High school employment project sees results

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Steve Withrington hopes pilot program will expand to other school districts
Tuesday April 24, 2012 — Camille Jensen

Just last week, Steve Withrington was one of seven people listening to a composed high school student present her individualized education plan (IEP) using PowerPoint and video.

For Steve, who helped launch the innovative program that supports senior high school students transitioning to employment rather than to traditional day supports, the presentation was rewarding.

“She did absolutely brilliant and I think it’s that kind of work from all of our students I am proud of,” says Steve, Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion’s (BACI) manager for employment services.

BACI launched the high school pilot program last summer with the Burnaby School District and CBI Consultants to provide job coaching and support for students who have an intellectual disability to reach their goals of finding employment after graduation.

Since the project launched, all four students have completed an IEP. One student has gained employment working in BACI’s social enterprise, BC WoodWorks, and another is completing work experience in BACI’s child-care services.

Steve says the project’s long-term goal is to find jobs outside of BACI for the students.

For the two students who haven’t found employment, Steve says the program will continue to support them in finding a job or volunteer experience to build their resume.

A win from the project is the relationships built with the schools. Steve says it’s been fantastic to see how open the schools are to working together.

“I was really pleased about that. It just takes one or perhaps two champions in the school to start running with the program,” he says.

The pilot program will be ending in the next several weeks and BACI will conduct a review process to learn what was achieved, what could be improved, and what possible next steps would be. The group will also ask if the program can be expanded to other school districts.

For Steve, who has been involved in planning the program for nearly two years, the pilot project reaffirmed his belief in the need for new supports to students who have an intellectual disability. While day programs have served a role in the past and will continue to be an option for some people, it’s time to give students more tools and options.

“It’s really integral to the future generation of people with disabilities,” says Steve. “This is definitely an area we need to look at and focus on.”

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