The California Department of Education (CDE) completed a two-year study in 1981 that provided substantive information concerning the status of vocational programs for students with disabilities. Results of the study indicated that these students were not being adequately prepared for the labor market.
WorkAbility I (WAI) was initiated in November 1981 as a pilot project to test the concept of work experience for youth with disabilities.
WAI continues to successfully conduct interagency coordination of services, which began with a September 1982 Employment Development Department (EDD), State Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), and CDE non-financial interagency agreement.
The WAI program is funded and administered by the CDE. The WAI program provides comprehensive pre-employment skills training, employment placement and follow-up for high school students in special education who are making the transition from school to work, independent living and postsecondary education or training. Program services are appropriate to individual student needs, abilities, and interests.
The WAI program offers students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) the opportunity to complete their secondary education while also obtaining marketable job skills. WAI provides secondary students with an understanding of job seeking and job keeping skills. The employability of students improves through occupational class training and on-the-job subsidized or unsubsidized work experience.
The WAI program seeks employers in the business community who will give students with special needs a chance to prove themselves in a competitive integrated employment setting. Local program sites successfully coordinate state and local service providers to offer comprehensive services tailored to local economic, social, and geographic needs and abilities.
Two year follow-along support services provided by local program staff greatly increase the potential for student employment success.