VUSD empowers every student’s future success

(auremar on AdobeStock.)

Visalia Unified School District helps students with disabilities prepare for the workplace through collaboration with the DOR’s “We Can Work” program

VISALIA – To ensure each of its students is pointed towards a path of career success, Visalia Unified has taken part in a program to assist its disabled student population as they ready to take up the workplace after graduation.

Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) has teamed up with the California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) San Joaquin Valley District to launch the transformative “We Can Work” program. Designed to equip every student with the essential tools for post-graduation success, this initiative offers a range of services from personalized job exploration counseling to employment preparedness training and invaluable real-world experience.

“Our vision is every student empowered to achieve future success, and success looks different for every student,” VUSD superintendent Kirk Shrum said.

According to the district, with this development, the goal is to help students with disabilities make a confident, meaningful transition from school into the community workforce.

For the DOR program, VUSD staff identifies eligible students with disabilities, ranging in ages 16-21, at local high schools and adult schools, including: El Diamante High School, Redwood High School, Mt. Whitney High School, Golden West High School, Visalia Charter Independent Study, Visalia Technical Early College High School, Sequoia High School and Visalia Adult School.

The services provided by the DOR include various exercises and forms of counseling to teach students how to find jobs, feel ready for the workplace and advocate for themselves. By the end of their training, participating students will have completed a resume and master application, received soft skills training, participated in work experience – which is optional – and will demonstrate the basic skills needed to find permanent employment.

After that, students are given the opportunity to get some workplace experience through the DOR program, and can work jobs with businesses that have established partnerships with VUSD. The district has already established over a hundred community partnerships to help students gain work experience, ranging from chains to local businesses, with some stand out partners including Petco, Walgreens, Marie Callender’s and Claire’s.

According to the district, many of these partners end up hiring the students permanently once their hours are completed, and one student formerly in the program was recently hired into a management position.

“We are thankful for the partnerships we have built with local businesses who are equally invested in our students’ future,” Shrum said.

During their employment, the contracting school of the program will be the employer of record and students will be paid minimum wage, and any paid or unpaid work experience activities comply with the Department of Labor regulations. Work experience hours can reach up to 300 per participant annually, depending on individual needs and interests.

This agreement is a three-year contract spanning over fiscal years 2024-25, 2025-26 and 2026-27, and for each year, 84 students will receive services through the program. The DOR is reimbursing VUSD any costs that occur within the contract allowances with a cost reimbursement agreement will reimburse up to $427,833.

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