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Wausau program helping job seekers with disabilities has success amid pandemic job shortage

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 4:43 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Project Search Wausau helps recent high school graduates or first-time job seekers secure their first job. The COVID-19 pandemic job shortage has given more of its students a chance.

Opportunity Development Center, Inc. and Project Search Wausau Supervisor, Danielle Nystrom, said the program assists with job coaching, outreach and more.

“We do a lot of community outreach with local businesses,” Nystrom explained, “making connections for these individuals, based on their geographical location and their job interests. And we see them through the interview and retaining the job.”

The ten-month long program follows the Wausau School District academic calendar. Project Search Wausau Program Instructor Katie Ayello said by the end of the program, she hopes each student will have a job secured.

“Our hope is that they’re getting a job where they’re working 16 hours or more, they’re making minimum wage or higher at a competitive wage and their in an inclusive environment,” Ayello explained.

Nystrom said throughout the worker shortage, she has ensured employers her students would be passionate about working.

Former student Star Spiegle said participating in the program was life changing for her.

“I encourage others to do it,” Spiegle said. “I think it’s a good program to get yourself into what you want to be and push yourself out of your comfort zone.”

Spiegle accepted a job at Aspirus Wausau Hospital after graduating from the program. She said she is looking forward to future work opportunities within the company.

“In patient transport, I’d be helping patients in the hospital get to where they need to go for any surgeries, x-rays, or anything like that in a wheelchair, cart, or hospital bed,” she explained. “I like doing that, I like helping people out.”

Other partnering job sites in the Wausau area include Home Depot, Red Robins and Buffalo Wild Wings.

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