Way2Work: Helping Marylanders with Disabilities Transition into the Workforce

This is the final blog in a series of three blogs in October from the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) to honor National Disability Employment Awareness Month.


Way2Work Maryland logo

Way2Work Maryland is a project designed to improve the academic and career success of students with disabilities in Maryland through work-based learning experiences.

The project is open to any student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan who will complete high school with a diploma or certificate in 2020.

The project focuses on helping students engage in paid or unpaid work experiences, aligned with their interests and skills, while supporting a student’s academic success to complete high school.

During the 2018-19 school year, seven Maryland counties engaged in the program for juniors and other students who are two years away from finishing high school.

The program is a partnership of the Maryland’s Department of Education, Maryland’s Division of Rehabilitation Services, the American Job Center Network, and the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education at the University of Maryland.

The following stories highlight the work done by those Way2Work Maryland serves.

Rose’s Story

RoseRose has always loved animals. Dogs, cats, horses, sheep—she loves them all. So, when she met her job developer, Wayne from Humanin, a job development/ career placement agency, there was no question about what industry to place her in.

Wayne was quick to connect Rose with a volunteer job at Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding School in Maryland.

Even though Rose had never worked in a stable, she quickly became one of the center’s top volunteers.

“She comes in and gets right to work,” said Kathleen Schmitt, executive director and founder of CTR. “She always has a smile on her face.”

Rose has achieved proficiency in grooming and feeding the horses, mucking stalls, and performing general barn duties.

When Rose completes this work-based learning experience, she will be qualified to work as a trainee at a horse farm anywhere.

Lisa Miceli, Rose’s mom and biggest advocate, said, “I want her to keep coming here, even if she gets another job. It’s been such a great experience for her.”

Karli’s Story

KarliKarli dreamed of finding a job that would combine her three loves: photography, art and design. Her first work-based learning experience was heavy on the art, but light on photography and design.

Her new job at Silver Linings Lavender, which she got through Way2Work, has everything she was looking for, but it took a positive attitude to find it.

Karli’s first day on the job was the day of the Pride Parade in Westminster, Maryland, one of the busiest retail days of the year. Traffic in the small boutique on Main Street was non-stop all day.

“There was a line out the door. Products were flying off the shelf,” says Dawn Pritchard, Silver Linings Lavender’s owner.

Having Karli’s help that day was really important; she re-stocked the shelves as quickly as they became empty.

“I can’t sell product if it’s not on the shelf,” says Dawn. “That day, I didn’t lose any money.”

According to Dawn, “To be in retail, you really have to be an extrovert.”

Karli is a shy person, and interacting with customers wasn’t her favorite thing. After that first day, Karli thought, “I wouldn’t want to do this for a living.”

Not wanting to interact with customers in a store could be a problem for someone who is shy like Karli; however, there’s a silver lining.

Dawn opened Silver Linings Lavender in 2013 as an online store, but it wasn’t until September 2017 that she expanded into a brick and mortar store. The majority of her business is still online, and that’s where Karli shines.

Now, at Silver Linings Lavender, Karli is learning to do online marketing and using her love of photography, art and design in a retail setting.

Dawn gave her an office and a computer, with software such as Photoshop and InDesign.

It’s a win-win for employer and employee.

“I didn’t have anyone to teach me (about business),” said Dawn, “so I’m happy to share what I know and spread the word.”

Coardell’s Story

CoardellBy day, Coardell is pursuing a trade in welding at Worcester Technical High School. He doesn’t love welding, but it’s better than any of the jobs he’s had at MacDonald’s or Walmart, or washing dishes at a restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland

Outside of school, though, Coardell has other passions. He amazes audiences with his dance moves. He has performed in venues all over Maryland’s Eastern Shore as well as in New York, and he dreams of making a living as a dancer and rapper one day.

Someone with the soul of a dancer might feel restricted and confined in the tight quarters of a welding booth, and the protective gear that welders wear—including a heavy mask—might make it hard for a dancer to move his feet.

Way2Work helped Coardell get a job at Go Glass, a shop that specializes in residential, commercial and auto glass. At Go Glass, Coardell has room to bust a move now and then.

