Organization Profile: The Kenai Peninsula Independent Living Center is an aging and disability resource center that focuses on “promoting choice, independence, and quality of life for persons and families experiencing disability.” Operating as an independent agency since 1992, ILC is a non-profit organization that serves the elderly and individuals with disabilities throughout the Kenai Peninsula through its main office in Homer and through satellite offices in several locations. Its services include information and referral, individual and systems advocacy, peer support, skills training, nursing home transition, older blind services, transportation, vocational supports, housing modification, Americans with Disabilities Act technical assistance, and recreation. ILC works with a number of different agencies and organizations in delivering its services. For example, transportation is provided in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Transportation and area taxi companies. ILC works with the Alaska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in assisting individuals in establishing and attaining their career goals.
Program Summary: With grant funding and other incentives, ILC served as a regional intermediary focusing on meeting the transition needs of youth with disabilities by:
- Convening key stakeholders to establish community-wide partnerships committed to preparing young people with disabilities for employment and/or further educational training and/or independent living;
- Supporting peer learning and leadership opportunities;
- Organizing and participating in strategic alliances with business groups and organizations;
- Integrating existing local education and training programs and resources with vocational rehabilitation, workforce agencies, to address the learning and employment needs of youth with disabilities; and
- Providing staff development to teachers, employers, mentors, counselors, community rehabilitation agency personnel, One- Stop staff, and others critical to successful transition outcomes.
These activities were tied together through the TALENTS project which had two main objectives for youth:
- Recruiting and training youth with disabilities, aged 14 to 24, in the Youth Employability Skills (YES) and CORE (Basic Construction Education) through the National Center of Construction Education and Research (NNCER).
- Development and implementation of a Certificate of Employability Model through the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.
LC, because of its intermediary status, was especially effective in communicating and connecting with stakeholders including employers. For example, the Alaska Career Readiness Certificate was piloted under this project in Kenai Peninsula Borough Schools. The Kenai Peninsula Adult Living Center and its partners developed a Certificate of Employability Model through the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce. The Certificate demonstrates to potential employers that students are qualified applicants. It continues to be used in the state.
Partnerships established for this project also led to the leveraging of a number of community services. For example, the local One Stop Career Center staff provided multiple trainings on resume writing, interviewing, and other work readiness skills for youth with disabilities searching for employment.
Program Structure/Design: In 2005, ILC received funding from Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development through a U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) grant to implement the Training and Life Skill Education to Nurture Transitioning Students (TALENTS) project. The project was designed to increase successful transition from school to employment and/or post secondary education for Kenai Peninsula youth with disabilities age 14-24. TALENTS uses a broad based coalition of agencies to provide a wrap-around network of natural and paid supports. Project goals include:
- Increase successful transitions of youth with disabilities to employment and post-secondary education through individual and community financial assistance;
- Provide quality work experiences based on student’s skills, abilities, and desires;
- Provide mentorship and life-skills training to increase student’s employment potential; and
- Increase pre-vocational skills of transition age youth with disabilities.
ILC partnered with a number of agencies including: Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Kenai Peninsula School District, Frontier Community Services, Central Peninsula Counseling Services, Peninsula Job Center; Seaview Community Services, Office of Children’s Service, Governor’s Committee on Employment and Rehabilitation of People with Disabilities, and Alaskan Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Parents of youth with disabilities were also recruited for the project.
States of Operation: AK
ODEP Funded: Yes
Profile Year: 2009
Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: Over the two-year program funding period, approximately 100 youth participated in the program and had work experiences and/or paid employment with over 20 local employers including Fred Meyer and Safeway grocery stores, the Kenai Senior Center, Frontier Community Services, VECO (a large construction company), a local food bank, an automobile repair shop, and the home builders association. Many of the youth that participated in this program would have fallen through cracks and remained dependent on social service organizations and other government programs. Despite the grant ending, ILC continues to provide services through some short term funding through Denali Training Funds and Denali Youth First.
The TALENTS Certificate of Employability (TCE) was also developed under this sub-award to increase employment opportunities for youth by demonstrating to potential employers that the youth have developed competencies in a basic set of employability skills. These competencies were gleaned from the Youth Employability Skills (YES) developed by Alaska Process Industry Career Consortium (APICC) through a grant from the State of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The skills included are:
- Productive attitude and personal qualities
- People skills
- Attendance and punctuality
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Time and resource allocation
- Business basics
- Information and analysis
- Technology and communication
The TCE complements current educational or training certifications and provides incentives for youth who may benefit from a vocational based education/training or work experience career track.
To obtain a TCE the young people need to be between the ages of 14-24 and enrolled in the TALENTS project. Other requirements include:
- Participate and complete the TALENTS pre-vocational work skills program or a variation thereof with staff approval.
- Complete a skills assessment and develop a career pathway and career portfolio.
- Successfully complete a minimum of 30 hours (in school youth) or 120 hours (out of school youth) work experience, internship/ apprenticeship or paid employment in their field of choice.
Youth Development and Leadership: Two youth became members of the Community Oversight Team. Through serving on this team, these youth influenced the development of the TALENTS curriculum and community held events. Another student became involved in the Governor’s Committee as a result of his involvement in this project.
Connecting Activities: In several Alaskan locations, including the Kenai Peninsula, the Guideposts for Success were effectively blended with the discovery process of customized employment (www.dol.gov/odep). Discovery considers an individual’s needs, skills, desires, interests, and contributions in real community workplace environments. This approach is functional and therefore more cost effective than traditional approaches to assessment, which often screen people out of employment services instead of capturing their potential as workers and human beings. This practice of assessing transition-age youth with disabilities’ strengths continues today in Alaska.
EVIDENCE OF SUCCESS (INFORMATION AND ANALYSIS)
Systems Change: The TALENTS program was sustained after the project ended. While the Independent Living Center had long provided services to the community, this was its first venture in providing transition support through work-based learning experiences and the use of the Certificate of Employability. The organization’s capacity to deliver services was fundamentally and permanently enhanced as a result of the project. Further, the collaborations that were formed under this project are lasting relationships that facilitate the coordination of services within the community. This Certificate of Employability initiative was disseminated to other communities in Alaska and has helped inform a statewide initiative around work-readiness training and certification.
Data: Over the course of the sub-award received from the state, the TALENTS project planned to provide transition experiences as outlined in the Guideposts for Success to a minimum of 50 youth with disabilities from ages 14 to 24. At the time the grant ended, which was two years earlier than projected, TALENTS had served around 100 youth with disabilities.
Employment Outcomes Kenai
|Number of Youth Employed
|Average hours worked per week
|Average hourly range
In June of 2007, five youth had retained their employment for more than 12 months; and 15 youth had held the same position for 6 to 12 months.
Organization Name: Kenai Peninsula Independent Living Center (ILC)
Organization Director: Joyanna Geisler, Executive Director
Program Name: Training and Life Skill Education to Nurture Transitioning Students (TALENTS)
Street Address: 3953 Bartlett Street (Mailing: P. O. Box 2474)
Contact Person: Loretta Spalding
Contact Title: Project Coordinator
Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org