Organization Profile: The Work Resource Center (WRC) works to empower individuals who have disabilities and who may be disadvantaged to increase their independence through employment. The WRC serves three target populations: 1) individuals with disabilities, 2) youth at risk or with special needs, and 3) individuals who have been chronically unemployed or underemployed. Each year, WRC provides social adjustment and job training services to nearly 17,000 individuals through its programs and collaborations. Products and services include career exploration and job training, placement, and retention for individuals with disabilities and disadvantages. Services are delivered on an individualized basis in as integrated a setting as possible. This includes one-on-one, small groups within WRC, small groups in integrated community settings, and specialized services within mainstreamed facilities.
Program Summary: WRC operates the High School/High Tech program for high school age youth with disabilities in Cincinnati. This program provides opportunities for youth to participate in a variety of workplace preparation and youth leadership and development activities. The objective is for students to complete high school and be prepared to enter postsecondary education or employment.
Program Structure/Design: The High School/High Tech program is open to high school students interested in engineering, science or math and who have a documented disability. It is a hands-on learning enrichment program. Services include one-on-one tutoring, summer employment opportunities and work experience, study skills and training, corporate site visits, guest speakers, mentoring and after school special events.
States of Operation: OH
ODEP Funded: Yes
Profile Year: 2007
Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: Youth enrolled in WRC’s HS/HT program are exposed to career and postsecondary education opportunities through industry site visits, information sessions, and guest speakers. Through this program, students are exposed to a variety of industries with jobs available in the Cincinnati area. Speakers and site visits have included local employers such as General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Mitsubishi, WLWT-TV, the Newport Aquarium, and Ford. Included in these site visits and guest presentations are representatives from Cincinnati State University and the University of Cincinnati who discuss entry requirements, degree and certification programs, and campus life.
Project-based learning, which incorporates the use of SCANS (Secretary’s Commission on Assessing Necessary Skills; see http://wdr.doleta.gov/SCANS/ for more information) is used both as a training and an assessment tool. Use of the SCANS skills is the basis for formalized vocational assessment used when a student is referred to the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission. The program also includes specific job-seeking skills–training, including resume writing, interviewing skills, researching job openings, and contact follow-up. Staff members coordinate job-seeking skills-training with placement and job-coaching staff.
Opportunities for paid and unpaid work experiences are identified on each student’s Career Path Plan. This includes opportunities for corporate site visits and job shadowing in technical fields. It is expected that students will research job opportunities and identify prospective companies to shadow. Once a company is identified, staff members facilitate the appropriate connections. Students also have the opportunity to volunteer on one of the many community projects taking place in the Cincinnati area that might lead to possible employment. For example, one group completed an aquaponics project in which they created a biosystem of plants and flowers in a symbiotic relationship; students identified the Newport Aquarium as a possible place of employment for people working on such a project.
Youth who attend presentations and site visits to Cincinnati State University and the University of Cincinnati are exposed to comprehensive introductory sessions and tours that do more than recruit students. During these site visits, youth learn about entry testing, financial aid opportunities, enrollment requirements, and degree and certification programs.
Youth Development and Leadership: All students are given the opportunity and are encouraged to work with a mentor through Cincinnati Public Schools, Hamilton County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MR/DD), numerous community mentoring programs, private industry, and WRC staff members. WRC’s HS/HT services rely heavily on a peer mentoring system in which the students learn to communicate their needs regarding supports and accommodations through conversation with each other facilitated by WRC staff.
Students have role models as part of their SmartLab experience. The lab is housed in a building that is home to social service agencies, community development organizations, and a marketing firm. Guest speakers are regularly scheduled to introduce students to a variety of business cultures. Role models are also identified through site visits and field trips.
All students participating in SmartLab activities are required to develop and present technology-related projects. These presentations allow students to develop self-confidence and the ability to defend their research methods and conclusions. Some projects require that students work in groups to achieve the desired outcome. These groups provide a fertile ground for learning conflict resolution skills.
Part of the philosophy underlying the SmartLab is for learners to make a contribution to the lab. There are opportunities for students to mentor other learners, to show them how to use the lab, and to teach others. In addition, students are encouraged to participate in the peer-run Advisory Board for the projects.
Connecting Activities: In addition to WRC’s accessibility plan, which ensures that all services are accessible, WRC’s operation of Building Futures (the WIA Service Navigation Unit) ensures that other providers are accommodating youth with disabilities in providing services, and that training is adapted using technology so that youth with disabilities receive the same basic skills and work-readiness skills services as youth without disabilities.
WRC’s HS/HT program staff seeks to connect youth with disabilities with the support needed to maintain independent employment and living. Primarily, this involves referral to the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (RSC), Building Futures (the WIA Service Navigation Unit), and the Hamilton County Board of MR/DD. Should a particular youth have a disability that does not make him or her eligible for RSC or MR/DD services, WRC staff members connect that youth with other disability support organizations more appropriate for sharing information related to community living.
Organization Name: Work & Rehabilitation Centers of Greater Cincinnati
Program Name: Work Resource Center High School/High Tech Program
Street Address: 2901 Gilbert Ave.
Contact Person: Margaret Morone
Contact Title: Vice President of Operations
Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org