CUSD Special Education Promotes Workability

Posted by: District 3 years, 1 month ago

CUSD Special Education Promotes Workability

Our never-ending goal at CUSD is to ensure the success of all our students, including those with Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s). Our WorkAbility program is designed to give students with disabilities the skills and abilities to help them transition into careers or vocations once they leave our district. This year alone, CUSD has served 93 students and placed 20 of them in internships or employment positions. 

WorkAbility is a statewide grant-funded program, with 55 counties and 273 local sites that participate. To qualify, students must have an IEP and be working toward a high school diploma or be in the Adult Transition Program. Once they receive a diploma and graduate, they are no longer eligible for Workability services through CUSD. While the program focuses on career placement and skills, it offers students a sense of competence and accomplishment that goes far beyond landing a job.

Soft Skills and Technical Training

The WorkAbility program focuses on providing students with the technical training and soft skills (like handshaking and eye contact) that are useful in different vocational and career fields. 

Another aspect of the program is career planning. We work with students to help them create a résumé and master job application. These documents keep useful information—including places they’ve volunteered, previous work history, and reference contact info—readily available when they’re filling out job applications.

We also help them identify and articulate their employability skills. Students learn to recognize their personality attributes, whether they’re committed, loyal, or friendly, for example, and relate it to a workplace environment. They also learn to articulate those skills to their employer during the hiring process. For instance, if a student has excellent attendance and completes their homework on time, they can communicate during an interview how that translates to being responsible and reliable in the workplace.

Work Placement 

Once we assess a student’s skills and help them complete their master application and résumé, we shift the focus to matching their desires and passions with their education and career goals.

At CUSD, we use the RIASEC inventory assessment to identify the interests a student has and help them explore a career path based on those interests. We also focus on matching their career aspirations with their skills and what the job may entail. For example, if one student wants to become a travel agent, but doesn’t want to be confined to an office, we’ll work with them to find a job context that truly matches their desires. Another student may have interest in becoming a veterinarian but doesn’t plan on going to college, so we’ll help her find a career path that makes more sense for her goals. If we can place students in an environment they enjoy and can be successful in, that’ll keep them motivated and help transition them into a stable career once they leave CUSD.

For students who need a little extra support in finding a job, we offer paid internships with several companies throughout Coronado. It ends up being a mutually beneficial partnership between the business owner and student. Since our community is so supportive of our students, many of the businesses in the area are willing to offer internships and work-based learning agreements to help them develop their skills. In return, employers get to benefit from a dedicated employee, diverse workforce, and even a 38 percent lower turnover rate (of employees with disabilities versus those without).

Lasting Benefits 

WorkAbility doesn’t just provide students with professional skills; we’ve seen an increase in the self-efficacy and self-esteem of many of the students who are a part of the program. When students see themselves as successful in a work setting, they tend to be more verbal and confident, even so much as building and strengthening their friends group on campus. 

It also increases students’ sense of responsibility, not just in the workplace, but in the classroom too. Often, the monetary reward of a paycheck is very motivating for students. It teaches them the importance of attendance, and they realize that they must be accountable both in the work and school setting. The attendance requirements to participate in the program also mean they’ll be more likely to show up to class and engage with the content.

For more information on our special education and transition services, visit CUSD online.