Starting down the career path

Workshop focuses on workforce transition for youth with disabilities

Photo by Deb Gau Judy Moses, a speaker with the PACER Center, talked about career planning and resources with area young people and their families Wednesday night.

MARSHALL — Planning for a career and going out into the working world are important steps in life, Judy Moses said. But it’s not always easy to figure them out, and for young people with disabilities, there can be extra factors to consider.

Moses and other presenters at a Wednesday night workshop hoped to help area residents answer some of those questions.

“Tonight, we’re going to be talking about career paths,” said Moses, a presenter with the PACER Center, a training and information center for families and youths with disabilities.

The workshop, held at the Marshall Area YMCA, talked about career planning options and resources for young people with disabilities. The event brought together speakers from the PACER Center, as well as the Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council and the Minnesota Workforce Center.

The workshop was a new event for the Marshall area, said Leah Hastad, disability resource coordinator with the Private Industry Council. It was made possible with the help of a three-year Disability Employment Initiative grant, Hastad said.

“The purpose of the grant is to increase the number of people served” through youth career programs, she said.

Wednesday’s workshop brought together around 20 people, including educators, young people with disabilities, and members of their families.

Presenters at the workshop talked about some of the resources available to help young people with disabilities plan careers and find jobs or training. Those resources include vocational rehabilitation counseling and other services.

“Vocational rehabilitation is a state-run program that helps people with disabilities figure out what they want to do for careers and jobs,” said Camille Raymond, a rehabilitation counselor with the Marshall office of the Minnesota Workforce Center. For high school students with disabilities, vocational rehabilitation counselors can help with planning for the transition into a job or career path.

Hastad said the Private Industry Council and the Minnesota WorkForce Center have resources that can help young people transitioning into the working world.

“We do offer several career pathway trainings,” Hastad said, including training for some in-demand job areas like health care, welding and woodworking. Other available resources included career counseling and exploration services, and paid work experience programs.

Of course, a lot of career planning work starts at home, Moses said. Families can help young people prepare for applying for jobs, interviewing and plan to manage disabilities. Families can also help build the support network that can help young people find a good job or career training.

When it comes to networking and job searches, “Usually it’s the family or extended family first,” Moses said. “You start with (a young person’s) interests, and look at people who might have something similar.”

Career exploration for young people with disabilities can include things like neighborhood jobs, job shadowing or hands-on training, Moses said.

Having hands-on training or other work experience can be a big plus in career planning, Raymond said.

“It very much helps to have that work experience,” she said, because it helps young people figure out what their interests and strengths are.

For most of us, Moses said, our first job is not our last job. It’s important to remember that sometimes jobs don’t work out, and people’s interests and goals change over time. Those experiences can help shape a person’s career path.