SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) announced today that the Student Professionals with Disabilities program will be expanded statewide. The program, which gives high school students with disabilities the opportunity to gain on the job experience, began in 2006 but has been limited to the Springfield area. The expansion will ensure more people have the chance to gain valuable job skills and succeed in the workplace.
‘The success of this program is immeasurable. IDOT has made it a priority to offer these students an opportunity to learn valuable work skills, gain confidence and explore their options for future employment,” said IDOT Acting Secretary Milt Sees. “None of this would be possible with out the help of many local organizations and devoted individuals.”
Currently 23 high school students are teamed up with mentors at IDOT’s headquarters in Springfield and provide the opportunity to learn work skills in a real world setting. These positions include food service, clerical, maintenance and computer work. The participants are placed in positions based on their skills. Thirteen students took part in the pilot program offered in 2006 and eleven are employed in the workforce.
“Changing attitudes and finding opportunities is important when it comes to increasing the number of people with disabilities in the workforce,” said DHS Director of Rehabilitation Services Robert Kilbury. “This unique partnership between DHS & IDOT will enable many more people to show their abilities on the job and become more independent and productive.”
Traditionally, students with disabilities have trouble competing when they enter the workforce. Through the Student Professionals with Disabilities program, students gain valuable job skills that will help them gain employment. In addition, the program teaches interviewing/job seeking skills and how to dress for success.
In 2006, the Department of Transportation along with IDOT employee Dave Dailey received national recognition for their commitment to eliminating barriers persons with disabilities face in the workplace. The department and Dailey, the agency’s American’s with Disabilities Act specialist, were chosen by the National Rehabilitation Association for their path-breaking efforts in hiring, promoting and removing barriers for persons with disabilities.
Funding for the program is provided by STEP (Secondary Transitional Education Program), United Cerebral Palsy Land of Lincoln’s Workforce Investment Act grant and IDOT.