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Glendale organizations partner to provide job skills for students with disabilities

Three Glendale organizations that deal with the development of youth in the area have teamed up to create a new program that will provide training and paid job placement for students with disabilities.

The collaborative program will serve about 60 students with disabilities from the Glendale and Burbank unified school districts as well as Glendale Community College this summer through classes on job exploration, up to 40 hours of workplace-readiness skills training and up to 225 hours of workplace learning experience.

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The city of Glendale's Verdugo Workforce Development Board, the Professional Development Center at Glendale Community College in Montrose and the Glendale Youth Alliance were together awarded $300,000 last week for the program.

The funding is coming from the Department of Rehabilitation, State of California Employment Training Panel and California Labor and Workforce Development Agency for a Summer Training and Employment Program for Students, or STEPS, grant.

The Verdugo Workforce develops workforce policies and oversees state and federal funding for Burbank, Glendale and La Cañada Flintridge.

According to Judith Velasco, executive director of the Verdugo Workforce Development Board, student referrals will come from the Department of Rehabilitation's local office as well as other local agencies.

"This [grant] allows us to provide specific targeted services for students with disabilities and equips them to make really informed choices on their careers," she said.

The Professional Development Center has long worked with the city of Glendale to provide customized employment training for more than 36,000 professionals during the past three decades and will provide targeted courses for the program's students.

The courses will cover basic soft and interpersonal skills such as punctuality, workplace appearance, communication skills and teamwork as well as workplace culture, policy and safety, according to Ani Keshishian, the development center's assistant director.

"This is such a great big thing — the collaborative effort between the three organizations — it's sometimes difficult to come together," Keshishian said. "We really worked hard on this, and we are so proud this is coming together for students."

Students who complete the training at the center and want work experience or are on track for career exposure will participate in a field trip to Glendale Community College and be placed by the Glendale Youth Alliance with paid work experience.

Velasco said program officials hope to match students with partners according to interest and aptitude. Students will also receive ongoing supportive services, such as clothing for interviews, as needed.

Alliance officials will coordinate with students at different work sites, and all of the students will be assigned career counselors as well as points of contact with the alliance and development board.

Marketing and outreach for the program should begin later this month with student job placement targeted for July, Velasco said.

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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