Program Provides Job Training for Students with Disabilities

Renewed state contract will allow Mizzou teachers to help students in every high school in Missouri

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, MU News Bureau, 573-882-6217

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri has renewed their contract from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education – Vocational Rehabilitation to provide job training services for Missouri public high school students with disabilities. The Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) program, housed in the Mizzou College of Education Hook Center for Educational Renewal, will use this funding to increase the number of teachers in the program by more than 50 percent. Bob Simpson, director of the Pre-ETS program, says the program now will be able to reach students with disabilities throughout the entire state.

“Children with disabilities across the state have access to resources throughout their academic careers, but few resources exist for preparing those students for life after school,” Simpson said. “This contract will allow us to make trainers available in every public high school in Missouri so students with disabilities can receive hands-on training and preparation for important skills, including how to handle job interviews, being a valuable employee, and how to adapt to life after school.”

The Pre-ETS program is beginning its second year in service. In its first year, the program served about 4,000 students in nearly 400 schools around the state. This service included 1,983 job exploration profiles for students, 1,505 college and career readiness surveys, and 954 opportunities for students to gain work experience through internships and work-based referrals. All trainers in the Pre-ETS program are certified teachers who provide services to students with physical and mental disabilities ranging from mild to severe. Depending on the school district, the Pre-ETS trainers work with students in one-on-one environments or in classroom settings. Specific services offered include work-based learning, post-secondary counseling, workplace readiness, and self-advocacy training.

Students who take part in the Pre-ETS training services can undergo career exploration to match their interests to potential career options, train for simple vocational and communication skills, learn on how to dress and present themselves appropriately in a work environment, and be exposed to opportunities for job shadowing and internships. Participants also will work with Pre-ETS staff to create personalized four-year plans to help them learn the requisite skills for whatever career path they pursue.

“Research shows that the earlier these kinds of services are provided in students’ lives, the greater their chances for success down the road,” Simpson said. “If we can prepare these students before they finish their academic careers, and perhaps even provide them with some manner of work experience while they are still in school, they will have much better chances to be successful, both professionally and in their personal lives.”

The Pre-ETS program is available to any Missourian from ages 16-21 with a disability. This new contract also is funding a pilot project for six Pre-ETS staff members to work with students from Missouri state schools for the severely disabled.

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