For students with autism, transitioning from school to the workforce can be challenging. Forty-two percent of young adults with autism (ages 21-25) have never worked a paying job.
The New England Center for Children (NECC) helps prepare students for the workplace with a comprehensive Vocational Training program. NECC recently installed a “road map” to showcase the process for preparing students for life after graduation.
At age 14 students begin attending the Career Development Center (CDC) onsite at NECC. Here, students work on identifying their job preferences, and staff help assess student strengths. Students practice vocational skills, sample a variety of jobs within the CDC, and gain confidence. A primary purpose of the CDC is to build each student’s repertoire of skills.
As students gain skills, they try out jobs within the school, including in the library, cafeteria, student store, and business center. Students also assist with recycling responsibilities. Over time, students begin participating in volunteer roles in the community, starting with 2 hours per week.
The vocational program continues with paid positions, either within NECC or with an employer partner in the community. These jobs range from 4 hours per week up to 20 hours per week.
This model helps prepare students for life when they graduate at age 21 or 22.
NECC currently has 30 employer partners and 140 students over the age of 14 engaged in vocational training at NECC. All employers in Massachusetts are invited to participate in NECC’s vocational services program. Please contact Julie Weiss, Director of Vocational Services, (508) 481-1015 x3193, [email protected].
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Learn more about National Disability Employment Awareness Month by visiting www.dol.gov/ndeam.