Behind the Scenes: Prevocational Services at Aspire of WNY!

Between manufacturing, retail jobs, office work, and the arts, individuals under the guidance of Aspire of WNY’s Prevocational Services are job seekers of all kinds!

The Prevocational Services Department at Aspire of WNY provides personally tailored guidance and support. They work to lead individuals and their circles of support through the process of identifying skills and career aspirations, eventually helping them to land their dream jobs. “My teams provide development and coaching support to students while in high school and beyond through work readiness, classroom opportunities, and person-centered community-based work experiences,” explains Toni Sullivan, Director of Vocational Services and Adaptive Community Living Supports at Aspire of WNY.

Toni emphasizes that career discovery activities, assessments, and evaluations are key components of this process, “Through career discovery activities, individuals that we support can develop career goals that are carved around their interests and abilities. Assessment and evaluations are crucial to the success of the people we support, helping them to obtain the skills employers are looking for while they also can demonstrate their unique abilities.”

Another foundational part of the work of the Prevocational Services Department is creating and maintaining employer relationships within the community. Opportunities for work experiences in community-based settings are vital to the success of an individual seeking real-life work experience. “These partnerships provide our team and the individual with a safe space to evaluate their interests, abilities, and unique talents. A partnership between Aspire of WNY and an employer in the community is extremely important to both parties as our services can assist with hiring people with disabilities, navigate the accommodations process, and carve out jobs that meet their unmet needs,” says Christine Lalka, Vice President of Community and Independent Living Supports (CILS) at Aspire of WNY.

Recognizing that each path is unique, the Prevocational Services offered here at Aspire of WNY are designed to meet different personalized goals that an individual and their circle of support might have. “Through the Life Plan process, the team and individual are engaged in continuous discussion around their goals,” Toni Sullivan explains. “We have a selection of goals that can be chosen, and we discuss the teaching methods of those goals with the individual and their team. As a goal or skill is mastered, we will replace it with the next goal or skill employers seek in new hires. Some of the goals that are worked on are teamwork, flexibility, acceptance of feedback, and interview preparation, amongst others. “

Although each individual’s journey to obtaining employment may look different, they are all equally fulfilling for the Prevocational Services Department at Aspire of WNY. “Helping people find a purpose in life and become more self-sufficient is the ultimate reward of this job. My most cherished memories are of those transitioning from these services with the skills and confidence to land that dream job. We have had many of these over the years and we continue to help transition individuals from employment services knowing they will become valuable employees,” explains Toni Sullivan.

“The services offered through our Prevocational Services Department directly align with our agency’s mission of helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities actualize their dreams and achieve their own highest levels of independence,” explains Renee Filip, President and CEO at Aspire of WNY.