As of 10/1/2017, this manual has been retired. For current policies, procedures, and standards for the Texas Workforce Commission Vocational Rehabilitation Division, please refer to the following manuals:

In this manual, references to DARS now refer to TWC. The manual includes both links to public content and links to content available only to staff.

Chapter 9: Project SEARCH

(Added 07/15)

9.1 Overview

(Revised 07/15)

Project SEARCH is an international initiative that supports partnerships between businesses (employers), local school districts, vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies, and other entities that serve persons who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Project SEARCH promotes the successful long-term employment of VR consumers in jobs that are stable, meaningful, and competitively compensated.

The program takes place in a business setting where total immersion in the workplace facilitates teaching and learning and enables the VR consumers who are enrolled to develop marketable work skills and increase their employability. Each consumer participates in three internships in order to explore a variety of career paths. The consumer works with a team that includes the consumer's family and the partnering agencies. The team helps the consumer create an employment goal and supports the consumer during the transition from school to work.

Project SEARCH is composed of three phases.

Phase 1: Consumers enroll in internships that allow them to learn employment-related hard and soft skills (see 9.2.Key Terms) in a real-life work environment. They attend daily classroom instruction that is provided by the local school district and follows the Project SEARCH curriculum.

Phase 2: Consumers are placed in or find competitive integrated employment that earns the prevailing wage in the industry and that allows them to use the skills they have learned during their Project SEARCH internships .The job must be consistent with the services and goals outlined in the consumer's Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE).

Phase 3: Consumers receive retention services, as needed for ongoing support, after the consumer has maintained employment for 90 days and the DARS case is closed. Any retention services needed during this phase are provided by the long-term support organization.

Project SEARCH services are provided through a collaborative process in which the Project SEARCH team - that is, the DARS provider, host business, school district, long-term support organization, and DARS counselor - work together to help the consumer achieve the goals of the internship and placement. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Project SEARCH team members outlines the roles, relationships, and responsibilities.

The host business or the Project SEARCH team interviews and selects a DARS community rehabilitation provider (CRP) to work with DARS consumers at the host business site. The interview is a prerequisite to being eligible for a Project SEARCH service contract that allows DARS to purchase services from the provider.

The Project SEARCH team interviews and selects the consumers who participate in Project SEARCH. DARS purchases services for consumers participating in Project SEARCH, as documented in each consumer's Individualized Plan for Employment.

9.2 Key Terms

Asset Discovery is the process used to collect information about a consumer in Project SEARCH. The information is collected to help the Project SEARCH team select the best possible internship rotations for the consumer. Internships are based on the consumer's skills, interests, abilities, learning styles, and particular need for support, as well as on the internship opportunities offered by the host business. The contractor meets with consumers one-on-one, as a group, or both to collect information about the consumer. The contractor conducts interviews and observes the consumer's abilities and challenges. The interviews and observations occur in multiple settings, including, but not limited to, the consumer's home, places of recreation, during tours of potential worksites, and in places where the consumer's work skills can be simulated, such as in places where the consumer does volunteer work.

Benchmarks are specific employment-related results achieved as a consumer progresses through the job placement or supported employment processes.

Circle of Support is a strategy used to help consumers achieve their objectives. Members of a Circle of Support group may include a consumer's friends, relatives, teachers, church members, and others who want to help the consumer succeed. The group functions as a supportive community for consumers who cannot achieve their objectives on their own.

Community Rehabilitation Provider (CRP) is a person or entity that DARS contracts with to provide services to consumers for payment.

Competitive Integrated Employment is work in the competitive labor market that is performed full-time (or for the maximum number of hours possible) in an integrated work setting. In competitive integrated employment, a person receives compensation at or above the minimum wage, but not less than the customary wage paid by the employer for the same or similar work performed by persons who do not have disabilities. Based on 34 CFR Section 363.6(c)(2)(i).

Cover Letter is a letter sent with a resume to provide additional information on the applicant's skills and experience.

Credential is proof that a third party has evaluated an individual's professional knowledge, skills, competency, and ethics to determine whether he or she has the competency required to perform specific tasks and functions. Credentials are required for providers of certain employment services to DARS consumers.

Cumulative Calendar Days of Employment is the total number of days that a consumer works on a job, starting with the first day and counting each subsequent day, whether the consumer has worked on that day or not. The count continues until the day the consumer is no longer working for the employer.

Employment Conditions are the requirements or preferences that the consumer has established for his or her working conditions.

