Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center is making it easier for people with disabilities to get a job.

  • Hospital now a work site for Project SEARCH
  • Program prepares people with disabilities with on-the-job training
  • Project SEARCH now accepting applications:

In August, the health organization started a collaboration with Polk County Public Schools, the Center for Independent Living in Central Florida, Inc., the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council to become a work site for Project SEARCH, an international program that seeks to prepare people with disabilities for the workforce through on-the-job training.

“We view it as sort of a win-win,” said Scott Dimmick, Lakeland Regional Health’s Chief Human Resource Officer. “Lakeland Regional Health is growing and expanding to meet the health care needs of the community. As we grow our health care services, we’re also growing and expanding our workforce.”

At Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, eight people participated in the program and completed a 30-week, unpaid, rotational internship. The interns, ages 18 to 22, also learned life skills.

“I’m very grateful for my teachers and my coaches to help us find a job,” said Elijah Jones, one of the participants.

On Jan. 24, Jones learned that he was being hired to work full-time and receive benefits such as health insurance and sick and vacation time. He’ll be working in the café.

Jones' mother, Katina King, said it had been rough for him to find full-time employment with benefits. She was very proud of his accomplishment.

“As soon as he got here, I already knew he was going to be blessed, that God was going to open the door for him to be blessed,” King said. “So I just want to let parents know that children with disabilities and children, young adults trying to find a job, anything is possible. If you work hard at it, anything is possible.”

Jones' boss, Brandon Jahnke, said he hired Jones because he was a fast learner, his staff loved him and he came to work daily with a positive attitude.

The Project SEARCH program at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center is currently accepting applications. About a dozen spots are available.

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