16.1 Overview of Project SEARCH Services

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

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

Project SEARCH is a well-established, nationally recognized model that consistently achieves successful outcomes for students with disabilities. Texas Workforce Commission's Vocational Rehabilitation (TWC-VR) has identified opportunities to build upon this model to develop similar programs for other target populations. For example, these programs may include internships, other work-based learning opportunities, and skills training for in-school and out-of-school youth, young adults, or adults who require job skills training using this model. As these programs are developed, the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Manual (VRSM) will be updated with applicable procedures, and the Project SEARCH fee schedule (see 16.5.4 Project SEARCH Services Fees) will be applied as appropriate.

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16.2 Staff Qualifications and Training

The Employment Service Provider director must approve the DARS3455, Provider Staff Information form completed by each staff member, before providing any services to customers and must submit the approved form to the provider's assigned TWC contract manager and regional program specialist. The DARS3455, Provider Staff Information form, must document qualifications and provide evidence, such as transcripts, diplomas, reference letters, credentials, or licenses, of meeting all qualifications. The form and supporting documents must be retained and provided to TWC staff upon request.

Provider staff qualifications for each service are described below. If a qualification requires a University of North Texas Workplace Inclusion and Sustainable Employment (UNTWISE) credential, additional information can be obtained at Texas Credential Training | Workplace Inclusion & Sustainable Employment.

Noncredentialed provider staff may provide services to a VR customer only when the Temporary Waiver of Employment Services Credential Standards are followed. For more information, refer to Chapter 3: Basic Standards, 3.1.6.4 Temporary Waiver of Staff Qualifications.

16.2.1 Skills Trainer General Qualifications

Skills trainer qualifications are as follows:

  • UNTWISE Job Skills Training credential is required.
  • Additional UNTWISE Supported Employment credential is preferred.
  • High school diploma or GED is required.
  • Bachelor's degree or at least one year of documented experience working with individuals who have disabilities is preferred.

16.2.2 Job Placement Trainer General Qualification

Job placement trainer qualifications are as follows:

  • UNTWISE Job Placement credential is required.
  • Additional UNTWISE Supported Employment credential is preferred.
  • High school diploma or GED is required.
  • Bachelor's degree or at least one year of documented experience working with individuals who have disabilities is preferred.

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16.3 Project SEARCH Asset Discovery

16.3.1 Service Description

The process used to collect information from a customer participating in Project SEARCH is called "asset discovery." The skills trainer meets with the customer to collect information about the customer's skills, interests, abilities, learning styles, and support needs. The trainer also gathers information on the internship opportunities and needs of the participating host business. The skills trainer provides the information collected to the Project SEARCH team to assist in determining appropriate internships.

16.3.2 Process and Procedure

The provider receives a service authorization for asset discovery and assigns a skills trainer.

The assigned skills trainer:

  • reviews the customer's Project SEARCH application;
  • schedules a meeting with the customer and his or her circle of support to collect the information necessary to answer interview questions identified on the DARS3370, Project SEARCH Asset Discovery Report; and
  • completes a minimum of four observation sessions with the customer (one-on-one sessions, group sessions with other customers, or both) for a total of at least 20 hours, to observe the customer's interests, skills, abilities, challenges, and need for support. Observation sessions may be completed at:
    • the customer's home;
    • places the customer goes for recreation;
    • business sites for tour;
    • environments where the customer's work skills can be simulated; and
    • work sites where the customer does volunteer work.

No invoice may be paid until the VR counselor receives and approves the provider's complete and accurate signed and dated DARS3370, Project SEARCH Asset Discovery report, and invoice.

16.3.3 Outcomes Required for Payment

The skills trainer must document in descriptive terms all the information required by the service description on the DARS3370, Project SEARCH Asset Discovery Report, including:

  • the customer's identification information;
  • the customer's demographic information;
  • the date, time, location, and summary of all asset discovery sessions completed with the customer;
  • evidence of at least four asset discovery sessions, held at different locations for a total of at least 20 hours of contact with the customer, either individually or in a group setting;
  • evidence showing that all interview questions were covered and documented;
  • a description of the customer's abilities;
  • confirmation that services provided comply with all applicable standards; and
  • required signatures.

Payment for Project SEARCH Asset Discovery is made when the VR counselor approves a complete, accurate, signed, and dated DARS3370, Project SEARCH Asset Discovery Report, and invoice.

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16.4 Project SEARCH Skills Training Services

16.4.1 Service Description

Skills Training Services include training and establishing accommodations and/or compensatory techniques as needed to increase a customer's independence and improve the customer's ability to perform soft and hard skills to meet the expectations and production standards of a host business.

Examples of Skills Training Services include:

  • providing skills training as needed throughout the internship;
  • establishing compensatory techniques and accommodations; and
  • training individuals who are supporting the customer at the host business.