“I finally found something I enjoy doing,” he says.

In addition to having room to move when he has the urge, a crucial piece of Coardell’s success is his mentor, Jeffrey Sewell.

Having a supportive person to show Coardell the ropes and to nudge him when he gets distracted has meant the difference between floundering and feeling comfortable on the shop floor.

Jeff is teaching Coardell all about the glass business—how to cut and install auto glass, table tops, mirrors and doors. He’s also teaching Coardell how to make window and door screens for homes and businesses.

Coardell has learned how to use a tape measure, how to cut glass, and how to keep the blades sharp by storing them in auto coolant. Each time Jeff gives Coardell a little bit more responsibility, Coardell grows more confident.

“He’s a good worker,” said Jeff. “He comes in and gets right to work.”

Way2Work Coordinator, Tammy Hauck, said she knew the environment Go Glass would accommodate Coardell’s needs. “It suits him,” said Tammy. “It gives him more space to be himself.”

Tim’s Story

TimAfter just two months on the job at Avenue Tailor and Cleaners in Westminster, Maryland, Tim is already looking forward to a big promotion.

This summer, he will receive management training and take over as manager of the store’s Gettysburg, Pennsylvania location.

“Dry cleaning was never my first thought,” says Tim. “But it worked for me.”

Tim has always wanted to work at or own a shoe store, so his job developer, Megan O’Neill of Schapiro Training & Employment Program (STEP), a Carroll County, MD supported employment agency, thought the small business on Main Street might be a good fit. She was right.

The experience he has gained at Avenue is pointing him toward college and a degree in business.

Working two-three hours a day, five days a week, Tim drives the company vehicle and picks up and delivers dry cleaning in four locations around Carroll County, Maryland. In his new job, he will learn how to work the front counter, interact with customers and gain an insider’s view of the operation.

According to Tim’s dad, Brian Wall, the job at Avenue Tailor, for which Tim is paid, has made a tremendous change in Tim.

Brian sees his son being more engaged in school and having a more positive attitude in general. Tim even signed up for the SATs on his own to the surprise and delight of his parents.

“I wish Way2Work would have been available when I was in high school,” said Brian. “You can’t put a price tag on experience.”


The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT), funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), assists state and local education agencies, state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and VR service providers in implementing evidence-based and promising practices to help ensure students with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities, graduate prepared for success in postsecondary education and employment.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Successful Work Experiences

Alaska and Nevada VR Websites

NOTE: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.


The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) assists state and local education agencies and VR agencies and service providers, and it keeps close contact with these agencies and providers in order to share real stories of real youth being supported in transition programs. Alaska and Nevada are just two of the states that are creating programs to help youth with disabilities transition into a work environment.

Alaska Division of Vocation Rehabilitation

Alaska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) provided pre-employment transition service—a requirement of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) activities to 802 Alaskan students this year through a number of statewide initiatives including Transition Camps and its Summer Work programs.

Transition Camps

Transition Camps help students develop a vision for what their future can be by exposing them to career exploration and the resources they may need to successfully transition from school to work. These camps, located in predominantly rural areas of the state and juvenile justice facilities, served 236 students. Transition camps are a partnership between DVR, Disability Employment Initiative (DEI), and the Department of Education.

Summer Work Programs

Summer Work, a partnership program between DVR and DEI, focused on providing students with disabilities with a chance to have a paid 160-hour work experience to become work ready. Summer Work served 182 students in 2018, and 99 Alaskan businesses provided work sites for students engaged in the program. Summer Work programs are implemented by school districts and community agencies in rural and urban areas. This year’s big success was the Cordova School District summer program. Eight of the 14 students who participated transitioned to competitive integrated employment at the end of their work experience!

Nevada Department of Education

The Nevada Department of Education hosts and organizes the annual Nevada Student Leadership Transition Summit (NSLTS). The summit provides a forum for high school students with disabilities to participate in sessions focused on disability awareness, self-advocacy, resources for career and college planning, and networking events with providers and other teens across the state.

