Making the School-to-Work Transition with Skills’ Summer Work Program

As juniors and seniors finish their time as high school students, many begin exploring careers to pursue as adults. However, for many students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the prospect of building a career can be daunting. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than twice the rate for people without disabilities, and people with disabilities often lack the support to seek jobs and advocate for themselves with potential employers.

In an effort to reverse this disparity, Employment Services Manager Cristy Rachau manages a unique new program that helps students with disabilities find paid work as they enter adulthood. Read our Q&A with Cristy to learn more!

What is the Summer Work Program, and what makes it unique?

During a multi-week summer program, we teach students about the world of work. Students look for jobs and complete employment applications, and we also teach interview skills. Moreover, we help them understand what happens once they get hired. Another key aspect of the program is taking the students on field trips to local businesses to give them knowledge of what kind of jobs are available in their community.

In addition to job-related skills, we work on some life skills, including counting money, budgeting, and how to ride the bus. We also connect students to other services that are available after high school, such as the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Center for Independent Living, Career Link, and their local library.

When did this program start?

The program started in the summer of 2019 as a pilot with five students and two staff. This year, we are hoping to grow the program with 12 students, two staff and a couple of interns. (Apply to work with Employment Services!)

The program primarily focuses on transition-age youth. Who are these students, and why is it so important to engage with this age group?

​Transition-age youth are students that are between 14 and 21 who will be leaving high school. It’s important to engage with this group to prepare the student and their family for life after high school. These students will need some additional assistance adjusting to life without school and structure. Our hope is that with knowledge and support these students will be able to reach their goals no matter what those goals are.

How does the Summer Work Program make a difference in the lives of people supported by Skills?

I feel that all the students who attended the program in the past gained from the experience. Some of the students did not know how to use the public library, and now they do. Some had never ridden the city bus, and now they know how to.

We worked with a student who uses a wheelchair. At the beginning of the summer, she thought she would be unable to ride the bus because of her wheelchair. Throughout the course of the program, we taught her where to get on the bus, how to maneuver her chair into the right spot, how to pay, and what to say to the driver to get assistance with boarding. Simply getting around town can be a huge hurdle for people with disabilities, but now, this student can confidently ride the bus to go to work, visit friends, and enjoy everything our community has to offer.

What can local employers do to support people with disabilities?

Give them a chance to prove themselves! Most employers were glad to let the students come and tour, as well as speak to them about what kinds of jobs are available and what skills they would need to be successful in the jobs.

The Summer Work Program is for students that are working with the Lycoming/Clinton County Joinder for services.


Want to know more about hiring someone with a disability, or offering a work tour? Contact us today.