Project Skills is a paid work experience program for high school students with disabilities. The program is a cooperative arrangement between the state vocational rehabilitation agencies and the local school districts.
Project Skills provides students the opportunity to learn different skills in a variety of job placements, with the assistance of a job coach.
Project Skills will help to build the student’s work history, references, and help them move into different and better jobs as they mature and are ready to take on new challenges. Project Skills is a great avenue for defining career interests.
Why is Project Skills needed?
Many times, students with disabilities don’t get an opportunity to gain paid work experience while in high school. Although willing, most employers cannot afford to provide the training and supports students frequently require on their first job. By covering the cost of wages and additional supports, Project Skills enables employers to provide these students with valuable work experiences in a real work setting.
How does it work?
First, the student completes a survey to identify jobs of high interest. Next, a school representative contacts employers to locate possible jobs that match the student’s interest areas. Once an appropriate work experience site is located, the employer, student, vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor and school representative sign a Work Experience Agreement. The work experience can last from a minimum of 30 to a maximum of 250 hours, but students cannot work over 40 hours per week. During this time, students are paid minimum wage. Generally, students can participate in only one Project Skills experience per academic year, but they can participate in additional years.
Who is eligible for Project Skills?
In order to participate in Project Skills, students must:
- Be 16 years or older.
- Be enrolled in a certified high school program and be meeting acceptable academic and attendance requirements.
- Have an employment experience as part of the Individual Education Program (IEP) unless waived by the VR counselor.
- Apply for and be determined eligible for vocational rehabilitation services through either the Division of Rehabilitation Services or Service to the Blind & Visually Impaired.
Who pays for the program?
The Division of Rehabilitation Services provides funding for wages, FICA, worker’s compensation, and other costs. VR can also pay for other items needed for employment, such as uniforms, based on the individual student’s needs.
The local school district provides matching funds for Project Skills through providing job development, job coaching and on-site monitoring. These services can be provided directly by the school district or may be purchased from another agency, such as an education cooperative, community support provider, career learning center, or other agency approved by Vocational Rehabilitation.
What about Worker’s Compensation?
Worker’s Compensation is covered by the Division of Rehabilitation Services. There is no financial obligation of benefits or wages by the employer.
What is the employer’s role?
- Comply with the training plan and provide participants appropriate supervision and training; safe and healthy working conditions and adhere to all child labor laws.
- Maintain accurate time and attendance records and submit to the state on a weekly basis appropriately completed time cards.
- Provide adequate general liability and automobile liability insurance covering actions of the participant.
- For more information or to receive a Project Skills packet, please contact Dan Rounds, TSLP, 1-800-224-5336 or email email@example.com
Importance of Assessment & Feedback
An important aspect of supporting youth during work experiences is providing feedback on their performance and growth. Providing opportunities for assessing abilities and strengths outside the classroom while on the work site is an important aspect of making the most of the student’s Project Skills program.
The following links provide various evaluation tools you (or employer) may utilize to provide feedback to the student on observed strengths and needs at the worksite!
Project Skills Tutorial (To be available soon)
Monthly Reporting Form
The monthly reporting form is a communication/evaluation tool between the Project Skills instructor and the VR counselor. It is to be completed monthly and sent to the VR counselor. The two options of completing a monthly service report are:
Assurance of Match Form
The Assurance of Match Form is to be completed quarterly by all participating schools and cooperatives. The completed form will be mailed to the address below the chart on the form.
DRS Project Skills Website