NSLTS can have a lasting impact on people’s lives.

Kascia Tognoli attended the NSLTS in 2008 and 2009 as a student from Lyon County School District’s Yerington High School.

NSLTS helped Kascia realize what she wanted to do for a career. When she reflected on her time at NSLTS to the summit’s organizer Jennifer Kane, Kascia said:

I knew from then on what I really wanted to do which is what I am doing now, helping adults and students with disabilities. I remember going to my mom and telling her what they were talking about at the conference, and that I was going to do that one day. You [NSLTS] are the main reason why I started doing what I do… At the conference I came to terms that I needed to love my disability because it makes me who I am!… I just want to tell you thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting on that conference, it changed my life!

Kascia is employed currently with K.E.T. Consulting, LLC—a provider of Pre-Employment Transition Services in the state.


The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT), funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), assists state and local education agencies, state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and VR service providers in implementing evidence-based and promising practices to help ensure students with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities, graduate prepared for success in postsecondary education and employment.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Transition Resources Help Agencies and Service Providers Support Youth with Disabilities

Logo - National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT)

This is the first blog in a series of three blogs in October from the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) to honor National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In this series, NTACT will share resources and success stories of NTACT-supported agencies and providers and individuals whom the agencies and providers assist.


The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) assists state and local education agencies, state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and VR service providers in implementing evidence-based and promising practices to help ensure students with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities, graduate prepared for success in postsecondary education and employment.

NTACT, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), identifies effective practices to improve employment preparation and employment outcomes for students with disabilities.

In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, NTACT wants to remind the field of some resources available on its website that focus on preparing students for successful careers after high school and college.

  • Guide to Developing School-Community-Business Partnerships
    Guidance for various audiences including families, community organizations, employers, schools, and agencies to develop and sustain partnerships focused on employment preparation and success for young people with disabilities.
  • Competitive Integrated Employment Toolkit A compilation of resources, focused on achieving competitive integrated employment and meaningful careers.
  • Predictors of Post-School Success
    Links to descriptions of researched factors and attributes and skills correlated with post-school success in employment and other post-school outcomes.
  • School to Work Timeline
    Timeline to consider for planning career development activities with students.
  • Wow! Success Stories
    A collection of video resources for students, families, and other stakeholders, featuring individuals with disabilities experiencing successful employment and other adult outcomes.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Finding Rehabilitation Training Materials: RSA Technical Assistance and Other Resources

National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM) -- RSA Funded Assistance & Other Resources

For National Disability Employment Awareness Month, check out the many resources available in the National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM), funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).

Bookmark the NCRTM RSA Technical Assistance & Other Resources page for quick access to the RSA portal, RSA TA centers and funded projects, Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) federal partners, other resources and research databases.

In this second of a three-part blog series from NCRTM, we share information from three more RSA-funded TA centers and highlight resources that can serve as a springboard for learning about new ideas, and promising and effective practices for expanding disability employment opportunities.

View our first blog from NCRTM.


Logo - Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC)

Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC)

The WINTAC helps state VR agency staff, rehabilitation professionals and service providers develop the skills and processes needed to meet the requirements of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

WINTAC helps agencies, staff, professionals and service providers with pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) to students with disabilities and supports employment services to youth with disabilities. Pre-ETS makes up one of WINTAC’s five focus areas, all of which can be found on WINTAC’s site. The following links to Pre-ETS resources can help get you started:

  • WINTAC Pre-Employment Transition Services Page
    • Contains an overview of pre-employment transition services with information and links to promising practices and literature review, resources, training, frequently asked questions, and laws, regulations and policies
    • Describes the required Pre-ETS services that include:
      • Job exploration counseling
      • Work-based learning experiences, which may include in-school or after school opportunities, experiences outside of the traditional school setting, and/or internships
      • Counseling on opportunities for enrollment in comprehensive transition or postsecondary educational programs
      • Workplace readiness training to develop social skills and independent living
      • Instruction in self-advocacy
    • WINTAC Promising Practices and Literature Review on Pre-Employment Transition Services
      • Features promising practices and full-text links to the literature related to each of the required Pre-ETS services

Logo - Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Youth with Disabilities (Y-TAC)

Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Youth with Disabilities (Y-TAC)

The Y-TAC provides TA to state VR agencies to improve services to and outcomes of students with disabilities who:

  • Are in school and not receiving services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); and
  • Youth with disabilities who are no longer in school and are not employed, including dropouts, youth in the juvenile justice system, homeless youth and youth in foster care.

