Assessment Lab Gives Special Education Students Career Insights
The goal of the PAES (Practical Assessment Exploration System) Lab at the Bloomfield Hills Schools Booth Center is to determine students’ employment potential by trying out various types of career areas. Students explore nearly 300 jobs to find out what skills they are good at and what they like to do. The lab is used by students from the PREP Adult Transition program as well as students from Bloomfield Hills High School’s Special Education classes.
“Everything in here not only trains the skill set, but also gives us the chance to teach the process of work,” said PREP Teacher Russ McCall. As they arrive in the PAES Lab, students clock in on a computer, find their individual binders, select their work bin, and set up their work areas. When they are finished, the students clean up and then clock out before going to their next class.
The skill areas range from construction to office skills to food services. During one lab day, PREP student Chris unscrewed a set of bolts from a block of wood. Other students fed papers into shredding machines, collated and stapled papers, recorded parts numbers found on a computer catalog, or sorted colored parts based on a guide. “I just like the construction,” said Chris. “I like light bulbs and wires. Right now I’m unscrewing all the bolts using wrenches.”
“Sometimes we will make our own adjustments or individual tools to allow the students to be successful,” said McCall. “It all provides us with good data that will help us know what accommodations they may need, which we can then tell the employment agency or hiring organization.” Also, depending on the student and job skill, a PREP paraprofessional or teacher may provide additional guidance and recommendations during the task. Students also can repeat the job skill over time to gain confidence and competency.
Once the students have experience, they utilize their job skills in real-world situations in industries such as food service, retail, or offices, supervised by a job coach. According to McCall, “During the day, several students are both on job sites and then also in the classroom with us.”
Many students get the opportunity to work in the BHS school cafeterias. “A lot of our students find they love working with food,” said McCall. “It’s a repetitive process and such a short amount of time during the day that our PREP students are perfect to be hired for those positions. We also cook here at the Booth Center building to help our students gain confidence and more kitchen skills for independent living.” Other PREP students are working several days a week at local retail stores.
Much of the PAES Lab process helps find not only what the students can do but also the type of job they prefer. “We want to make sure there are skills they actually can use and jobs they can do in order to get them into a place of employment doing something that they enjoy,” emphasized McCall.
PREP is a post-secondary educational program operated by Bloomfield Hills Schools for BHS students dedicated to helping each student become a Prepared, Responsible, Employable, and Productive member of the community. The program serves young adults ages 18 - 26 who have developmental and physical disabilities. If your organization is interested in employing one or more PREP students, please contact Lisa Brown, Transition Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.