skills and experience within the hospital setting, including in the kitchen, housekeeping and sterilisation department, but were always looking for other opportunities based on the participants individual goals.”
Micaiah’s message for others considering Project SEARCH is simple.
“I would tell others to do it! It’s easy to start, its supportive and that in itself is very valuable. With Project SEARCH, you can do things you’ve never done before.”
About Project SEARCH
Project SEARCH is a business-led, school-to-work program, suitable for young persons who identify with a disability, that takes place entirely at the workplace over the course of a year. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration and hands-on training through worksite rotations.
Visit the UnitingCare website
to learn more about Project SEARCH and to apply to join the program.