Westfield Insurance Providing Work Opportunities for Young Adults with Disabilities
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OakLeaf Partners, A Center of Excellence at UCP of Greater Cleveland, Partners with Westfield Insurance Providing Work Opportunities for Young Adults with Disabilities

WESTFIELD CENTER, Ohio, August 22, 2016 – UCP of Greater Cleveland is pleased to announce a new partnership with Westfield Insurance, who will become the newest Project SEARCH employer site in Northeast Ohio, starting with the academic school year this August 2016.

The Project SEARCH model, now an international best practice model in transition services, first began as a single program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 1996. More than 2,500 young people with disabilities are now served each year across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, and 75 percent of the graduates achieve competitive employment. “We’ve been able to show that people with disabilities can do very complex jobs if they receive the right training,” says Erin Riehle one of the founders of the Project SEARCH model. “Appropriate preparation is the key to success.”

Project SEARCH is a transition program for high school students with disabilities moving into community-based employment, and represents a partnership between government funding, school districts, non-profit organizations and businesses. The program hallmark is total workplace immersion, which means that students with disabilities in their final year of high school spend their entire day at a workplace for a full school year. Because they are embedded in the business, the students gain a level of confidence, maturity and familiarity with workplace culture that cannot be achieved with occasional visits to a workplace or simulated work environments.

A typical day for a Project SEARCH participant starts with an hour of classroom instruction located within the workplace. During this time, students learn general employability and independent living skills, such as personal budgeting, appropriate social interaction, workplace dress and hygiene, email etiquette, resume writing and job interview techniques. After classroom instruction time, student interns spend the majority of their day in different departments throughout the host business, working in internships. Each student will typically experience a series of three 10-week internships during their time in the program. This allows them to explore career options and learn specific, transferable job skills that give them the qualifications they need to compete for entry-level jobs at the host business or with other employers.

At Westfield, this year’s group of interns will participate in a variety of hospitality-related internships. They will learn important, transferrable skills working at multiple locations on Westfield’s main campus including the Home Office, Country Club, Inn and Blair Event Center. The new Project SEARCH classroom, created for the students and instructor, will serve as their headquarters and dedicated instruction area. A cross-functional team has collaborated closely to launch the Project SEARCH site and set up a warm welcome for the interns, job coach and instructor. Westfield’s commitment to Project SEARCH complements its family stability initiative, which focuses on reducing barriers to success.

“As a learning organization, Westfield will grow immensely from this experience while providing meaningful career opportunities for our Project SEARCH students,” says Human Resource Leader, Chris Paterakis. “We are honored to be the first host employer in Medina County to launch Project SEARCH and are very excited to offer internships to these students.”

At the end of the year, students will work with an OakLeaf Partners Job Placement Specialist to complete an individualized job search process to find and retain employment that matches their interests and newly acquired job skills.

“I am very pleased to expand the highly successful Project SEARCH school-to-work transition model to students with special needs in Medina County and look forward to working with such a committed community partner in Westfield,” states Paul Soprano, Director of OakLeaf Services at UCP of Greater Cleveland.

The Project SEARCH site at Westfield Insurance is the sixth site in Northeast Ohio and the first in Medina County. The partners for this site include Westfield Insurance; Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities; OakLeaf Partners, the Employment Program at UCP of Greater Cleveland; Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities/Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Educational Service Center of Medina County. Students will be referred to the program from a number of Medina County high schools.

About Westfield Insurance
Westfield Insurance is a part of Westfield Group, a customer-focused insurance and banking group of businesses headquartered in Westfield Center, Ohio, and in business for more than 167 years. Westfield Insurance provides commercial insurance in 21 states, personal insurance in 10 states and surety services to customers in 50 states. Westfield is one of the nation’s 50 largest property and casualty insurance groups, represented by a network of more than 1,000 independent insurance agencies. Westfield Insurance was named as a Top Workplace in northeast Ohio in 2014 and as a Top Workplace in central Ohio in 2015. Westfield Bank provides banking solutions for businesses and individuals, and Westfield Services provides service and training support for independent insurance agencies. Learn more about Westfield Group at www.WestfieldInsurance.com and www.Westfield-Bank.com.

About Oakleaf Partners
OakLeaf Partners is an Employment Program of UCP of Greater Cleveland. OakLeaf Partners is proud to be the only vocational rehabilitation partner at all six Project SEARCH sites in Northeast Ohio, and acts as the lead partner in building and growing the program model. The mission of UCP of Greater Cleveland is to empower children and adults with disabilities to advance their independence, productivity and inclusion in the community. The not-for-profit organization employs over 185 individuals offering comprehensive children’s services through LeafBridge, A Center of Excellence for Children, and adult vocational and community integration through OakLeaf, A Center of Excellence for Adults. With low administrative costs, 87 cents of every contributed dollar goes directly to the programs and services offered to children and adults. The headquarters of UCP of Greater Cleveland – the Iris S. and Bert L. Wolstein Center – are located at 10011 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, 44106. The agency has two other locations in Westlake and Highland Hills, as well as various vocational sites throughout Cuyahoga and surrounding counties. Please visit www.oakleafpartners.org.

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