Employment Data Sheet is a way of organizing all of the information needed to complete an application form and resume. The employment data sheet is one way of ensuring that the spelling is correct and the information is accurate. The data sheets include such information as name, addresses, phone numbers, identification numbers, education history, work history, volunteer history, and references.

Employment Outcome means, with respect to the individual, entering or retaining full time (or, if appropriate, part-time) competitive employment in the integrated labor market, supported employment, or any other type of employment in an integrated setting. This includes self-employment, telecommuting, or business ownership that is consistent with an individual's strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice. Based on CFR Section 361.5(B)(16).

Extended Services and Supports may be needed to help a consumer keep his or her job, after the consumer's VR case is closed. Extended services and other sources of support involve either on- or off-site monitoring (as requested by the consumer or the consumer's legal representative) for as long as needed to ensure the consumer's job stability. The services are provided and funded by sources other than DARS, and may include the employer. Extended services can be facilitated by natural sources of support (such as friends, family, and coworkers), paid sources of support, and long-term support and services provided by state and federal programs).

Long-Term Support and Services (LTSS) are Extended Services and support available through the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) or the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The consumer's counselor requests a copy of the consumer's individual service plan from the LTSS case manager or service coordinator. The consumer's plan must include Supported Employment services (including the number of units authorized and the name of the provider) when LTSS organizations are used to provide any of the Extended Services a consumer may need to maintain employment before the consumer's case is closed.

Hard Skills are the professional knowledge, tools, or techniques that allow a person to perform the essential functions of a job.

Host Business is an employer that participates in and is a member of the Project SEARCH team.

Informational Interview is a meeting between a job seeker and a business. The job seeker obtains advice about his or her chosen career including and information about the industry and the corporate culture of a potential workplace. The business learns about the job seeker and judges the job seeker's professional potential and fit with the corporate culture. Informational interviews provide a nonthreatening forum for discussion as each person learns about the other. Job seekers obtain employment leads and expand their professional network. Businesses get to meet candidates for future hire.

Integrated Work Settings provide an environment in which consumers with disabilities interact regularly with employees who are not disabled and/or with the public. Based on 34 CFR Section 363.6(c)(2)(ii).

Interview Training includes instruction on the interview process used by businesses to select the most suitable candidates for their positions. Interview training includes learning how to research a business before attending an interview; formulate interview questions for the potential employee to ask business interviewers; prepare responses to standard interview questions asked by businesses; and choose attire, makeup, and hairstyles acceptable for interviews. Also includes training in nonverbal communication. The use of mock interviews as an interview training technique is allowable, when applicable to the consumer's vocational objective.

Internships used as training for the Project SEARCH consumer include orientation to the host business and up to three rotations at the host business.

Job Development is the act of developing a job opportunity that meets the needs of the consumer and of the business that is hiring the consumer.

Job Site Analysis is a detailed look at a specific job. It identifies the tasks to be performed and the skills, abilities, and personal characteristics needed to perform them.

Job Stability is achieved when a consumer:

Natural Supports describes the type of support that an employee receives from supervisors and coworkers, such as mentoring, friendship, socializing during breaks or after work, providing feedback on job performance, or learning a new skill together. Friends, family, or volunteers can also provide natural support by providing transportation, helping the employee report his or her earned income to Social Security, offering advice on attire and hygiene, or helping the employee manage his or her medication. When natural sources of support are not available, use of paid sources of support that are not paid for by DARS (such as sources provided by government programs) may ensure that a consumer maintains long-term employment.

Negotiable Employment Conditions are the working conditions and other job-related details that a consumer would like the placement provider to consider when looking for suitable employment.

Non-Negotiable Employment Conditions are conditions that a consumer and counselor have indicated must or must not be present in an employment placement. It is the placement provider's responsibility to verify that the consumer's placement conditions are met.

Examples of non-negotiable conditions include, but are not limited to:

Project SEARCH Model is a school-to-work program for consumers with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in their last year of high school eligibility. Consumers are trained in a real-life work environment learning employability and independent living skills. The Project SEARCH model requires and fosters collaboration among businesses, educational systems, vocational rehabilitation state agencies, and any other disability service agencies. These other disability service agencies provide long-term support to help individuals maintain employment once vocational rehabilitation and educational systems are no longer available to provide support. Project SEARCH is an international trademarked and copyrighted program model.

