HARRISBURGH, PA – Governor Wolf today signed into law House Bill 400, known as the Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act, which will help students with disabilities gain competitive employment.

Through the Act, the Department of Labor & Industry’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) is tasked with facilitating job and career development between schools and employers in an effort to help students with disabilities get jobs that pay.

“Research indicates that students with disabilities who have real-world work experience prior to high school graduation enjoy greater long-term career success,” said Governor Wolf. “This law will increase the number of students with disabilities served and lead to the hiring of workers who are traditionally among the best a company employs.”

“This law arrives at a critical time for the state’s workforce development system,” said Labor & Industry Secretary Kathy Manderino. “Our implementation of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act requires that at least 15 percent of federal funding be allocated to pre-employment transition services for youth and the Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act will aid significantly in meeting that requirement.”

The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, with 15 district offices across the state, partners with local agencies, educators, and employers to establish work experiences that meet the needs of both student and business.

The Act further allows that efforts must provide relevant and useful information when developing education plans for students, and that programs arrange for and monitor internships and job-training opportunities, provide full or part-time work and professional guidance to eligible students, as well as counseling for enrollment in educational programs.

The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation received an additional 5 million dollars in the state’s 2015-16 budget for a total of $45.47 million in state funds. This allows for a maximum additional draw down of $18.5 million in federal funding.

In 2015, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation helped more than 8,800 individuals with disabilities obtain, maintain and retain competitive employment.
“Access equals success,” said David DeNotaris, executive director of OVR. “When we can empower students with disabilities to maximize their educational experience, they get meaningful education and training that will lead to a real job with real pay!”

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