Wednesday, September 7, 2022

City Partners with AISD on New Workforce Program for Students With Special Needs

During the recent budget process, Council Member Kathie Tovo led the effort to create a new workforce training program at the City for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD).
Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter and Council Members Vanessa Fuentes and José “Chito” Vela co-sponsored the budget action.
The City’s Human Resources Department will pilot the program in city departments in collaboration with Austin ISD’s Supported Employment Special Education Department, which helps transition students with IDD from school into the workforce.
The City will hire the students as temporary employees, and once they’ve achieved sufficient training, the students can then compete as experienced employees for permanent City jobs.
The HR Department will announce the pilot departments soon and may also host job readiness training for potential employees to learn about different job opportunities.
“The AISD Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Pilot Workforce Program provides the City of Austin an opportunity to support students and develop them to become the high-performing and diverse workforce we seek,” said Joya Hayes, director of the City’s Human Resources Department. “We aim to foster a healthy, safe, respectful, and productive work environment for employees, students, their families, and the community. We look forward to being a partner with AISD throughout this pilot program.”
Once the City has launched the program, AISD will provide technical assistance and supervision at no cost to the City as well as sensitivity training for other City employees working in support of students with disabilities in the program. The school system also provides bus training for the students to help instill confidence and independence.
Dr. Theresa Arocha-Gill, Executive Director for Special Education, noted that the program benefits the employees and employers. “As a district committed to strengthening inclusive practices, Austin ISD is excited to work in partnership with the City and for our students in a way that is mutually advantageous to both the employer and our scholars with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their full participation strengthens our community and city overall,” Arocha-Gill said.
Austin ISD currently collaborates with HEB, Randall’s, Taco Cabana, P. Terry’s, the Texas State Capitol, St. David’s Healthcare, YMCA and several other local employers.
“This valuable program provides students with intellectual or development disabilities opportunities to enter the workforce and also provides clear and demonstrated benefits to local employers,” Tovo said. “My hope is that other private and public employers will see the City of Austin’s participation and be encouraged to join as well.”
The City of Austin pilot is based on a successful collaboration among the City of Wylie, Texas Workforce Solutions and Wylie ISD on a transition-focused vocational program for students with IDD. Tovo’s office conferred with the City of Wylie to learn more about their program, application process and outcomes.
The City of Wylie’s Public Works and Animal Control departments currently provide paid internships and employment to assist post-secondary special needs students in gaining skills and experience in their areas of interest. Job coaches assist individuals with their transition into the workplace.
The City of Austin will implement the pilot program as soon as possible in the 2022-2023 school year.

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