WorkAbility I


Karen Thompson (SMUSD WorkAbility 1 Program Coordinator)

T: 760 290 2242

E: [email protected]

Mission of WorkAbility I:

The mission of WAI is to promote the involvement of key stakeholders including students, families, educators, employers and other agencies in planning and implementing an array of services that will culminate in successful student transition to competitive, integrated employment (CIE), lifelong learning and quality of life.

WorkAbility 1 background:

The WAI program is funded and administered by the California Department of Education through the Special Education Department.

The WAI program offers students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) the opportunity to complete their secondary education while also obtaining marketable job skills. WAI provides secondary students with an understanding of job seeking and job keeping skills.

WorkAbility I was initiated in November 1981 as a pilot project to test the concept of work experience for youth with disabilities and continues to successfully conduct interagency coordination of services.

Through a designation as one of the ten best transition programs of its type in the United States, WorkAbility I has received national recognition of its success in matching young adults who have disabilities with employers who need workers.

Since it was established by the CDE in 1981, substantial numbers of students have received transition services and/or obtained full or part-time employment.

WorkAbility project applications include, but are not limited to, the following elements: (1) recruitment, (2) assessment, (3) counseling, (4) pre-employment skills training (5) vocational training, (6) students wages for try-out employment, (7) placement in unsubsidized employment, (8) other assistance with transition to a quality adult life and (9) utilization of an interdisciplinary advisory committee to enhance project goals.

WAI Program Information:

The WAI program provides:

  • comprehensive pre-employment skills training
  • employment placement and follow-up for high school students in special education who are making the transition from school to work
  • independent living and post-secondary education or training
  • the opportunity for students to complete their secondary education while also obtaining marketable job skills
  • introductions to employers in the business community who will give students with special needs a chance to prove themselves

Why WAI Works:

  • program services are appropriate to individual student needs, abilities and interests
  • local program sites successfully coordinate state and local service providers to offer comprehensive services tailored to local economic, social and geographic needs and abilities
  • WAI provides secondary students with an understanding of job seeking and job keeping skills and, when appropriate, on-the-job subsidized or unsubsidized work experience
  • WorkAbility staff refer students to adult service provider agencies increasing the likelihood for continued social service agency support and student success as contributing adults in a community
  • annually over 10,000 employers statewide have found WAI students to be well prepared for entry-level employment, reliable employees and assets to their businesses. Consequently, employers have built strong, long-term partnerships with local WAI staff
  • assumptions of low work potential have been discounted as soon as an equal opportunity, proper training and information about appropriate accommodations becomes available to them
  • WAI provides employers with workers who are job-ready and anxious to learn