The vocational program at MSAB provides students with the opportunity to learn about the world of work through direct experiences supported by seminars and classes that are focused on the students future goals. Students are given the opportunity to explore a variety of careers and jobs where they are assessed in work behaviors, skills, attitudes and interests within the classroom and on the job.
Along with these “on the job behaviors”, the skills of goal setting, advocating for accommodations and needs, money and time management, arranging transportation, solving work related problems, communication with others and grooming and personal hygiene management are built into the learning program.
The expected outcomes of the program are:
- For students and families to begin the process of career exploration.
- For students to be better prepared to enter the job market through setting up realistic goals to follow and developing good work habits and attitudes while on the job.
- For students to begin the process of advocating for accommodations and needs on the job.
- For students to explore adaptive equipment needed on a job.
- For students to develop an understanding of disability laws as they relate to the work place.
- For interagency adult services such as State Service for the Blind (SSB) to State Services and parents to have a working plan of information regarding the student’s skills in work, independent living and leisure skills to assist the student in transitioning into work after leaving MSAB.
The fours areas of the work experience program at MSAB are:
Career Education Classes
Throughout their academic life at MSAB, students receive training in basic career awareness appropriate to their ages and abilities within their classrooms. As they reach transition age students take part in a career awareness class (es) where they learn about their interests and skills as they relate to various careers. They explore career categories, specific occupations, basic job skill requirements, education and training needed and employment trends. Students are instructed in obtaining and filling out applications, resume writing, interviewing and what it takes to keep a job. Students develop an understanding of how their disability or disabilities may impact them on the job and how to recognize the need for and ask for adaptations and technology for the job. Students learn about their rights and responsibilities under the American with Disabilities Act. They begin the process of developing career plans, employment skills, and job maintenance skills.
The pre-vocational part of the vocational program assists students, ages 7-16 years old, in developing pre-work skills that will assist them in getting and keeping a job. Students work on fine and gross motor skills, work vocabulary, following directions, cooperation, work attitude and communication. Students work on these skills as part of their classroom curriculum as well as within the vocational room on campus.
Students are given the opportunity at age 14 to take part in various on-campus employment opportunities based on their interests and skill level. In this part of the vocational program, students expand their interests and gain actual job experiences which will assist as a possible movement to future off campus employment. Students have the opportunity to work within the vocational room under the supervision of job coaches and a work coordinator on packaging as part of an assembly operation, shredding, button making, growing plants and flowers in the greenhouse, collating, folding, stuffing, and labeling envelopes for the school and library, creating Braille flashcards, note cards and greeting cards, designing and creating cloth books for children and recycling within the school. Students also have the opportunity to work at various jobs on campus, outside the vocational room, under the supervision of a job coach. These jobs include working at the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library on a task called “pop and pull”, within the computer lab transcribing children’s’ books into Braille, in the cafeteria wiping off tables and completing laundry and within the technology lab as an assistant. Students have the opportunity to apply and interview for on campus jobs that occur after school under the realm of the vocational program and supervised by staff including snack bar workers, junior life guards, recreational assistants and choir/music accompanists. Students within this part of the program have IEP goals related to work skills as well as money management. Their work skills are evaluated when they enter the program and they are updated each semester on the MSAB Work Skills Evaluation.
Students at MSAB, who are 16 years old and older, are given the opportunity through the vocational program with support from job coaches to experience off campus employment. Some of the students work as a team of two and occasionally three and others singly within the community along side of a job coach. These worksites include community “sit down” restaurants, retail discount stores, city recreational facilities and garages, nurseries, churches, nursing homes, nature centers, early childhood and day care centers, and fast food restaurants. Students complete jobs that include rolling silverware, folding pizza boxes, wiping off menus, cleaning small and large areas, folding shirts and organizing by size, organizing and hanging up clothing, weeding, preparing trails, trimming and caring for plants, caring for children, planning recreational activities and assisting with and providing entertainment for various venues within the community. The students are matched as much as possible with jobs of interest to them and staff work with employers and students to determine how to best meet both their needs. Students within this part of the program have IEP goals related to work skills as well as money management and travel. Their work skills are evaluated when they enter the program and they are updated each semester on the MSAB Work Skills Evaluation.
Students within the work program are evaluated while “on the job” on their work skills on the “MSAB Work Skills Evaluation Checklist” and kept in a work portfolio. Evaluation data is systematically collected on the student’s interests, work attitudes and habits, personal and social skills, work tolerance and skills and environmental and adaptation needs. From this information gains and needs are obtained. Goals and objectives are developed within the students IEP. Students rotate among various work settings to give them the optimum work experience.