Louisiana piloted the Building Employment Skills for Tomorrow (BEST) program in 2018 to expand work-based learning opportunities for learners with disabilities. The BEST program connects learners with disabilities to work-based learning opportunities, equips them with real-world skills through training and provides mentorship to program participants.
BEST was developed in partnership with Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS), a branch of the Louisiana Department of Labor that assists people with disabilities in obtaining and maintaining employment. The program was piloted in Bossier Parish, where a total of 29 students with varying disabilities from six schools participated in the program. The goals of the pilot program included:
- Implementing programming in partnership with LRS that address the five required Pre-Employment Transition Services (PreETS) found in WIOA;
- Expanding Jump Start, the program to improve the state’s career diploma system and align the state’s secondary Career Technical Education (CTE) strategy with its economic development work, opportunities for students with disabilities; and
- Ensuring that all programming is based on best practices and predictors of postsecondary success for students with disabilities.
To fund the program, Louisiana leveraged funds it received through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a five-year initiative funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. to strengthen career-focused education, and PreETS funds, which are made available through WIOA and match state funds at a rate of up to 3.8 to 1.
Policy in Action
To achieve the goals of the program, all 29 students in the pilot program engaged in work-based learning or school-based enterprises, with some students pursuing micro-enterprise credentials. Specifically, learners in the program received 5-10 hours weekly of work-based learning opportunities in the community and 2-3 hours weekly of career exploration, work readiness training, self-advocacy training, independent living training, and postsecondary comprehensive counseling.
In addition to equipping participants with real-world skills through training and work-based learning experiences, the program provided mentorship to learners with disabilities. Recognizing that it is often difficult for learners with disabilities to access mentors in the workplace, learners in the program were connected virtually to industry mentors — mainly adults with disabilities who are successful in the workplace — as part of the pilot.
Moving forward, Louisiana plans to secure funding for the BEST program and expand professional development for staff to ensure that learners with disabilities have the support necessary to participate and succeed in meaningful work-based learning and career readiness activities.
Last Updated October2019