.cat-links { display: none !important; }
Partnership connects employers to students with disabilities

Partnership connects employers to students with disabilities

Earlywood Educational Services and Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance have joined forces to create a powerful partnership to build the local K-12 talent pipeline for employers with the help of a state grant. Earlywood is a special education cooperative that provides school districts in and around Johnson County with comprehensive programs and services for students with disabilities. Aspire is Johnson County’s local economic development organization and chamber of commerce serving businesses in and around Johnson County.

A $551,000 grant has been awarded to the partnership to boost school-to-work pathways with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion. The Explore, Engage and Experience (3E) grant from the Indiana Dept. of Education covers the period from July 2022 through Sept. 2023. Funding is allocated as part of the state’s federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III Plan which, due to an overwhelming response in strong grant applications from across the state, has been expanded to more than $57 million.

Earlywood Executive Director Angela Balsley, Ed.D., explained: “Local employers will benefit by having access to help at a time when there is a worker shortage. Skill gaps can be identified, and students can become acquainted with employers. The program will identify opportunities to employ people who typically are underemployed.” She added that students and their families will benefit through opportunities to interact with employers. “This program will make the whole process more seamless.”

Balsley added that Earlywood invited Aspire to be a partner in the program because it already was doing a lot of work in this area, helping businesses grow by addressing the pipeline of future employees. “Our needs crossed paths,” she noted.

Local employers will benefit from the partnership during a worker shortage while helping those who are underemployed find new opportunities. (Stock image)

Aspire President and CEO Christian Maslowski agreed, noting, “Earlywood desired to strengthen experiential learning and career pathways for students with disabilities and Aspire had already begun an initiative to bring employers and educators together to spark more direct collaboration.” He added, “We shared the same goal: to merge efforts between regional businesses and schools to ensure our graduates are ready to be productive and dependable employees for local companies.”

“Tackling local talent development is job No. 1 at Aspire and collaborating with our education partners is a critical strategy to meet our employers’ needs,” explained Maslowski. “We were honored to partner with Earlywood on this proposal and thrilled to receive state funding. Dr. Balsley and her team are driven, talented and passionate about connecting students to employers. We believe our students with disabilities will add tremendous value for employers.”

Aspire Vice President of Economic Development Amanda Rubadue, CEcD, added, “The 3E grant and partnership with Earlywood is just continuing the amazing collaborative spirit we have seen during our workforce pipeline efforts with the business community and education partners over the last several months.”

The grant will fund a pair of full-time positions and a program. The School to Work specialist will conduct outreach and engagement with the local business community and connect local employers with local students for experiential learning and employment. The Community Employment Coordinator specialist will provide coordination to merge efforts between regional businesses and school districts with a focus on school curriculum, employability skills and work-based pathways for students with disabilities. The grant also will fund a new Enabled Workforce Initiative, which will train local employers on how to support students with disabilities in meaningful experiential learning opportunities and to become valued employees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *