New Labor Department Grant Program Targets Youth with Disabilities
The Department of Labor this month announced the availability of funds for initiatives that help youth with disabilities make the transition from high school to college and work. The DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy said that up to $1.7 million will fund a National Technical Assistance Center on Transition and Employment for Youth with Disabilities for two years. The Center will make grants to organizations whose programs help youths with disabilities bridge the divide between high school and adult life.
The Labor Department also said that if things go well, the Center could receive funding for up to three more years at $1 million annually. Grant applications are due by June 25.
The new technical assistance center is Labor's response to disappointing statistics showing that youth with disabilities continue to trail their non-disabled peers in graduating from high school, going to college or university, and getting jobs. Studies done in 2005 found adolescents with disabilities to be, on average, 3.6 years behind their grade level in reading and mathematics. Among those no longer in school, almost 30 percent left without graduating. That's nearly twice the rate of non-disabled students. Two years after leaving high school, about four in 10 youth with disabilities have jobs compared to six in 10 among their non-disabled peers.
Analysts worry that people with disabilities are already underemployed: in 2000, only 56 percent of Americans with disabilities held jobs. This number will only increase if progress isn't made on improving how well this population navigates the high-school-to-adulthood experience, which is the focus of the new grant program.
In addition to its grantmaking, the Center will do research, disseminate information, and give technical help to grant winners.
This article originally appeared in the June 2007 issue of HME Business.