Work Experience/Work Experience+ Program

The Iowa City Community School District’s Work Experience/Work Experience+ Program is an innovative partnership between Iowa’s University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities at the Center for Disabilities and Development (UCEDD/CDD) and the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) to provide staffing, consultation and support for high school students in special education and those continuing in 4+ programming to access their community to build work skills and transition into integrated community employment after high school. 

Work Experience/Work Experience + Program offers training, brainstorming and consultation to teachers on issues of employment and transition.  The team provides supports to students with disabilities, the businesses who host them and the paraprofessionals who support them with the extra training and assistance so these young workers can become independent and successful in community jobs. In the Work Experience + Program, our team provides direct support to young adults with disabilities helping them develop the skills to get, learn and keep a job.  During this time of transition, our specialists may help develop the linkages to community providers to support that young adult to maximize their independence in the community. Through their participation in the program, students may significantly increase the number of hours they work per week and the wages they earn per month. Many students leave Work Experience + with jobs. Others go on to college.

The program began as a grant through the federal Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services in 2001 with a primary focus of supporting students with individual education plans to learn about and get jobs that first year after high school. UCEDD/CDD partnered with area schools in the Grant Wood AEA catchment area, Goodwill Industries of the Heartland, Rural Employment Alternatives, Advancement Services of Jones County and Optimae Life Services to support the program. In 2004, school districts found the program to be important enough to continue funding after the grant ended.  In 2016, the Iowa City Community School District opted to fund UCEDD/CDD to provide the services to their students. 

Knowing that transition from school to work needs to begin earlier, our team and some school district staff have piloted new activities to help younger students begin to explore and enter the world of work! The future holds a number of exciting possibilities for youth and for the program. 

By having UCEDD/CDD staff working directly with a school district, it brings the real-world experiences of people with disabilities, community businesses, schools and families to our larger team.  This “boots on the ground” perspective enriches our planning as well as embeds our role within our local community.  Many of the models and experiences of this team are shared in developing and exploring new models of providing support during this time of transition.

One innovative opportunity in this partnership brings, employment specialist Judy Warth, to CDD to participate in its new Transition Clinic.

For more information, get in touch with Judy Warth at [email protected].