Preparing students for the workforce: MPS program celebrates success

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The goal of MPS’ "School to Work" Transition Program is to get high school students with special needs ready for the workforce.

“A lot of kids need this opportunity,” said Fonda Scott, a parent of a student in the program.

“It gives us a chance to show that this is what we can really do,” said her daughter, LaFonda Jordon.

On Thursday, May 22nd, over 100 students currently in the program were recognized at Mount Mary University.

Program supervisors say that a classroom can only take students so far when it comes to preparing them for the workforce.

The School to Work Transition Program fills in those blanks.

It’s an employment readiness program that gives high school students with special needs the hands on environment they need to continue their success after school.

“We have the complete spectrum of students with special needs. It’s so important for them because typically they are very different learners. A lot of them have not been very successful in school as other students and this is wonderful opportunity for them. It hits on their learning styles. It's real-life application. They develop those soft skills that are so important. Soft skills, conflict management, work ethic, perseverance and a number of those things you develop in the real world and it’s very hard to develop them in the same way in a classroom,” said Barbara Barnes, Special Service Supervisor for the School to Work Transition Program.

Barnes says it’s a three part program.

The first part is a volunteer component.

More than 200 students each semester get high school credit for going to one of the 20 work sites. They stay there two to four semesters learning hard skills and soft skills.

Then, they move on to on-the-job training for one semester -- where they get paid minimum wage and continue to learn those skills.

The third part involves a teacher being devoted to a student to get them ready for competitive employment.

“They are getting that real-life experience, working side-by-side with work site mentors at the work site and getting that hands-on learning,” said Barnes.

Some of the sites include:

  • Nurturing Nook -- where students and work as a child care worker, or receptionist
  • The V.A. Hospital -- where they can do anything from a cafeteria attendant, to a patient escort, to supply distribution
  • Boston Store -- where students can work as a retail clerk assistant
  • Hospitals like St. Joseph’s, Wheaton Franciscan, or Aurora Medical Center -- which offer a wide array responsibilities.

Students can work at more than one throughout their time in the program. Many start their sophomore year and go through graduation.

“It’s just so sincerely gratifying to see these students come from their initial levels of beginning skills and developing all those skills and soaring to new levels of success,” said Barnes.


1 Comment

  • Robin Davis

    My son is currently in this program but he didn’t want to go this event even though he was nominated from his work last semester when he work at MPS central office. He is currently at St Francis hospital in the cafeteria on Mon, Tues and Hunger Task Force on Wed, Thurs. He learn to ride the city bus this semester. He takes the city bus to his jobs from home which takes him 2 buses to get to his work sites. After he is done working he gets back to school at 12:30 has lunch then has his other courses. He enjoys computer technology which is the field he wants to go into at MATC. He will be 20 in September and will continue in high school until he is 21 so that would make 2015-2016 his last year. He says that Hunger Task Force is his favorite job. He really enjoys the physical work he is proud that he was able to put 100 boxes together yesterday. He is so proud of being more independent getting there on city bus by himself. I would never thought he would be able to ride a city bus by himself let alone do the work. His answer to me is that work is different then doing chores at home! Its’ like pulling teeth to get him to do chores at home but he does it without telling him over and over on the job. I am very proud of what he has accomplished. In the fall he is staying at school all day so he can get the rest of his credits in and it will be a challenge do to he has to take more regular ed classes to count towards his high school diploma. As he is not going to for a certificate of completion especially if he wants to go to MATC for computers he will need that high school diploma. He needs 2 English, 1 math, 1 history or social studies. He has alot of credits of 32 I believe but not the right credits to earn his high school diploma. Then the last year he will do more of the transition and job training again but we want to get these remaining of his courses out of the way. So the last year it will be mostly vocational and most likely more computer classes to get him ready for MATC. Hopefully he will be able to get some scholarships to go because otherwise don’t know how we would pay for it living on limited budget. He may have autism and cognitive disability but given the right help these students can succeed in our world given the right tools. Thanks MPS for making this program a success. He says he wants to work at Hunger Task Force again he enjoy it so much he wants a job there. He tends to talk about Hunger Task Force than any other job site.

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