By Elise Franco
A year of hands-on vocational training has helped 10 special-needs students secure entry-level jobs.
Corey and Brian Dyer, work-training coordinators for the Mahoning County Educational Services Center, brought the work-training program to Austintown Fitch High School and the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.
“This program allows the county to enter schools and have work training,” Corey Dyer said. “We go out to local businesses, and we work hand-in-hand with the students.”
Corey said this is his second year running the program with juniors and seniors at Fitch. Brian Dyer said it is the inaugural year for Option 23 students who have decided to continue their education through age 22 with MCCTC. The training is county-operated and paid for through the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission’s Vocational Rehabilitation Public and Private Partnerships Program.
“We’re with the kids, teaching them, giving them one-on-one attention that some of them need,” Corey said. “Once they pick those skills up, we can step back and watch them work independently.”
Brian said the training is part of the students’ school day, and they spend several hours per day working from local businesses. He and Corey said they also work with students on resume building and interviewing skills.
“This gives them the opportunity to show what they know and can do,” he said. “And it gives the employers a chance to see the kids work.”
Brian said having 10 students hired to part-time jobs through their training is “phenomenal.”
“The end goal is obviously employment,” he said.
Brittany McMichael, 21, and Aaron Williams, 19, are two of the students who found job placement through the program.
McMichael, a student at MCCTC, said she works at a local Boardman retail store stocking shelves and handling customer service. She said the skills she gained through the work-training program became invaluable.
“I think it would have been more difficult to find a job without the program,” she said. “I am surprised at what I was able to accomplish.”
Williams, a Fitch senior, said he was hired at an Austintown restaurant four months ago and enjoys working.
“The program was such a great experience, and we learned a lot,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Mr. [Corey] Dyer’s advice and discipline, I would not have been able to develop the skills.”
Brian said he and Corey are thrilled with what all their students, not just the ones who found work, have accomplished.
“It’s so gratifying to watch them accomplish things they probably never thought they could do,” he said.