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Learn to EarnLabor Day – always the first Monday in September is “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” (1)

All individuals have the ability to contribute in some way to the well-being of our country.  A Workability program can ensure that all individuals, even those with various isms, can learn to earn.

According to the California Department of Education, “The mission of ‘workability’ is to promote the involvement of key stakeholders including students, families, educators, employers and other agencies in planning and implementing an array of services that will culminate in successful student transition to employment, lifelong learning and quality of life.”

A Program to Prepare Youth for the Labor Market

The California Department of Education conducted a study a few decades ago that indicated students with disabilities were not being adequately prepared for the labor market.

Workability was initiated in 1981 as a pilot project to test the concept of work experience for youth with disabilities. Workability has received national recognition of its success for young adults who have disabilities matching them with employers who need workers. Today, it continues to be a successful program with the coordination of the Employment Development Department, State Department of Rehab, and Department of Education.  Check with your state Department of Education to see if a Workability program exists in your education system.

Learn to Earn: Employment Skills Training

The Workability 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 post secondary education or training.

The Redondo Beach Unified School District starts with kids in middle school.  “The Middle School WorkAbility program is designed to provide opportunities for students to understand their interests and strengths and to use that knowledge to empower themselves.” (2)

Redondo Beach continues the programming through high school.   “The High School WorkAbility program is designed to provide students receiving Special Education services in their secondary education program important and valuable school-to-career activities which will assist them in preparing for a successful transition to work and adult life.” (2)

And the programming continues through the collegiate level.  Napa Valley College’s WorkAbility program is just one of the many programs which helps people with disabilities find and secure gainful employment. (3)

Annually over 10,000 employers statewide have found Workability students to be well prepared for entry-level employment, reliable employees and assets to their businesses.

Personal Experience: Lessons Learned

My son, JJ, participated in the Workability program from the ages of 14 – 18. He worked for organizations that were funded through California’s Department of Education Workability program.  The organizations where he worked provided training to teach job responsibility.  For example, JJ was taught the importance of being on time, how to follow instructions, how to complete a time card, how to work cooperatively with co-workers, in addition to, the technical skills for each job. These were invaluable lessons one does not receive in the classroom.

Jobs for JJ included working for the public library and police department, working as the assistant high school basketball coach and as an ice creamery server. These experiences also provided opportunities for JJ to grow socially through bonding with coworkers and team members that had commonalities. He took pride in his jobs and in being a part of a team.

Take advantage of this wonderful system – programming that helps teenagers and young adults with various isms learn how to earn.


(1) “UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR.” The History of Labor Day. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2015.

(2) “Redondo Beach Unified School District: WorkAbility and TPP.” Redondo Beach Unified School District: WorkAbility and TPP. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2015. 

(3) DILLS, ISABELLE. “WorkAbility Program Aids Job Searches for People with Disabilities.” Napa Valley Register. N.p., 1 May 2014. Web. 6 Sept. 2015.