WEST ORANGE, N.J., Jan. 11, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Kessler Foundation awarded a two-year, $407,468 grant to the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Foundation to start Bridging the Gap from College to Careers (C2C)—an initiative to help college students transition to higher education or employment through coursework and hands-on work experience. The grant is part of $2.3 million distributed by Kessler Foundation to organizations across the U.S. to support initiatives that create and expand job training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
C2C, a replication of a Kessler Foundation-funded program that started in California, offers a professional workplace-skills curriculum and wrap around services for credit to college students with disabilities. Career plan services are combined with hands-on work experience and internships, peer mentorships and placement assistance. The course, created at the University of California Berkeley, and activities will build the skills, workplace awareness and self-marketing ability that produces qualified and confident job candidates. The approach focuses on the perspectives of employers, developing and maintaining a professional presence and learning to effectively navigate the competitive job market.
"Our ultimate goal of our grantmaking initiatives is to fund programs that develop best practices that can be replicated in other states to put large numbers of people with disabilities into the workforce—and the College to Career initiative is doing just that," said Elaine E. Katz, senior vice president of Grants and Communications at Kessler Foundation. "This project shows young people with disabilities that they can work and have a lasting career. Once in the workforce, they free themselves of their reliance on public benefits and have the ability to attain personal independence and economic self-sufficiency."
FAU, Broward College and two additional schools will be named in the fall of 2016 to participate in the C2C initiative. The project will be supported by: (1) an experienced job placement specialist; (2) trained peer mentors to help recruit participants, maintain a social media presence and provide pre-and post-placement support; (3) internships and other work experience; (4) coordination between school and placement staff from the Florida Department of Vocational Rehabilitation for eligible students; (5) financial training to enable participants to begin building assets; and (6) work incentives information for students receiving Social Security disability benefits.
FAU, its Disability Center and the non-profit, Stand Among Friends, have partnered with PolicyWorks Florida location—a national non-profit that implemented the C2C initiative in California. After the first year of operation, students completed a survey to assess the impact of the curriculum; results found a significant shift in attitudes regarding students' abilities to be competitive, their value to an employer and their confidence levels. PolicyWorks has reported that graduates have gone on to hire education and full- or part-time employment; full-time employees are earning an average of $80,000 and receiving health insurance as well as other benefits.
According to the American Community Survey, only 53 percent of people with disabilities who have a bachelor's degree or higher were employed in 2011, as opposed to 83 percent of those without disabilities.
About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org. Follow Kessler Foundation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/KesslerFoundation), Twitter (@KesslerFdn) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/KesslerFoundation).