The Work Experience Program (WEP) also known as TECH (Training, Employment, Careers, Habilitation) prepares students through classroom lessons and vocational experiences at school and area businesses for the adult work world they will enter after graduation. WEP serves students age seven through 21 who are blind or visually impaired and who may have other disabilities as well.
WEP’s mission is built on the four TECH elements:
- Training: work/vocational skills and behaviors.
- Employment: on and off campus vocational experiences.
- Careers: career exploration and decision-making.
- Habilitation: independent living and lifestyle.
The mission of the Work Experience Program is “to create a comprehensive and dynamic vocational atmosphere which prepares each student to capably handle present and future work assignments plus develop the work socialization behaviors required for the adult world vocational program and employment environments.”
The critical success factors for the Work Experience Program are:
1) Provide a variety of age and skill appropriate work experiences for students to explore and test their vocational interests and skills.
2) Maintain ongoing professional staff training especially in the vocational and employment arenas to match the vocational needs of our students.
3) Implement teaching strategies to develop and strengthen work skills and worker socialization behaviors.
4) Evaluate and adapt program services according to student vocational needs.
5) Develop proactive relationships with families, employers and adult service providers.
Specially trained Overbrook staff members work with each student individually to determine appropriate goals and structure the sequential learning experiences that will best help the student reach those goals. The amount of time students spend in any program segment depends on their educational needs. The four program segments of the WEP are
Job development initially takes place in the classroom. Here, students receive training in basic career awareness appropriate to their ages and abilities - the first step in being successfully employed.
They learn what their needs, skills, and interests are and how these relate to the work force. They learn about worker classifications, self-awareness, career types, elementary job maintenance skills, occupations, and employment trends.
Staff members work with students on individual career plans, employment skills, and job maintenance skills. They discuss with students community living options and specialized services and technologies for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
Staff members also work with students to develop an understanding of how their disability or disabilities may impact on their jobs and how to adapt their abilities to their fields of work. Students also learn about their rigs and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The most extensive part of the Work Experience Program is off-campus employment.
With on-site support from Overbrook job coaches, students who are old enough to qualify for working papers can work in settings such as retail stores, restaurants, nursing homes, business offices, recreation facilities, gardens, nursery schools, and other locations. Student jobs have included stocking shelves and pricing merchandise, preparing food, cleaning offices, caring for children, typing and filing documents, and operating computers.
Overbrook staff members match students with positions and work with employers and students to determine how best to meet the employers’ needs.
Overbrook’s large, diverse campus provides a good training ground for students to develop their interests and gain job experience that can help build the skills they need for success.
Students handle such tasks as delivering the daily school newsletter, assisting in the cafeteria, general cleaning, clerking in one of the school stores, performing clerical and data entry duties, with supervision and guidance provided by the program staff.
Students also can work in an industrial setting performing bench work type of assignments based on the establishment of a piece rate. The piece rate is calculated with the Department of Labor work experience program standards. Tasks could include: subassembly/assembly, packaging parts; monitoring quality control; and operating equipment such as a heat sealer.
For many students, on-campus employment is a stepping-stone toward future employment off campus.
Pre-vocational classes help students ages 7 through 16 years to develop pre-work skills that are the foundation for getting and holding jobs.
Staff members provide guidance about work-related behavior, such as attendance, punctuality, and cooperation with co-workers. They also help students to develop the basic skills and attitudes, such as work-related vocabulary, manual dexterity, and gross and fine motor skills, they will need for success in life.
Instruction is modeled by elements of the PA Career Education and Employment Curriculum and hands on vocational task supports by specially trained staff.
Career education instruction uses Bridges.com. Younger students are introduced to workplace skills using the resource, PAWS in Jobland and older students utilize CHOICES. Starting this school year, KEYS to Work, which includes exercises to improve vocational skills will be available for older students in the Work Experience Program.
Both pre-vocational and vocational curriculum guides are evaluated and used to create baseline data regarding employability of a student.
Students utilize a wide variety of technology both on campus for learning as well as work place settings. Access technologies are provided to ensure that students can be successful in their job placements.
Dael Cohen, Transition Coordinator
Don Fuller, Employment Specialist
Cathy Chase, Teaching Assistant
Donna Barr, Teaching Assistant
Angie Smith, Teaching Assistant
Patrick Mayazi, Teaching Assistant / Driver
Clare Medori, Administrative Assistant
For more information about the Work Experience Program contact:
Patrick Mitchell: Patrick@obs.org or at
Overbrook School for the Blind
6333 Malvern Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19151-2597
Phone: (215) 877-0313 extension 259
Fax: (215) 477-1696