Leahy, Sanders, Welch Announce $9M To VT For Innovative 'Linking Learning To Careers' Program

Leahy, Sanders And Welch Announce $9 Million To Vermont
For Innovative ‘Linking Learning To Careers’ Program

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WEDNESDAY, October 5, 2016) – Vermont’s congressional delegation – Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), and Rep. Peter Welch (D) – on Wednesday announced a nearly $9 million grant to support an innovative project to help Vermont students with disabilities in transitioning to the workforce.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education to the Vermont Agency of Human Services Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (Voc Rehab) is for the Linking to Learning Careers Program. These funds will support a new pilot project through the federal Disability Innovation Fund to evaluate a pioneering model to support students with disabilities in preparing for and entering the workforce.

In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders and Welch said: “Our nation has made great progress since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but we must continue to focus our attention and investments on helping individuals with disabilities in realizing their potential. It is unacceptable that the employment of transition-age young people with disabilities remains well below that of their nondisabled peers. Vermont Voc Rehab and its network of partners has long been recognized as a model for collaborative, high-quality intervention programming. These young people, their families and Vermont communities will benefit from this opportunity.”

Hal Cohen, secretary of the Vermont Agency on Human Services said: “This grant award will enable agency staff to provide early intervention efforts for Vermont high school students with significant barriers to employment. This intervention will support these students to be prepared to enter post-secondary education and training to be successful in careers in the 21st Century labor market.”

Linking Learning to Careers will build on the existing vocational rehabilitation programs administered by Voc Rehab Vermont and enhance services within school-based settings. This project will provide 400 Vermont high school students throughout the state with access to improved services over the next three years, including community college courses, mentorships, transportation funding and work-based learning opportunities. This service delivery will test outcomes for improved early career success, including paid, competitive employment, postsecondary school enrollment, and improved confidence to achieve career goals.

The results of the Linking Learning to Careers demonstration will provide qualitative and quantitative evidence of the impacts of these services, and the results may serve as a replicable model for services nationwide. Increased investments for transition youths with disabilities was authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which received the support of Vermont’s delegation during its passage in 2014. Prompted by low employment outcomes and high reliance on benefits for youth with disabilities, this law authorized annual funding to Vermont to improve the long-term career trajectories of youth with disabilities.

“I am very excited Voc Rehab will have the resources to provide work experiences and college coursework to high school students with disabilities so they can build career pathways to high wage employment,” said Diane Dalmasse, director at Voc Rehab Vermont. “Our goal, in partnership with the Community College of Vermont, is to engage students in work based learning activities and coursework that will make them believe they can be successful in college and a chosen career.”

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