Boone County Family Resources Life & Work Connections program offers paid job training to help youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities gain skills for their future. Participants work on either a summer landscape crew or a year-round janitorial crew to build confidence and develop skills for future jobs, such as being on time, communication, teamwork, professionalism, and doing a good job.
This school year, Columbia Public Schools partnered with Life & Work Connections to help get more high school kids engaged with the program. Three students at Battle High School are working on the janitorial crew every day after school. They are released an hour early from school and are provided transportation to the Boone County Family Resources main office for their jobs. For two hours each day, they work with Holly Einsiedel, Life & Work Connections Life Skills Trainer, on learning their jobs on the janitorial crew as well as all the soft skills necessary for future successful community employment.
“I have been on the crew since this summer,” says one crew member, age 18. “My favorite part is working with the other people on the crew. I also have been working on my efficiency and I think Miss Holly would say there is improvement.”
Holly says there is never a dull moment working with the teens. “The students seem to be enjoying the work. Overall they are making good progress. Everyone has things they are working to improve on, but I can also see they are gaining a sense of pride about the work they are doing.”
“The goal of the job skills program is for the students to gain real work experience at an age when it makes sense, and that is high school,” says Jeff Mueller, Program Coordinator for Life & Work Connections. “With classes not getting out until later in the afternoon and parents working, we were not getting as much participation in the program as we would like. This partnership with Battle High School and Columbia Public Schools allows these students to get engaged with the program and get paid for real work experience.”
Alex, age 15, says his favorite part about being on the crew was when they worked on landscaping projects this summer. But now that the work is mostly indoors, he says he likes to clean the lobby area the most. “Alex’s favorite job in the lobby area is cleaning the elevator. He’s proud of his new abilities,” says Holly.
Jeff says in addition to providing support and encouragement to the students along the way, Holly evaluates the students’ job performance and reports back to teachers at Battle. “All the students this year have developed a good rapport with staff, but also have room to grow,” says Jeff. “We aim to work with more high schools in the future to expand this program. We hope it continues to be a positive experience for everyone.”