The main goal of ACE-IT in College is competitive employment in one of a student’s interest areas. Students receive support to refine and develop a career plan while in the program. This support involves person-centered plans, coursework, paid part-time employment, volunteer work, job shadowing, and internships.
Supports in ACE-IT include education coaches, job coaches, an employment specialist, and an interagency support team. The interagency support team members include students, family members, and any adult service community agency representatives - for example from the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, local Community Services Board, and/or Center for Independent Living personnel. Teams meet each semester to celebrate student successes, update individual goals, and collaboratively share resources to maximize student success, leading to the end goal of competitive employment.
Before taking classes at VCU, students meet as a team with ACE-IT staff, family members, teachers, and service providers to develop a person-centered plan. The plan illuminates important things about students like hopes, dreams, and goals. This individualized path informs academic advisors and employment specialists as they support students in choosing courses and engaging in career development activities.
Course Work and Employment
All ACE-IT in College students engage in part-time employment while in the program. Most students work on campus for 8-10 hours/week making at or above minimum wage. An ACE-IT employment specialist supports the students at their jobs. This is an opportunity to add to a student’s resume, develop positive references, offset tuition expenses, and to try a job in a new area. Students are also encouraged to engage in volunteer activities at VCU and in the community. All of these new experiences can build on students’ career interests or uncover new employment areas of interest.
Part of career exploration involves learning about the Americans with Disabilities Act, the types of accommodations that may be available at work, and how to disclose your disability to your employer. Students can apply this information by role playing job interviews with ACE-IT in College staff and conducting informational interviews with employers.
Another career exploration activity includes online preparation to take the WorkKeys assessment in Reading for Information, Applied Mathematics and Locating Information; skills that employers believe are critical to job success. In Virginia, a Career Readiness Certificate is awarded upon passing this assessment. The certificate ensures that students can handle the types of tasks that are required by most jobs throughout the country.
Internships and Employment
During the final semester, students participate in a paid or unpaid 12 week internship that matches their career goals. The internship helps in building a strong resume and preparing students for post-graduation employment. Similar to having an education coach on campus, students will work with a job coach to assist them during their internship. Through an internship, students can decide if they are really interested in doing that type of work as a career. Some internships lead to job offers, others do not. If the internship does not lead to employment, the student’s support team will work with him or her to secure paid employment in an interest area as he or she finishes up the ACE-IT in College experience. After all, the main goal of ACE-IT in College is competitive employment in an area of interest!