Project SEARCH Consumers are persons recognized by DARS as being eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation services. For the purposes of Project SEARCH, consumers are students of a school district that participates in Project SEARCH.

Project SEARCH Curriculum is a curriculum designed by Project SEARCH to be used in the classroom portion of the consumer's internship. Each unit provides 45 minutes to one hour of instruction. The school district staff that are participating on the Project SEARCH team implements the curriculum. Topics included in the curriculum are:

Project SEARCH Job Placement Specialist is the CRP staff person who completes job development and job placement activities with each consumer, so that the consumer finds paid employment after the completion of internship rotations. The job placement specialist is also responsible for the arrangement of the Extended Services (long-term support) necessary for the consumer to maintain employment once DARS closes the case. The specialist must have an active UNT WISE credential in job placement, but an active UNT WISE credential in supported employment is preferred.

Project SEARCH Team is a support group for consumers that include:

Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes are used by the federal government to classify occupations.

Soft Skills are behavioral competencies also known as interpersonal skills or people skills. Soft skills are the skills, traits, work habits, and attitudes that all workers across all occupations need to obtain, maintain, and progress in employment.

Worksite Specialists are the employees of a community rehabilitation provider (CRP). The worksite specialist completes the Asset Discovery process, provides Worksite Training Services during each internship rotation, and participates in all Project SEARCH team meetings. The specialist must have a current UNT WISE credential in job skills training/job coaching, but a current UNT WISE credential in supported employment is preferred.

Worksite Training Services are services provided by the contractor to help the consumer achieve his or her vocational goals during the internship. The services include intervention techniques for consumer's who need to learn the essential soft and hard skills necessary to meet the expectations and production standards of the host business. Examples of these services include, providing job skills training, establishing compensatory techniques and accommodations, and training individuals who are supporting the consumer at the worksite.

9.3 Fees

Service

Fee

Conditions

Partial payments

Asset Discovery

$500

One time only, per consumer

Not allowed

Worksite Training

Must not exceed $1,000 per consumer for an 8- to 12-week internship rotation

No more than three rotations per consumer for each school year.

Allowed.
Divide the maximum amount ($1,000) by the number of weeks in the rotation.
Example: The partial payment for an 8-week rotation is $125 for one week.

Job Placement and Arrangement of Retention Services (Benchmark A)

$750

Payable when the consumer is placed in a job that meets the criteria on form DARS3373, Project SEARCH Job Placement Services Plan and the consumer has been employed for five cumulative calendar days (counted from the consumer's first day on the job).
Submit an invoice for payment the day after the 5th day of employment.

Not allowed

Job Placement and Arrangement of Retention Services (Benchmark B)

$750

Payable when the consumer completes the 45th cumulative calendar day of employment in a job that meets the criteria in DARS3373.
Submit an invoice for payment the day after the 45th day of employment.)

Not allowed

Job Placement and Arrangement of Extended Services (Benchmark C)

$1,875

Payable when the consumer completes the 90th cumulative calendar day of employment in a job that meets the criteria in DARS3373 and verification that the Extended Services that were required for the consumer to stay employed after DARS closes the case have been arranged.
Submit an invoice for payment after the 90th day of employment.

Not allowed

9.4 Asset Discovery

9.4.1 Description and Scope

Asset Discovery is the process used to collect information from a consumer who is participating in Project SEARCH. The information is used by the consumer's Project SEARCH team to select the best possible internship rotations for the consumer. It is gathered by a worksite specialist who is employed by the community rehabilitation provider (CRP) that DARS contracts with to provide consumer services.

The worksite specialist meets with the consumer to collect information about the consumer's skills, interests, abilities, learning styles, and particular need for support. The specialist also gathers information on the needs, and the employer's internship opportunities being offered by participating employers (host businesses).

The specialist provides the information to the Project SEARCH team, which then selects an internship.

9.4.2 Procedure and Process

To start the Asset Discovery process, a DARS staff member issues a service authorization.

The worksite specialist assigned by the contractor then:

The specialist also completes a minimum of four observation sessions with the consumer (one-on-one sessions, group sessions with other consumers, or both), for a total of at least 20 hours, to observe the consumer's interests, skills, abilities, challenges, and need for support.

Examples of observation sessions include, meeting with the consumer at:

When the four sessions are complete, the specialist:

The specialist then:

DARS staff members review the submitted forms and invoice to ensure that they are complete and accurate, returning them to the provider if issues are found.

DARS notifies providers about issues related to the incomplete forms or invoice.