The skills trainer must provide services in coordination with:

  • a teacher with the local school district;
  • a paraprofessional from the school district; and
  • designated supervisors from the host business.

Skills trainers must provide goal-directed services and support as outlined in DARS3371, Project SEARCH Progress Report.

16.4.2 Process and Procedure

The customer, customer's legal guardian or representative, if any, VR counselor, and Project SEARCH team must meet to develop goals for the customer and document these goals on the DARS3371, Project SEARCH Progress Report. The meeting frequency is individualized based on the customer's needs.

The skills trainer must:

  • work with the customer, the customer's mentors, and the Project SEARCH team to help the customer achieve his or her goals;
  • attend meetings related to the customer, as established by the Project SEARCH team, and indicate relevant customer updates on the DARS3371;
  • work as an active team member with the other partners to ensure that the most suitable internship is provided to enhance the customer's employability skills; and
  • assist the Project SEARCH team with providing training to the host business.

No invoice may be paid until the VR counselor receives and approves a complete and accurate DARS3371, Project SEARCH Progress Report, and DARS3372, Project SEARCH Internship Report, with an invoice.

16.4.3 Outcomes Required for Payment

DARS3371, Project SEARCH Progress Report, and DARS3372, Project SEARCH Internship Report, are submitted:

  • at the conclusion of each internship rotation; and
  • any time a change in the customer's needs or circumstances could affect the customer's ability to continue participating in the internships.

For payment, the skills trainer must:

  • document in descriptive terms all the information required by the Service Description on the DARS3371, Project SEARCH Progress Report, including:
    • evidence that goals were established and addressed for the reporting period;
    • proper recording for the date range of the start date, end date, and total hours provided during that date range;
    • summary of the services the skills trainer provided and the customer's performance toward goals for each date range entry;
    • affirmation that at least three hours of training were provided each week for the eight–12 week internship rotation; and
    • customer signature;
  • document in descriptive terms all the information required by the Service Description on the DARS3372, Project SEARCH Internship Report, including:
    • information describing the current internship;
    • documentation of the customer's attendance during the internship;
    • evidence that the customer's soft and hard skills were evaluated and scored during the internship;
    • summary of the customer's performance related to essential and nonessential responsibilities;
    • summary of the customer's adjustment to the internship, including problematic issues or concerns that were addressed by the skills trainer, host business, and/or school district;
    • any accommodations, compensatory techniques, or special training the customer needs to increase performance; and
    • any consultations made with the internship host business.

No invoice may be paid until the VR counselor receives and approves a complete, accurate, signed, and dated:

16.4.4 Fees

For more information, refer to 16.5.4 Project SEARCH Services Fees.

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16.5 Project SEARCH Job Placement

16.5.1 Service Description

When the customer has participated in at least one of the three internship rotations or at any time during the rotations the team determines job placement opportunities are available to the customer because of skills gained in the internships, the job placement specialist and Project SEARCH team may help the customer find employment.

The goal is to place the customer in a competitive and integrated work setting either with the host business or a business in the community that:

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

Job placement specialists are responsible for:

  • providing initial instruction;
  • providing assistance to reinforce learned skills;
  • monitoring the customer to ensure that the customer is demonstrating the skills learned; and
  • using the resources or tools necessary to assist the customer in securing employment.

Job placement specialists must make reasonable efforts to ensure that jobs are:

  • permanent, rather than temporary or seasonal;
  • full-time or the most hours the customer can work; and
  • part of an integrated work setting.

Job placement specialists must make reasonable efforts to ensure that customers are paid:

  • at or above the minimum wage; and
  • not less than the customary wage that the employer pays for the same or similar work performed by employees who do not have disabilities.

Job Skills Training assistance that may be needed to ensure that the customer 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, Non-bundled Job Placement Services, Bundled Job Placement Services, Work Experience Services and/or Supported Employment.

Job placement specialists are paid once for each benchmark completed by a Project SEARCH customer, even if the customer loses a job after the completion of a benchmark.

A customer's employment is considered cumulative only if any gaps in employment are not caused by the customer's disability.

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

  • hospitalization; and
  • the need to manage a medical condition (such as seizures).

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

Any gap in employment longer than eight weeks results in a new employment period. However, the provider will not be paid again for any benchmarks that have already been paid.

The job placement specialist:

  • verifies a customer's employment through employer or customer contact; and
  • documents the verification on the appropriate form when invoicing VR.

VR verifies the dates of employment. If the verification indicates that the job placement specialist's documentation is inaccurate, VR may require recoupment of funds and pursue other options available under the contract. The final verification of employment must show that the customer has been employed a total of 90 days without a break in employment longer than eight weeks.

If the employer has classified the customer as an employee during an orientation period, the orientation period counts as part of the customer's 90 days of cumulative employment. The time spent in a Project SEARCH internship rotation cannot be included in the job placement's 90-day count.

