Office of the Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch
Office of the Lt. Gov, Rebecca Kleefisch - Press Release

Project SEARCH graduation in Marshfield Friday showcases value of worker training

Thursday, May 15, 2014 - Press Release

Spring is the season for graduations. At high schools and colleges across the country, families clap and cheer as their loved ones cross the stage and take a well-deserved bow.

Today in Marshfield we’re celebrating a different kind of commencement. Today young adults with disabilities will officially graduate from the Project SEARCH program at Ministry St. Joseph’s Hospital, completing a one-year immersion experience that prepares them for full and productive lives as employees and members of the community.

The hospital is currently one of seven Project SEARCH locations in Wisconsin. We’re so impressed by the results we’re seeing in these young people’s lives that state government is expanding its funding for Project SEARCH to 20 participating businesses over the next three years.

Supporting Project SEARCH in Marshfield and across Wisconsin is part of our administration’s overall commitment to helping people with disabilities find employment opportunities. We’re calling it the “Year of A Better Bottom Line,” a 12-month initiative across state government to help people with disabilities attain the power of a paycheck and the dignity of a job.

Nationally, only 20 percent of people with disabilities are gainfully employed. Our state is doing much better; Disability Rights Wisconsin reports that 37 percent of Wisconsin residents with disabilities have a job. But that means we’ve still got a way to go.

Gov. Scott Walker stepped up in a big way, and state government put money behind our promises. The governor recently signed legislation increasing the number of people served by our state’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation by 6,000. And we’re putting $35 million into Wisconsin Fast Forward, which will fund several workforce training programs, including more training for people with disabilities.

We know the difference a job makes in the life of any individual. It brings dignity, a sense of purpose and mission, and the earning power of a paycheck. People with disabilities can use their wages to make their own economic and household decisions.

But it’s not only the employee who gets a better bottom line. People with disabilities make great employees. I see that firsthand when I visit companies like Fort Healthcare in Fort Atkinson, Office Max in West Bend, Kwik Trip in Merrill, or Walgreens in Green Bay. These companies choose to hire people with disabilities because they are remarkably good employees, with unique talents and above-average job stability.

Gov. Walker and I are committed to building a Wisconsin where every citizen has broad horizons and big opportunities to lead full and active lives. Our administration is supporting workforce training programs for all our people looking for work, so they can get the skills they need for the jobs they want. And this year, we’re putting a particular focus on promoting employment for people with disabilities. All of us should celebrate when our friends and neighbors find a job, and we should celebrate today as a new class of Project SEARCH graduates launches out into our community.