It’s a busy Friday afternoon at a local party-supply store near the Lawndale-Hawthorne city border. Most of the employees are young and are busily helping customers with nearly every aspect of the store’s operation.
While some of these employees are typical high school students hired part-time, there are at least three who are not. They have learning disorders; however, it’s not until noticeable to anyone in the store. Only the boss – who used to watch them closely – knows about their conditions.
The students in question come from a local high school. Also, they are part of a special education program known as Workability. This particular program was designed to meet a need often overlooked in most educational system, preparing students with disabilities for employment.
Workability was created to address needs and goals listed in a Individual Education Plan’s transition page. While much of an IEP pertains to the educational needs of the students, the transition page focuses on goals or plans for life after graduation. One of these plans has to do with employment.
The program is not meant to gear students toward a particular career. However, the coordinator of the program will assess the students’ desired careers. Also, the coordinator will place students in a position “close” to their chosen field. For example, a student who wants to be a mechanic will be placed in a janitorial or clerical job within an auto-parts company.
Still, students are paid on a monthly basis and are based on their grade level. Those starting this program during their freshmen year will have limited hours to work. If the students stay with the program during their sophomore years and beyond, they will be able to work more hours and earn more money.
As mentioned, the program’s goal is not to set the students on a particular career path (another program, Transition Partnership Program, or TPP, offers a career oriented program for students who want it) Its goal is to help them adjust to being an employee, learning job etiquettes, and learn more about a possible career they’d like to pursue after graduation.
There are eligibilities for the program. They may vary from district to district; however, a common one is to establish minimum grade point average of 2.0. Also, the students must be enrolled in a special education program within a public school system.
Workability is just one of many programs aimed at special education students who want to work (in fact, there is a Workability II program for college students with disabilities). It’s popular among the students, parents, and employers throughout California. Most of all, it allows these students a chance to be productive members of society.