The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s (L&I) Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) recently announced a $9.9 million federal grant to invest in pre-employment transition services for students with disabilities who are preparing for life after high school. The Pathways to Partnership model demonstration project will improve the collaboration of the many organizations involved in helping high school students achieve their goals as they prepare for post-secondary education and employment.
This grant funding will be used to develop and pilot a new transition model that will provide students with more comprehensive transition planning services. The model will also identify new opportunities for teens to gain valuable work-based learning experiences and support the development of the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their post-graduation goals.
“OVR’s current pre-employment transition services help nearly 17,000 students with disabilities prepare for life after high school. Doing this successfully requires the cooperation of many critical organizations at the state and local levels,” L&I Secretary Nancy A. Walker said. “The Pathways to Partnership project aims to improve the existing approach by identifying better ways for these organizations to collaborate effectively and meet the needs of students with disabilities and their families.”
The Pathways to Partnership project will be developed in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Departments of Labor & Industry, Education, Human Services, and stakeholders including Centers for Independent Living and the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network.
“We are committed to empowering our students with disabilities to unlock their full potential,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “By working with other agencies and community partners, the Pathways to Partnership project will build our workforce while helping students build skills for life after high school. Together, we can ensure all learners have the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed.”
“The transition from high school to adult life is a critical period for everyone, but this time can be especially critical as young people with disabilities, who may need supportive services, make decisions about post-secondary education and employment,” said Human Services Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh. “We must empower and support young adults through this period and help them pursue their interests and goals and be active members in their communities. Pathways to Partnership will improve the options and opportunities for these transitioning youth.”
The grant will fund three critical components of the Pathways to Partnership project:
- Professional Development, Capacity Building, and Training: This component will provide shared training opportunities for approximately 6,100 youth service professionals, including teachers, counselors, and rehabilitation counselors. The training will focus on best practices for transition planning and service delivery.
- Transition Discoveries: This component will implement a “train the trainer” model at intermediate units (IUs) and local education agencies (LEAs) to support the dissemination of curriculum that helps students with disabilities make transition-related choices from school to work. An estimated 1,914 additional students with disabilities statewide will benefit from this program by the end of the grant.
- Pathways to Partnership Work-Based Learning Experience (PTP-WBLE): This component will develop and pilot PTP-WBLE programs in six LEAs across Pennsylvania in two urban and three rural areas, and one cyber school. The PTP-WBLE programs will provide about 260 students with disabilities with valuable work-based learning experiences.
The Pathways to Partnership project is expected to benefit an estimated 2,200 additional students with disabilities by the time the model demonstration funding ends in 2028.