Washoe grads with disabilities find path to job market

Listen to the story

Washoe grads with disabilities find path to job market

Voice_students

About fifty students with disabilities in Washoe County have started learning job skills and interacting with local employers post-graduation through the VOICE program.

About fifty students with disabilities in Washoe County have started learning job skills and interacting with local employers post-graduation.

The effort is called VOICE, which stands for Vocational Opportunities for Inclusive Career Education.

The program is a collaboration between Washoe County Schools and the state department of employment to help disabled students secure competitive jobs.

For students between ages 18 and 21, the program offers career coaching, along with hands-on experience with local businesses. It launched this school year and organizers like Program Director Kelly Wales celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday.

In addition to hard skills like resume writing, Wales says students are also learning important soft skills.

"Those skills that we aren't really often told, but you have to learn as an adult how to greet someone, how to look someone in the eye directly, to smile, have appropriate communication."

The goal is to offer a transitional path for disabled students, leading them from high school to the job market. Program organizers say that without a clear pathway, many of these young adults will end up at home, forgotten, because their options right out of high school are so limited.

"Unfortunately, youth, especially with disabilities have a huge disadvantage in being able to find positions and being able to find positions that are competitive at minimum wage or better."

Since the program started, it has already placed seven students into local jobs.