In today’s job market, the difference between looking for a job and getting a job is often having work experience and marketable job skills. The Center prepares people with disabilities for success through evaluation of career interests and customized job training.
The Center has become a regional leader in vocational and employment services because we have over a decade of experience and a placement rate of over 80%. Our Vocational Training Program uses the latest and most effective training techniques to help people with a wide range of disabilities build independence and employability.
Our program participants can choose from a wide variety of training sites in the community within a number of industries, including:
- Customer service
- Food service
- Laundry / linen services
- Retail services
- Warehouse shipping and receiving
If a participant is interested in a different career path or industry, we are highly skilled in developing customized training to meet their interests.
An introduction to the Vocational Training Program, Supported Volunteer Program trainees participate in regularly scheduled volunteer work at local organizations and businesses to build skills and abilities. This introduction to working can begin with just a few hours a week and grow as a trainee defines their goals and strengths. Our trainees use this experience to advance to the Vocational Training Program to build skills in the field of their choice.
When a training participant is ready for more permanent working experience, the Vocational Training Program is designed to help the trainee gain the specific skills necessary to meet the requirements of competitive employment in their chosen field. Trainees receive one-on-one support from an employment adviser who help trainees to learn and identify compensatory strategies to improve their job success. We partner with local organizations and businesses to provide training sites, including the Center’s own social enterprises: Destination Desserts and Wags in a Bag.
The School-to-work (STW) transition programs are collaborative projects with area school districts, The Center, and local host businesses. STW provides high school seniors on-site training during the school year, in a host business with the outcome goal of employment within that industry. A primary focus of the program is intensive, step-by-step training in a particular job within the host business that matches the students’ interests and abilities. Students ages 17 to 21 participate in STW for one school year, training for approximately 30-35 hours a week. Training is facilitated by an employment advisor from the Center and a special education teacher from our partnering school district.
The student’s immersion in the workplace facilitates the teaching and learning process, as well as the acquisition of marketable job skills. Students learn how to perform the job tasks as well as how to interact appropriately while in the work environment. Program services also include career exploration, employability skills training, job development, job placement, on-site supports and long-term retention services to assist the student in maintaining a successful employment outcome post-graduation.
The Center also has three summer job programs for youth with disabilities, all of which are designed to help students build their work skills and their self-confidence by allowing them the opportunity to work at a training site for the summer.
- The Summer Work Experience Work Program (SWEP) is a Productive Living Board (PLB) funded program for students, ages 16 to 20. Students work for 8 weeks, 20 hours per week, and receive a minimum wage of $11.15 per hour. MERS/Goodwill is the lead agency for SWEP, administering the operation of the program. The Center is one of six collaborating agencies that work directly with students (providing instruction, direction, and feedback to students), employment advisors and work sites.
- The Summer Teen Employment Program (STEP) is a DDRB funded program for students, ages 16 to 20. Students work for 6 weeks, 20 hours per week, and receive minimum wage of $11.15 per hour. Easter Seals Midwest is the lead agency for STEP, administering the operation of the program. The Center is one of six collaborating agencies that work directly with students (providing instruction, direction, and feedback to students), employment advisors and work sites.
- The Summer Work Experience (SWE) is a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) funded program for students, ages 16 to 20. Students work for 6 weeks, 20 hours per week, and receive a minimum wage of $11.15 per hour (paid by VR). The Center oversees the entire program: coordinating with VR, administering payment to the students and working directly with the students, employment advisors and work sites. The SWE program also includes 24 hours of social skills training.