Georgia Mountains Workforce Area Youth Collaboration Model

The transition from school to work is especially challenging for youth with disabilities. The unemployment rate for youth and young adults with disabilities is estimated to be about 70% and the dropout rate for youth with learning disabilities at 36%. The collaborative effort coordinated by Georgia Mountains in Union County is working to make that transition easier by ensuring that youth stay in school and graduate and have substantial work experience in a field that interests them. In bringing together the expertise of the public schools, private employers, and the Department of Labor, this program has provided a flexible, efficient way for the youth of Union County to learn-to-work and work-to-learn. One obstacle that many youth with learning disabilities face is earning a high school diploma. The Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT) are often a major stumbling block - many youth take these tests repeatedly and fail repeatedly. To address this issue, the WIA youth program and Union County High School collaborated to develop an After-School Program to provide students with onsite tutors and access to online resources as they prepare for graduation tests. The tutors, who meet with students four hours each week, also assist with homework and provide support to youth who are at high risk of dropping out. Youth in the After-School program also participate in two hours per week of activities that develop work-readiness and leadership skills, or decrease dropout risk. These activities include anything from volunteer work at the Humane Society and participation in workshops on work skills provided by the Blairsville Career Center, to leadership in a school sponsored club. The After-School Program created results: 100% of youth in the program had better grades and several in the group passed the GHSGT. To increase the chances for youth to find and keep meaningful employment after graduation, youth have the opportunity to get work experience and training in both the summer and during the school year. Local employers worked with the After-School Program staff to mentor youth in their jobs. For example, staff at the Union County Nursing Home employed a youth who, according to teacher and tutors, was extremely reluctant to read. Staff at the home worked with this youth not only to teach the tasks necessary for the job, but also pointed out where reading would be needed on the job and then worked with the youth to read materials that were directly job-related. This student is now working at the Union County Nursing Home part-time, and has also become more willing to read at school. Also, about a third of the youth who worked in subsidized placements during the summer have now been hired in unsubsidized positions at their summer job site. Having a history of successful, steady employment before they graduate should help students toward gainful employment after graduation. While this collaborative effort has focused on youth with disabilities, the program is open not only to youth with disabilities, but also to other WIA-eligible youth. For additional information, please contact: Georgia Mountain Workforce Area (770) 538-2728

December 1, 2005