A Louisiana college has developed a program for students with cognitive disabilities that provides employment experience with courses that are related to the job skills they are learning.
The Program for Successful Employment at Bossier Parish Community College is a two year program that helps students develop the soft skills needed for employment and then matches them with the employment based on their desires and skills.
At first, participants attend classes that teach “soft skills” such as how to set up a job interview and what to wear and how to act while there. Social skills are stressed since many people with autism don’t communicate well and often exhibit behaviors and develop fixations others can describe as quirky, Hanberry said.
During the second year, students’ interests are taken into account and they’ll be matched with jobs that may suit them.
They’ll start taking regular classes at BPCC to help them succeed at those positions. For instance, if they work in a kitchen, they might enroll in some of the college’s culinary arts courses.
No employers have yet signed up to take part in the program, although many letters have been sent to businesses throughout the Shreveport-Bossier City area. And some companies are considering participating.
Since students don’t earn college credits, they won’t receive a degree. Rather, they will earn a certificate stating training they’ve received so they can be competitive in the job market.
“We’re also trying to train the community,” said Hanberry, noting that people with special needs can make conscientious and diligent workers, but occasionally there can be glitches.