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Board Bulletin

September 2, 2011

Project SEARCH Success

Project SEARCH is an internship program for students with developmental disabilities. It focuses on teaching employment skills through unpaid work experiences in a local business or government agency. The desired result is to prepare and position the interns for full-time employment and self-supporting lifestyles. Project SEARCH was founded in 1996 by Nurse Administrator Erin Rhiele and Education Administrator Susie Rutkowski at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. In January, 2011, Mecklenburg County Human Resources (HR) became the first organization to launch Project SEARCH in North Carolina.

Project SEARCH involved collaboration with several community agencies. Central Piedmont Community College and Mecklenburg County HR established a classroom in the old Mecklenburg County civil courthouse where students attended class each morning to learn functional academics necessary for employment. Their afternoons were spent in County work areas experiencing hands-on training in various human resources tasks. Job coaches were provided by InReach, one of the community rehabilitation partners. Funding and vocational counseling was provided Vocational Rehabilitation’s local office.

In May, 2011, eight students completed the first Project SEARCH internship. Recently, two of the Project SEARCH students were hired by local employers with starting salaries above minimum wage. Brigman Brothers, a local staffing agency, hired one student to scan documents and set up electronic files for candidates seeking employment through their staffing services. The student was hired because of the skills mastered during the internship, as well as a paid temporary position held this summer with Mecklenburg County HR. Another student is now the head custodian for the Trane warehouse in Charlotte near his home.

As a result of Mecklenburg County’s leadership, another Project Search initiative is being developed at Durham Regional Hospital, an affiliate of the Duke University Medical System. A short video created by Mecklenburg County’s Public Service and Information Department is being used to showcase Project SEARCH to potential employment sites across the state.

Board members with questions should contact HR Director Chris Peek at 704-336-3138 or via email.

Security Services Completes Outsourcing

In October, 2008, the County’s Real Estate Services (RES) Department began providing facility security services through outsourced vendors. This outsourcing model has proven to be successful in reducing costs and increasing operational flexibility, while maintaining or improving facility security.

In FY11, security services for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library were consolidated under RES. As a result of this consolidation, the Library’s full-time security officers became County employees. The consolidation agreement with the Library included a provision to evaluate the efficacy of outsourcing library facility security, consistent with the County’s operating model. The evaluation confirmed that the outsourcing model would meet the library security needs.

Since the consolidation, many of the full-time security officer positions became vacant through normal attrition and therefore were replaced by outsourced security officers. Currently, only three of the 35 security officers managed by RES are County employees. Therefore, RES is expanding the existing vendor agreement to include the security services currently provided by the three full-time positions that remain County employees. Accordingly, RES is outsourcing these three filled security officer positions. Library leadership supports RES implementing this final step in outsourcing this security function. This will result in a reduction-in-force (RIF) affecting three filled RES positions.

A RIF plan has been developed, reviewed by the County Human Resources Department staff, and approved by the County Manager. The three affected employees will retain employment rights consistent with the County’s RIF Policy for one year from the termination of their employment.

Board members with questions should contact Real Estate Service Director Mark Hahn at 704-336-5483 or via email.

-- Harry L. Jones, Sr., County Manager

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