Transition Fairs provide connection and opportunity for youth with developmental disabilities
The King County School-to-Work Program provides students with developmental disabilities the resources to plan a bright future after high school. The program is currently planning its 13th annual Transition Resource Fairs: two one-day conferences attended by families, teachers, local agencies, and potential employers intended to help students with developmental disabilities find employment before leaving their high school programs. Several years ago, Microsoft approached the School-to-Work Program to be a partner in hosting and coordinating the Transition Resource Fairs. This partnership has helped it become one of the most informative and resourceful events for students with disabilities and their families in Washington State.
“We offer attendees approximately 12 sessions on such topics as the School-to-Work program, Washington’s adult employment services system, Social Security, housing, recreation, guardianship, wills and trusts, among other critical information to successfully transition to adult living.,” says Program Manager Richard Wilson.
In 2020, the first fair will be held at the Microsoft Commons on Thursday, February 27, and the second at Highline College on Saturday, March 14. In recent years, the events have attracted nearly 1,200 attendees who are able to hear from other students already employed as well as employers who share the value of hiring a diverse workforce that includes people with disabilities. Approximately 50 organizations are represented at each event. School districts help plan and host sessions, encourage families, and support students to attend while agencies such as Open Doors for Multicultural Families, The Arc of King County, Wise, and employment service agencies serving King County help run the day. Several King County groups participate, including the Supported Employment Program and the Developmental Disabilities and Early Childhood Supports Division.
Started in 2005 as a response to community need, the School-to-Work Program partners across systems to help students with developmental disabilities seek and gain employment before they leave their high school transition programs. Together with the Washington State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the program co-funds several important School-to-Work services, and for students who leave the program at 21, it contracts with the State’s Developmental Disabilities Administration to provide ongoing support. Since the program began, hundreds of students have found job opportunities through it. The Program takes this mission to heart, ensuring that students have the support needed to obtain employment and grow as working members of the community.
“King County has been a national leader for over 20 years in promoting and supporting people with developmental disabilities to gain and keep jobs,” said Richard. “It has supported our fellow citizens with developmental disabilities to become highly valued employees in our workforce. As such, we have continued to make strides toward a more inclusive community here in King County and the School-to-Work Program is proud to be part of that.”