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Scott Walker, Governor
Raymond Allen, Secretary

Department of Workforce Development
Secretary's Office

201 E. Washington Avenue
P.O. Box 7946
Madison, WI 53707-7946
Telephone: (608) 266-3131
Fax: (608) 266-1784
Email: sec@dwd.wisconsin.gov

April 10, 2017
CONTACT: Tom Evenson, (608) 267-7303

Governor Walker Announces Success with Initiatives That Assist People with Disabilities in Gaining Employment

Madison – Governor Scott Walker is traveling throughout the state today to highlight the success of workforce development initiatives that work to employ people with disabilities. Governor Walker will visit HSHS St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, Aspirus Riverview Hospital in Wisconsin Rapids, and Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire to tout the success of workforce development programs like Project SEARCH, which teaches students marketable, transferable, and competitive skills to help them transition into Wisconsin’s workforce.

"A top priority for us as we continue to move Wisconsin forward is rewarding work,” Governor Walker said. “This means removing barriers to work so that anyone who wants a job can find a job – and a good-paying career. We know a strong Wisconsin workforce is one that celebrates and promotes the unique abilities and talents of all employees, including those with disabilities. Workforce development programs like Project SEARCH help make this a reality by providing students with disabilities with the practical skills and experience they need to thrive in the career of their choice."

During the two most recent federal fiscal years, Wisconsin helped a record 9,500 individuals with disabilities overcome barriers to employment. This marks the first two full fiscal years following Governor Walker’s launch of the Year of A Better Bottom Line, which encouraged more employers to hire workers with disabilities, in 2014. During the most recent federal fiscal year, 4,615 people with disabilities entered Wisconsin’s workforce, helping to drive the state’s disability employment rate up to 41.2 percent. According to the 2016 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, Wisconsin ranks among the top ten states in the nation for employing people with disabilities.

"While there has been an explosion of Americans on disability rolls, the fact is that people with disabilities can be a talent solution that our economy needs,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility, a non-profit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. “Governor Walker is creating tangible progress by replacing broken programs with proven solutions that are win-win-win for people with disabilities, employers and taxpayers alike. Thanks to his vision and leadership, youth with disabilities are able to have the dignity and money that a job provides – instead of a lifetime of dependency and despair."

Project SEARCH is part of Governor Walker’s Year of A Better Bottom Line. Developed in 1996 by Nurse J. Erin Riehle at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the cornerstone of Project SEARCH is total immersion in a business environment for students with disabilities. In 2014, Governor Walker announced an expansion of the Project SEARCH program and allocated $850,000 to expand the number of Project SEARCH sites in Wisconsin from seven to 27 in the following years. Project SEARCH sites in Wisconsin have an average employment success rate of 88 percent. Learn more about Project SEARCH here.

"Project SEARCH and other worker training programs offered through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) are a win for individuals with disabilities and a win for employers," Department of Workforce Development Secretary Ray Allen said. "Individuals with disabilities have proven time and again that they want to work, and when given the opportunity, they demonstrate that they are some of the most dedicated, passionate and trustworthy employees an employer can have."

Governor Walker’s 2017-19 budget proposal includes several initiatives to promote employment for individuals with disabilities, including: