Texas A&M University — Brazos Valley Employment Project

Brazos Valley Employment Project

Statewide Need
National studies continue to indicate that people with disabilities have higher levels of unemployment than people without disabilities. In some cases self-employment can solve certain problems associated with unemployment and/or insufficient income; however, starting a small business or micro-enterprise can be difficult, especially for people who do not have the necessary capital or the borrowing power. Furthermore, working for oneself can result in isolation or difficulty finding ongoing social support. Other existing employment models have been successful in enabling many people with developmental disabilities (DD) to be employed successfully.

Project Goal
Improve the employability of secondary school students with DD by providing them with work-based learning and employment experiences through technical assistance and training for schools and employers.

Project Summary
Brazos Valley Employment Project (BVEP) implemented six employment demonstration sites at secondary schools selected via an application process. Schools were given information on several models of structured work experience programs, then assisted in conducting and using needs-assessment data to identify the type of program to use, staff to be involved, and students to participate. Work plans were developed to guide the implementation of each project.

Through the use of local transition teams with community stakeholders, cooperative partnerships were developed between the demonstration sites and community employers. BVEP conducted three annual Disability in the Workplace seminars to provide information to employers regarding recruiting, hiring and retaining employees with DD. BVEP provided technical assistance, training and evaluation to demonstration sites and employers in order to build partnerships and to develop school-based and community-based programs for students with DD to acquire work experience. Several structured work experience models were utilized in the project, including work-based learning, service learning and school-based enterprise. Projects included a cookie-based business, on-campus coffee shops and greenhouse operations.

Through the program students increased work habits and attitudes, as well as interpersonal relationship, cognitive and work performance skills. Teachers and other staff participated in technical assistance activities, including program development and implementation, employability skills measurement, job task analysis and work-based learning in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act. Partnerships with local vendors provided expertise, training, opportunities for employment, and project sustainability.

  • Impact
    • Six self-sustaining structured work experience programs were implemented in area high schools
      • 135 secondary school students with DD demonstrated increases in employability skills
      • 63 teachers, paraprofessionals and school administrators participated in technical assistance activities
    • 15 model partnerships were developed
    • Four employer/school partnerships were developed
    • Six cross-curricular school-based partnerships were developed
    • 12 other Texas school districts have visited BVEP demonstration sites to replicate programs in their districts
    • 46 local educators benefitted from a transition lecture series which provided technical assistance to demonstration sites and other educators
    • 100 students without DD were included in disability awareness projects where they were exposed to the abilities of students with DD
    • Over 4,000 consumers received information regarding educating, recruiting, hiring and retaining individuals with DD in the workplace through BVEP’s website, Facebook and Twitter activities

Project Period
Sep 2007 – Aug 2010

Contact
College Station, TX 77843
979-862-8340
Website

Geographic Reach
Brazos Valley