ARIZONA NEWS

West Valley program transitions young adults with disabilities into workforce

Oct 2, 2020, 4:45 AM

(Facebook Photo/West MEC)...

(Facebook Photo/West MEC)

(Facebook Photo/West MEC)

PHOENIX – West Valley-based West-MEC is working to help bridge the gap from high school to the work force for young adults with disabilities.

The Project SEARCH Transition Program is a unique, business-led, 1-year school-to-work program that takes place entirely within a workplace setting.

Focused on young adults between 18 to 28 years old, the program includes total workplace immersion with a combination of classroom instruction, career exploration and hands-on training through worksite rotations.

“We are a huge advocate of working with our local businesses to look at how we can integrate people with disabilities into their own communities to become competitively employed,” Julia Anderson, West-MEC’s Project SEARCH leader, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

Their goal to end poverty for those who have disabilities but also give them a sense of belonging while getting a sense of pride found in employment.

Project SEARCH participants aren’t given a job simply selected from a bank of employment made readily available. Rather each job is tailored to an individual’s skillset and passions.

October is National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month.

“We don’t just send people into the same jobs every single time,” Anderson said. “We truly look at where are their skillsets, where is their passion, how can we connect that? Where do they live? What’s their transportation?”

Accepting 10 interns per year and per program, Project SEARCH currently has three programs this year.

With 30 students a year, WEST-MEC runs at a 97% success rate when getting interns into competitive employment.

Anderson believes their high success rate is contributed to the vital skills they teach during their program. That includes how to show up on time for your job, how to take an appropriate break and who to go to when they need help.

“A lot of those interns if they didn’t come through our program would probably be living on social security and be unemployed – we are literally changing people’s lives and pulling people out of poverty,” Anderson said.

Applications for Project SEARCH can be found here.

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West Valley program transitions young adults with disabilities into workforce