Project SEARCH Winnipeg

Where business and education come together

Project SEARCH Winnipeg is for high school students with an intellectual disability or autism whose main goal is employment and who will benefit from career exploration. The cornerstone of this program is immersion into a large business or organization. Students learn job skills while participating in a variety of worksite rotations with the goal of competitive employment and are supported by a team including a certified Teacher and Skills Trainers.

Group of young students of various age and gender are sitting on a green sofa. There are six in the first row and five in the second. They are all wearing royal blue polo shirts. There is a glass wall and window behind them.

There are over 600 Project SEARCH sites around the world, and Winnipeg hosts two sites (the first to be developed in Canada): 

Manitoba Hydro & Government of Manitoba site, which started in 2011; 
Classroom Location: Manitoba Hydro Place, 360 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg 
This site hosts high school students in what would have been their last year of school 

HSC Winnipeg site, which started in 2016; 
Classroom location: HSC Winnipeg, 700 McDermot Avenue 
This site hosts both high school students and may also host young adults with CLDS funding. 

What Project SEARCH looks like:

Each day starts in a “classroom” (generously provided by Manitoba Hydro/HSC Winnipeg) where students learn employability skills. The bulk of the day is spent in worksite rotations developed throughout the sites . Students end their day in the classroom, reflecting on the day, journaling their key learning, problem solving, and planning. The program runs for one year, on a school cycle, and is the last year before high school graduation.

Skills Trainers provide training to students for each work experience, while site supervisors and managers will provide natural supports. Students receive continual feedback from Project SEARCH staff, co-workers and supervisors. 

 The ultimate goal is to support students to be successful in their post-graduation search for competitive employment, utilizing the skills learned on the work experiences and throughout the program. While we appreciate when it happens, host businesses/organizations are under no obligation to hire students once they have completed their Project SEARCH year.

Possible worksite experiences may include:

Clerical/Filing/Data Entry

Distribution/Stocking of supplies

Training Material Preparation


Warehouse tasks (including picking & packing)

Mail sorting/distribution

Facilities support and maintenance

Cleaning of medical equipment

Hospital/examination room maintenance

Dietary/food commissary tasks

Cleaning/assembly of healthcare materials.

Project Search History

Project SEARCH was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. In 1996, Erin Riehle, then Director of Cincinnati Children’s Emergency Department, felt because the hospital served individuals with developmental disabilities, it made sense they should commit to hiring people in this group. She wondered if it would be possible to train them to fill some of the high- turnover, entry-level positions in her department. As a starting point, Erin presented her ideas to Susie Rutkowski, then the special education director at Great Oaks Career Campuses. Erin and Susie formed a partnership that was instantaneous, and together they launched Project SEARCH.

Since its inception, Project SEARCH has grown from a single program site at Cincinnati Children’s to a large and continuously expanding international network of sites and a continuation of the primary objective to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities.

Project SEARCH Winnipeg is celebrating our upcoming tenth annivesary of our original site with Manitoba Hydro and the Government of Manitoba.  We were pleased to be the first Project SEARCH site in Canada.  In 2016, we were pleased to expand to a second site and the first hospital based in Canada at HSC Winnipeg, with it’s own dedicated team of teacher and skills trainers.