The Institute for Community Inclusion, in collaboration with project partners, conducted research on paid work experience programs for people with disabilities served by state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies. As part of this effort, we conducted case studies of formal and informal promising practices that are applicable to VR and improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
There were 5 selection criteria that each of the work-based learning programs featured in case studies exhibited:
- Must be paid work experience
- Must involve a business partnership
- Must provide development/support of participants
- Must involve a career pathway
- Must have some evidence of successful outcomes
The Arkansas Career Training Institute
The Arkansas Career Training Institute (ACTI) provides vocational training and services that lead to employment opportunities for students served by Arkansas Rehabilitation Services (ARS). Serving more than 400 students annually, ACTI is the third largest vocational rehabilitation center in the country. Students are referred to ACTI for evaluation, training, and placement by the vocational rehabilitation counselors who are located in field offices serving each county in the state.
- Provides stackable credentials including OSHA 10 and CPR certification necessary for construction apprenticeships
- Pre-apprenticeship program feeds into registered apprenticeship program allowing for continuation of participants in building knowledge while employed
- Week-long program ends with interviews for apprenticeship positions with participating businesses
- Skills learned are crucial in preparing participants for a number of apprenticeship opportunities in a variety of construction trades
- Designed to accommodate a broad range of disabilities with counseling support and trained certified instruction
The Urban Technology Project
The Urban Technology Project (UTP) began as a joint enterprise between Communities in Schools of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia. The UTP is comprised of two programs: the America Corp pre-apprenticeship program which involves a one-year term of service and a registered apprenticeship to become a Computer Support Specialist (CCS) that lasts between 2-3 years.
- Pre-apprenticeship program feeds into registered apprenticeship program allowing for continuation of participants in building knowledge
- College credit towards an associate degree in computer certification
- On-the-job training that can earn industry standard certifications
- Workers receive wage increase after completing pre-apprenticeships and entering into the registered apprenticeship phase
- Skills learned are crucial in preparing participants for a number of IT related jobs, which are prominent 21st jobs
The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind Internship Program
The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind paid internship program is offered to students who are legally blind or visually impaired and eligible for vocational rehabilitation services, about half of which are under pre-employment transition services. Over 200 employers have partnered with MCB since the inception of the internship program 14 years ago. At current capacity, the program places approximately 90 students into internships each year. The interns go through multiple screenings prior to placement at an internship. Current students are identified as potential candidates through VR counselors and referred to MCB’s Employment Services unit.
- Employers commit to supporting students through a meaningful paid work-based learning experience.
- Students build a foundation for eventual employment by developing their employability skills and work experience.
- The business partnership model focuses on continuous improvement of the experience for both interns and the employer.