Project SEARCH

Biltmore Estate Project Search

Transition-to-Work Program

Biltmore Estate Project Search is an unpaid transition-to-work internship program for neurodiverse adults who need a nurturing experience to reach their full vocational potential. The program is a public-private collaboration between the Biltmore Company, The Arc of North Carolina, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, and North Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation. The goal for each program participant is competitive, integrated employment after graduation. To reach that goal, the program provides real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent-living skills to help adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities make successful transitions to productive adult life. The Project Search model involves an extensive period of skills training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, long-term job coaching, and continuous feedback from teachers, skills trainers, and employers. In addition, the presence of a Project Search program can bring about longterm changes in business culture that have far-reaching positive effects on attitudes about hiring people with disabilities and the range of jobs in which they can be successful.


Project Search serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The most important criterion for acceptance into Project Search is a desire to achieve competitive employment. Interns must also be eligible for NC Vocational Rehabilitation services and have reliable daily transportation to the program.

Program Overview

Program participants (interns) attend the program for a full A-B Tech school year at Biltmore Estate. The host business provides access to departments, tasks, and vocational responsibilities for up to 12 interns. The site is staffed by The Arc of North Carolina skills trainers to meet the educational and training needs of the interns.

  • Once the program year begins, the first few weeks are focused on intern orientation, hands-on skill assessment, and familiarization with the business environment. Interns develop a career plan, which guides the internship selection process and individualized job Search.
  • Employment Skills Curriculum: Throughout the program year, the interns work on employability and functional skills for approximately two hours of their day. Training room activities are designed around these focus areas: Team Building, Workplace Safety, Technology, Maintaining Employment, Self-Advocacy, Financial Literacy, Health and Wellness, and Preparing for Employment.
  • Internships: Through a series of three targeted internships the interns acquire competitive, marketable and transferable skills to enable them to apply for a related position. Interns also build communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills which is important to their overall development as a young worker. These are unpaid work experiences-analogous to the clinical rotations that are part of every medical school or business internship program. Potential internship sites are identified through a continuous collaborative process involving the instructor, skills trainer, and business liaison. These internship rotations begin a few weeks after the start of the program. Interns are required to interact with their supervisors via telephone and written communications to arrange a job interview to secure each rotation. A department mentor is identified at each site. The mentor interacts with the instructor, skills trainers, and the intern as a consistent source of guidance and feedback. Interns spend approximately five hours each day at the internships, which includes a thirty minute lunch. Working from a task list, they acquire the core skills necessary to be hired in an entry-level position at the host business site or in the community. Skills trainers and department staff collaborate to provide support for interns. The Project Search staff delivers the training and develops job accommodations and standard work procedures. Once the interns master the core skills, additional skills are layered on to improve their marketability.

Biltmore Estate Project Search has achieved an impressive 89% employment rate for graduates contributing approximately 500 hours a week into the workforce of the Asheville metro-area.

Job Development and Community Connections

During the last few months of the program the emphasis is on refining skills, achieving the career goal, and carrying out individualized job development. Job development is based on the intern’s experiences, strengths, interests, and skills. Linkages to appropriate services in the community are critical at this stage, as interns prepare to graduate from the program, to ensure a successful transition to employment and adult life. Services are identified in the community that provide assistance with necessary adaptations required to perform a specific job. Job coaching and long-term follow along are arranged by The Arc of North Carolina.

For more information on the program or to apply please send an email of interest to