The worksite specialist must resubmit the forms and invoice after correcting the issues to receive payment of the invoice.

Once the forms and invoice are approved, the invoice is paid.

9.4.3 Outcomes Required for Payment

For a community rehabilitation provider (CRP) to be paid for services, the worksite specialist must complete and submit DARS3370, Project SEARCH Asset Discovery Report using descriptive terms to document all of the information required, including: the consumer's identification information:

The specialist must document at least four Asset Discovery sessions, held at different locations for a total of at least 20 hours of contact with the consumer, either individually or in a group setting.

9.4.4 Qualifications for a Worksite Specialist

The qualifications for a worksite specialist are:

The worksite specialist:

The CRP director must approve the DARS3455, Employment Services Provider Application - Staff Information form completed by the worksite specialist before it is submitted to DARS.

DARS may pay for the services of a worksite specialist who does not have the required credentials only when:

The DARS3490, Temporary Waiver of Employment Services Credentials must be completed and approved by DARS for any time period when a non-credentialed worksite specialist. Refer to Chapter 1: Basic Standards, 1.8 Staff, Temporary Waiver of Employment Services Credentials, for additional information.

For additional information about the UNT WISE credentialing process, see UNT's Texas Credential Training page.

9.5 Worksite Training Services

9.5.1 Description and Scope

Worksite Training Services involves training and establishing accommodations and/or compensatory techniques that are needed to increase a consumer's independence and improve a consumer's ability to perform soft and hard skills to meet the expectations and production standards of a host business on the Project SEARCH team.

Examples of worksite training services include:

The worksite specialist provides services in coordination with:

The worksite specialist provides goal-directed services and support as outlined in DARS3371, Project SEARCH Progress Report.

9.5.2 Procedure and Process

The consumer's vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor works with the consumer and the Project SEARCH team to develop goals for the consumer. The community rehabilitation provider (CRP) then records the goals on DARS3371, Project SEARCH Progress Report.

The worksite specialist works with the consumer, the consumer's coworkers, and the Project SEARCH team to help the consumer achieve his or her goals.

The worksite specialist:

A DARS staff member:

The worksite specialist resubmits the form and invoice after correcting the issues.

Once the forms and invoice are approved, the invoice is paid.

9.5.3 Outcomes Required for Payment

For a community rehabilitation provider (CRP) to be paid for services, the worksite specialist must complete and submit DARS3371, Project SEARCH Progress Report accurately using descriptive terms to document the actions completed to help achieve the consumer's established goals. The worksite specialist provides at least two hours of service each week, during the 8-12 week internship rotation.

The worksite specialist completes the following sections of DARS3371:

The work site specialist must complete and submit the DARS3372, Project SEARCH Internship Report accurately by using descriptive terms to summarize the consumer's participation in the internship rotation.

The worksite specialist completes the following sections of DARS3372:

9.5.4 Qualifications for a Worksite Specialist

The worksite specialist:

The CRP director must approve the DARS3455, Employment Services Provider Application - Staff Information form completed by the worksite specialist before it is submitted to DARS.

DARS may pay for the services of a worksite specialist who does not have the required credentials only when:

The DARS3490, Temporary Waiver of Employment Services Credentials must be completed and approved by DARS for any time period when a non-credentialed worksite specialist. Refer to SFP 1.8 Staff, Temporary Waiver of Employment Services Credentials, for additional information.

For additional information about the UNT WISE credentialing process, see UNT's Texas Credential Training page.

9.6 Project SEARCH Job Placement and Retention Services

9.6.1 Description and Scope

When the consumer has participated in at least one of the three internship rotations, the job placement specialist may help the consumer find employment.

The goal is to place the consumer in the competitive labor market in an integrated work setting, with a host business or community that:

The consumer must find and remain employed in competitive, integrated job for 90 cumulative calendar days.

No minimum or maximum hours of assistance, training, or support is required by the job placement specialist, as long as the job placement specialist:

Job Skills Training (Job Coaching) assistance that may be needed to ensure that the consumer is stable on the job is included in the fee structure for job placement and cannot be billed separately. Project SEARCH Job Placement Services cannot be purchased with On the Job Training services, Job Skills Training (Job Coaching), Non-Bundled Job Placement Services, Bundled Job Placement Services, Work Experience Services and/or Supported Employment.

There is a reasonable expectation that the job is:

The consumer is paid:

Based on 34 CFR Section 363.6(c)(2)(i).