The following Y-TAC resources offer information related to customized employment.

  • The Essential Elements of Customized Employment for Universal Application (co-developed with WINTAC)
    • Customized employment focuses on the individual’s strengths, needs, interests and abilities and the employer’s business needs, and is carried out through flexible strategies.
    • Guide for the universal application of these elements across service delivery and training providers.
  • Recommendations for Customized Employment Practices (co-developed with WINTAC)
    • Outlines practices that subject matter experts recommend for effectively practicing CE. This document focuses on practices related to Customized Job Development. This document can also inform training on and evaluation of CE.

Logo - National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT)

National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT)

NTACT helps state and local education agencies, state VR agencies and other VR service providers to implement evidence–based and promising practices to ensure students with disabilities stay in school, progress in school, and graduate with knowledge, skills, and supports needed to succeed in postsecondary education and employment.


Do you want to keep up-to-date with new VR resources as they are added to the NCRTM? Follow them on Twitter @RSA_NCRTM and subscribe to their monthly New from NCRTM newsletter.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

State Transition Services for Students with Disabilities: Preparing for Success after Graduation

Note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

OSERS funds the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT), a technical assistance center that connects the work of local education agencies, state education agencies, state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies, and VR service providers. NTACT provides support to these entities in implementing practices ensuring students with disabilities graduate prepared for success in postsecondary education and employment. We invite you to read more about the work of NTACT on their website. In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, this post highlights successes across the country, made possible by NTACT’s activities related to transition planning, graduation, post-school success, and data analysis and use. It also highlights critical resources developed by the center. Follow more activities from NTACT by searching the #transitionta and #NDEAM hashtags on social media.

Arkansas 

Arkansas’ core leadership team for its intensive technical assistance (TA) work with NTACT includes partners from education, VR, career technical education, and blind services. They are implementing the Communicating Interagency Relationships and Collaborative Linkages for Exceptional Students (CIRCLES) model of interagency collaboration in two school districts this year. Through these efforts, students and their families will be connected efficiently to services, transportation, work-based learning experiences, postsecondary education, and jobs!

Alaska

Alaska’s Interagency Transition Council (AITC)—a product of the state’s TA partnership with NTACT—has supported four times the number of Transition Camps, hosted by Alaska’s state VR agency, Tribal VR, and local education agencies this year. Transition Camps provide three full days of career development and work readiness activities, and focus on entrepreneurship and subsistence living, as well as more traditional employment opportunities. The AITC is also engaged in a summer work program, through which 166 students completed more than 6 weeks of summer employment. Additionally, half of students supported in internships through state VR have achieved full or part-time competitive employment—one participant in this program achieved their GED and five are currently enrolled in postsecondary education. Finally, the Tribal VR agency in Nome, Alaska supported an enterprise to provide students work-based learning experiences while in high school.

Nevada

Nevada’s VR Bureau and Department of Education have partnered to develop interagency agreements at the local level and to host cross-agency professional development activities. These steps are part of their overall efforts to increase the number of students with disabilities accessing pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS), intended to greatly improve integrated employment outcomes. Since initiating these efforts, the state has recorded a 69% increase in the number students engaged in these services, which prepare them for competitive integrated employment. They had set out to increase this number to 600 students by June 30, 2017, a goal which they have far exceeded. Currently there are around 883 students in the state receiving Pre-ETS!

North Dakota

NTACT has assisted North Dakota’s education and VR agencies to develop a training guide for job coaches. One large and three rural districts will participate in this professional development opportunity, intended to increase the number of students receiving quality job coaching and workplace readiness skills, thus preparing them for competitive integrated employment.

Resources from NTACT