C.R.E.A.T.E. Internships Program
The C.R.E.A.T.E. Internships (Career, Readiness, Education, And, Training, Experience) program will provide a paid, competitive, integrated employment experience to Persons with Developmental Disabilities (DD) ages 18-24 beginning with the Spring 2018 school semester. This pilot program is designed to link high school seniors with Developmental Disabilities to Occupations in Demand (OID) in the Fargo-Moorhead Area. Working in collaboration with local employers, service providers, and school districts, Vocational Training Center (VTC) will imbed several highly successful best practices discovered through the US Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy's Disability Employment Initiative (DEI). These innovations will provide a unique opportunity to transition-aged youth with significant barriers to employment due to a developmental disability.
A 2007 study titled Jobs for the Future addresses the impact of work-based learning in integrated settings for today’s transition-age youth. The study found that high school students who participated in work-based learning were more likely to go to work compared to their peers. Four studies found that those who participate in occupational education in integrated settings are more likely to be competitively employed than students who have not participated in such activities (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996; Colley & Jamison, 1998; Luecking & Fabian, 2000; Rogan, 1997). C.R.E.A.T.E. Internships will create integrated, competitive opportunities for interns by providing: 1) a paid, individualized, transferable employability skills training program (up to 40 hours) delivered in multiple teaching formats including work-based learning, and 2) a 120-hour, competitively compensated, community-integrated internship. The goal of this program is to provide the necessary work-based training and experience to give the intern the best opportunity to find success in a competitive, integrated work environment that he or she enjoys.
North Dakota State Council on Developmental Disabilities (NDSCDD) funding will allow VTC to establish the necessary conditions for successful program implementation. Prior to putting even one intern in the program, several preparatory actions must occur. Program policies and procedures must be developed. Program information materials for prospective interns, service providers, and employers must be created. Significant planning and coordination is needed to ensure partnerships are sufficiently collaborative and all parties involved share a common vision. VTC must recruit potential employers, develop internship job descriptions, and establish reasonable accommodations. These are just a few of the tasks that must be accomplished. This is also why it is imperative that VTC hire a Program Supervisor that will have a singular focus of building and implementing this valuable transitional opportunity. Without NDSCDD funding, VTC’s current staffing or budget cannot support the start-up costs and staff time associated with the initial development and implementation of the project.
Fargo VTC is uniquely qualified to offer Work-Readiness Internships because of the highly successful implementation of all phases of Day Support and Extended Services programing. Fargo VTC has historically worked with several local and regional businesses to provide a wide variety of work experiences in three distinct work settings. These settings included; 1) sheltered workshops to improve work-readiness skills, 2) Small-Group Supported Employment, a community-based program that transitions individuals into competitive, integrated employment, and 3) Supported Individual Employment in competitive and integrated jobs that match the skills, interests and aptitudes of the job seeker. In each of these settings, job coaching is provided to initially train and continuously improve the skills necessary to thrive in their chosen occupational fields. VTC's variety provides a broad spectrum of experiences that creates an optimal environment for the job seekers to successfully move along the career pathway of their choosing strategies.
VTC's ability to implement and sustain this innovative, empirically-tested best practice is enhanced through its well established and collaborative partnerships with area high schools, other Fargo community human services organizations, and the local Chamber of Commerce. VTC has established the necessary expertise to ensure the Transitional Internship Experience Program becomes a staple of VTC's career pathway services, as well as a model for other DD service providers in the North Dakota.