Shapiro Administration Launches $9.9 Million Project to Support Students with Disabilities

Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry

PENNSYLVANIA — The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s (L&I) Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) recently announced a significant federal grant that will enhance pre-employment transition services for students with disabilities. The Shapiro Administration is set to invest the $9.9 million grant into the Pathways to Partnership project, an initiative designed to improve collaboration among organizations aiding high school students in preparing for post-secondary education and employment.

This grant funding will be utilized to develop a new transition model that provides students with comprehensive transition planning services. The model aims to identify new opportunities for teens to gain valuable work-based learning experiences and support the development of skills necessary for achieving their post-graduation goals.

Speaking on this development, L&I Secretary Nancy A. Walker said, “OVR’s current pre-employment transition services help nearly 17,000 students with disabilities prepare for life after high school. The Pathways to Partnership project aims to improve the existing approach by identifying better ways for these organizations to collaborate effectively and meet the needs of students with disabilities and their families.”

The Pathways to Partnership project will be developed in collaboration with several Pennsylvania departments, including Labor & Industry, Education, and Human Services. Stakeholders such as Centers for Independent Living and the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network will also participate in the project.

“Across the Shapiro Administration, we are committed to empowering our students with disabilities to unlock their full potential,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “The Pathways to Partnership project will build our workforce while helping students build skills for life after high school. Together, we can ensure all learners have the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed.”

Human Services Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh added, “We must empower and support young adults through this period and help them pursue their interests and goals and be active members in their communities. Pathways to Partnership will improve the options and opportunities for these transitioning youth.”

The grant will fund three critical components of the Pathways to Partnership project: Professional Development, Capacity Building, and Training; Transition Discoveries; and Pathways to Partnership Work-Based Learning Experience (PTP-WBLE). These programs aim to provide shared training opportunities for youth service professionals, implement a “train the trainer” model at intermediate units and local education agencies, and develop PTP-WBLE programs that provide valuable work-based learning experiences.

The Pathways to Partnership project is expected to benefit an estimated 2,200 additional students with disabilities by the time the model demonstration funding ends in 2028. This substantial investment in the future of Pennsylvania’s students with disabilities underscores the Shapiro Administration’s commitment to fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for all learners.

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