Diversifying Talent with Easterseals' Project SEARCH

Business, Innovations & Initiatives


four students of the Project SEARCH class of 2019

Reflecting a commitment to a robust and competitive workforce, the U.S Department of Labor recognizes October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Centene is committed to joining companies across the country in honoring the contributions of workers with disabilities and celebrating Centene's employees, members, and communities. 

Creating workplaces that welcome and embrace the talents of all people is a critical part of Centene's efforts to increase and promote inclusiveness. We are proud to again partner with Easterseals Midwest. For the second consecutive year, Centene brought Project SEARCH, a workforce training program, to our global headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. Project SEARCH prepares individuals for transition into integrated, competitive employment by offering young adults with disabilities the opportunity to obtain firsthand job and business experience in a variety of sectors.

"We are proud to partner with Easterseals, a nearly century-old provider dedicated to ensuring that all people with disabilities and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, and work" said Wade Rakes, Centene Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. "Continued adoption of programs such as Project SEARCH allows us to better support the populations we serve and ensures a talented and diverse hiring pipeline."

Project SEARCH launched at Centene in October 2017, and the first class of participants graduated in June 2018. The 2019 group, taking part in a teambuilding exercise, is pictured above. From left to right, the class of 2019 included Chris Hanson, Tommy Hanson, Natalie Bourke, and Trevon Reynolds.

The 2019 class recently graduated after training in various areas across Centene, including:

  • Security
  • Accounts Payable
  • Facilities
  • Enrollment
  • Medicare Operations

As part of the Project SEARCH curriculum, participants complete three 10-week internships and classroom instruction prior to graduation. Drawing from experience gained at Centene, Project SEARCH graduates are now employed in positions including: 

  • Administrative Coordinator
  • Warehouse Associate
  • Cashier
  • Food Service Technician
  • Accounting Clerk

As the program continues, Centene will expand the initiative across departments and evaluate opportunities nationwide. 

Project Search graduation award

Pictured above are Jane Skinner (second from right) from our partner agency, Easterseals Midwest, and Dan Rayhawk (second from left) from Centene receiving an award from Project SEARCH founders, Susie Rutkowski (far left) and Erin Riehle (far right), at the Project SEARCH Annual National Conference in California. Easterseals Midwest and Centene achieved job placement outcomes higher than 80 percent for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities enrolled in the Project SEARCH program.