New Program Offers Career Support and Advice for Students with Disabilities

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Travis Sharpe Image

Travis Sharpe, CareerConnect Coordinator at Truckee Meadows Community College.

CareerConnect is a new program in Nevada, providing extra support toward academic and career success for students with a disability of any kind, or previous physical injury.

The program is currently offered only at Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College. CareerConnect is a partnership between TMCC and the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation.

The new service begins Spring Semester 2015, and funding provided through the cooperative agreement with DETR will allow TMCC to hire three additional specialists to support students participating in the program. Two coaches/case managers and one additional assistive technology expert will soon be on board.

“We’re partnering with TMCC's Counseling Center and Career Center,” said Travis Sharpe, CareerConnect Coordinator. “We walk with the student and introduce them to other people on campus who can help. We are trying to transition students to being workplace ready.”

Students will obtain mentoring for their studies and career-seeking in Red Mountain Building, room 315, on the Dandini Campus. Free CareerConnect services will be face-to-face, and more personal than merely forms and meetings. It is directed as a holistic approach to help students toward their goals, from tutoring, all the way to job leads.

“I come from a workforce development background, and I have seen how a meaningful career can contribute to a person’s self-esteem to be a productive person in the workplace,” Sharpe said.

Part of CareerConnect’s mission is to replace myths with facts

“I truly believe a person with a disability can contribute much to the workforce,” Sharpe said. “Some workers with disabilities can be even more productive that others at the job. This is one of the myths I want to dispel about persons with disabilities.”

A contributor to Forbes.com agrees.

“Hiring a diverse workforce includes hiring people with disabilities,” writes Judy Owen, owner of Opportunity Works. “This is a good business decision. I believe executives understand that. I believe executives want diversity and employees who are loyal and provide value to their companies.”

She writes that many workplace accommodations are free, others cost much less than employee turnover, and reports indicate that workers with disabilities are hardworking and reliable.

Sharpe notes that TMCC students with proven skills will make superlative employees.

“We already have students ready to enter the workforce, Sharpe said. “One of our students recently completed the TMCC Welding Program and is eager to find employment with a local employer. This student’s instructor says that he is extremely gifted when he gets behind the welding mask.”

Another student recently completed the apartment maintenance program. Sharpe introduced the student to Kelley Wong in Job Prep to help develop a professional resume and take interview workshops.

To participate, students must first obtain appropriate documentation

Students with disabilities that have been recognized by a K-12 school district, physician, psychologist, Nevada’s Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, or TMCC Counseling and Career Services may receive CareerConnect support.

Disabilities may include physical circumstances such as visual difficulties or loss of hearing in one or both ears, learning disabilities such as math deficiencies or dyslexia, or mild intellectual disabilities. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can also contribute to learning obstacles.

Anyone with a documented disability, including someone who has a physical injury such as a back problem and wants to reenter the workforce can qualify, Sharpe said.

CareerConnect will assist students in two areas:

  • Academic success and skill achievement
  • Liaison with businesses during the job application and interview process

Staff will also inform potential employers about benefits, including tax incentives, for hiring a set of workers with diverse skills and abilities.

“The first step for students is to contact someone in the Disability Resources Center for advice,” Sharpe said. “They can start CareerConnect as soon as they are documented through the DRC.”

Sharpe believes that a practical education putting people to work is good for the community.

“We’re really excited to be here and I feel fortunate to be part of such a great team,” Sharpe said. “CareerConnect will be a valuable part of the department and will help to fulfill the mission of TMCC as a whole.”

More information about CareerConnect can be found by calling 775-673-7060, or by emailing Travis Sharpe.