The job placement specialist is paid for only once for each benchmark completed by a Project SEARCH consumer, even if the consumer loses a job after the completion of a benchmark.

A consumer's employment is considered cumulative as long as any gaps in employment are not caused by the consumer's disability.

Examples of disability related issues that could cause gaps in employment include:

If a consumer loses a job before the 90 day benchmark and the job loss is not due to the disability, the consumer's progression within the benchmark stops. When the consumer becomes employed again, the progression toward completion of the benchmark begins again.

Any gap in employment greater than eight weeks results in a new employment period without the provider being paid for any of the benchmarks that have already been paid.

The job placement specialist:

DARS verifies the dates of employment. If the verification indicates the job placement specialist documentation is inaccurate, DARS may require the job placement specialist to repay any funds received.

The final verification of employment must show that the consumer has been employed a total of 90 days without a break in employment greater than eight weeks.

If the employer has classified the consumer as an employee during an orientation period, the orientation period counts as part of the consumer's 90 days of cumulative employment (see cumulative calendar days of employment, in 9.1 Key Terms). The time spent in a Project SEARCH internship rotation cannot be included in the 90 day count of the Job Placement.

DARS pays the job placement specialist for placing a consumer in a job only if the consumer is placed in an organization or business that is not owned, operated, controlled, or governed by the community rehabilitation program (CRP) that is providing the consumer's services. CRPs that are state agencies, are state universities, or are facilities that are a part of a state university system are exempt from this requirement.

9.6.2 Procedure and Process

Job Placement Planning Meeting

The counselor, job placement specialist, consumer, and any other Project SEARCH team members, complete DARS3373, Project SEARCH Job Placement Services Plan:

The meeting can be held in person, by phone conference, video relay, or by any method that allows all parties to actively participate in the discussion.

All parties in attendance at the meeting must sign DARS3373. Original signatures are required.

The purpose of the meeting is to:

After the Project SEARCH Job Placement Plan meeting, service authorizations are issued by DARS staff to the provider for both Benchmarks A and B. The service authorization for Benchmark C is issued after the consumer achieves Benchmark A.

Job Placement:

The job placement specialist:

Once the consumer is employed, the job placement specialist monitors the consumer's progress on the job:

If Job Skills Training (Job Coaching) is necessary to supplement the training provided by the employer, the Project SEARCH provider provides it as part of the Job Placement service.

Any Extended Support (that is, long-term support or services) needed by the consumer to maintain successful long-term employment is established by the job placement specialist before the consumer achieves Benchmark C.

The job placement specialist makes certain that all standards are met before submitting an invoice.

A DARS staff member:

The job placement specialist resubmits the forms and invoice after correcting the issues.

Once the forms and invoice are approved, the invoice is paid.

9.6.3 Requirements for Payment

Benchmark A

To complete Benchmark A, the consumer must remain employed for five cumulative calendar days in a job that meets the following requirements, as outlined on DARS3373, Project SEARCH Job Placement Service Plan:

The job placement specialist:

Benchmark B

To complete Benchmark B, the consumer must remain employed for 45 cumulative calendar days in a job that meets the following requirements, as outlined on DARS3373, Project SEARCH Job Placement Service Plan:

The job placement specialist:

Benchmark C

To complete Benchmark C, the consumer must remain employed for 90 cumulative calendar days in a job that meets the following requirements, as outlined in DARS3373, Project SEARCH Job Placement Services Plan:

The job placement specialist:

The job placement specialist also accurately completes and documents in descriptive terms all of the information required on DARS3375, Extended Services, Retention Services, and Long-Term Support Services Summary Report, being sure to record all of the Extended Services necessary for the consumer to maintain long-term competitive integrated employment after DARS closes the case.

9.6.4 Qualifications for a Job Placement Specialist

The qualifications for a job placement specialist are:

The job placement specialist:

The CRP director must approve the DARS3455, Employment Services Provider Application - Staff Information form completed by the job placement specialist before it is submitted to DARS.

DARS may pay only for the services of a job placement specialist who does not have the required credentials only when:

The DARS3490, Temporary Waiver of Employment Services Credentials must be completed and approved by DARS for any time period when a non-credentialed worksite specialist. Refer to Chapter 1: Basic Standards, 1.8 Staff, Temporary Waiver of Employment Services Credentials, for additional information.

For additional information about the UNT WISE credentialing process, see UNT's Texas Credential Training page.