No invoice may be paid until the VR counselor receives and approves documentation sufficient to show that the customer was placed in an organization or business that is not owned, operated, controlled, or governed by the service provider that is providing the customer's services. Providers that are state agencies, state universities, or facilities that are a part of a state university system are exempt from this requirement.

16.5.2 Process and Procedure

Job Placement Planning Meeting

The customer, VR counselor, job placement specialist, and any other Project SEARCH team members, meet to develop and complete the DARS3373, Project SEARCH Job Placement Services Plan:

  • at the end of the third internship rotation; or
  • at any time during the three rotations when the team determines job placement opportunities are available to the customer because of skills gained in the internships.

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

All parties in attendance at the meeting must sign the DARS3373 at the end of the meeting.

The purpose of the meeting is to:

  • review and clarify employment-related support and training that the customer needs to find employment;
  • identify the customer's skills, abilities, experiences, training, education, attributes and/or barriers related to employment;
  • identify negotiable and nonnegotiable employment conditions; and
  • document the customer's identified employment goals and the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes for each employment goal.

After the Project SEARCH job placement plan meeting, VR staff:

  • issues service authorization to the provider for Benchmark A; and
  • files the DARS3373 in the customer's file.

The service authorizations for Benchmarks B and C are issued after the customer achieves Benchmark A.

Job Placement

The job placement specialist uses the resources or tools necessary to help the customer find a job that meets the criteria outlined in the DARS3373, Project SEARCH Job Placement Services Plan.

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

  • providing initial job coaching instruction to reinforce learned skills;
  • monitoring the customer to ensure that the customer is demonstrating the skills learned and to ensure that the customer is successful; and
  • determining whether there is a need for the Project SEARCH team to provide the employer with training and/or education on disability and accommodation issues.

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

Any extended support or long-term support or services that the customer needs to maintain successful long-term employment must be established by the job placement specialist and Project SEARCH team before the customer achieves Benchmark C.

16.5.3 Outcomes Required for Payment

For a provider to be paid for services, the job placement specialist must:

  • ensure that the job meets the following, as described on the DARS3373, Project SEARCH Job Placement Service Plan:
    • 100 percent of the nonnegotiable employment conditions;
    • at least 50 percent of the negotiable employment conditions;
    • the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC); and
    • an employment goal;
  • accurately complete and document in descriptive terms all the information required on DARS3374, Project SEARCH Job Placement Report, at the completion of each benchmark, as follows:
    • Benchmark A is completed after the customer has completed five days of employment;
    • Benchmark B is completed after the customer has completed 45 cumulative days of employment;
    • Benchmark C is completed after the customer has completed 90 cumulative days of employment; and
  • accurately complete and document in descriptive terms all extended services necessary for the customer to maintain long-term competitive integrated employment after VR closes the case on the DARS3375, Extended Services, Retention Services, and Long-Term Support Services Summary Report.

No payment may be made for the achievement of a benchmark until the VR counselor receives and approves a complete, accurate, signed, and dated:

16.5.4 Project SEARCH Services Fees

For more information, refer to the fee schedule below:

Project SEARCH Services

Unit Rate

Comments

Asset Discovery

$500

  • One time only, per customer. The DARS3370, Project SEARCH Asset Discovery, must be completed.
  • Partial payments not allowed.

Skills Training

Must not exceed $1,375 per customer for an eight–12 week internship rotation

  • No more than three rotations per customer for each school year. The DARS3371, Project SEARCH Progress Report, and DARS3372, Project SEARCH Internship Report, must be completed.
  • Partial payments allowed. Divide the maximum amount ($1,375) by the number of weeks in the rotation. Example: The partial payment for a 10-week rotation is $137.50 for one week.

Job Placement and Arrangement of Retention Services (Benchmark A)

$750

  • Payable when the customer is placed in a job that meets the criteria on form DARS3373, Project SEARCH Job Placement Services Plan, and the customer has been employed for five cumulative calendar days (counted from the customer's first day on the job).
  • Submit an invoice for payment the day after the fifth day of employment. The DARS3374, Project SEARCH Job Placement Report, must be completed.
  • Partial payments not allowed.

Job Placement and Arrangement of Retention Services (Benchmark B)

$750

  • Payable when the customer completes 45 cumulative calendar days of employment in a job that meets the criteria in DARS3373, Project SEARCH Job Placement Services Plan.
  • Submit an invoice for payment the day after the 45th day of employment. The DARS3374, Project SEARCH Job Placement Report, must be completed.
  • Partial payments not allowed.

Job Placement and Arrangement of Extended Services (Benchmark C)

$1,000

  • Payable when the customer completes 90 cumulative calendar days of employment in a job that meets the criteria in DARS3373, Project SEARCH Job Placement Services Plan, and verification that the extended services required for the customer to stay employed after VR closes the case have been arranged and documented on the DARS3375, Extended Services, Retention Services, and Long-Term Support Services Report.
  • Partial payments not allowed.

 

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