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County steps up on career opportunities for people with developmental disabilities

“Partnership with the College of Adaptive Arts is a force multiplier.”

SAN JOSE – The County of Santa Clara has entered into a two-year partnership with the College of Adaptive Arts (CAA) at West Valley College to provide adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) access to the CAA’s new workforce and apprenticeship program. The County’s $250,000 budget allocation, proposed by County Supervisor Joe Simitian, will be disbursed over two years to fund staffing, dedicated computers for the program, and transportation for program participants, where necessary.

“Folks in the I/DD community are well-suited for a variety of career paths. They can and want to do more,” said Simitian. “This new workforce and apprenticeship program at CAA will provide the training and experience these adults need to reach their full potential and secure meaningful and fulfilling work.”

The U.S. Department of Labor accredited apprenticeship program at CAA has two tracks: training for Receptionist positions and for Teacher’s Aide positions. Unlike other workforce development programs for individuals with developmental disabilities that focus on the retail or service industries, the CAA program is intended to provide training and experience for “non-routine” jobs. These jobs promote intellectual and leadership opportunities for participants, and the development of situational awareness and non-linear thinking to adapt to different situations. Candidates for this apprenticeship program are drawn from CAA’s own students, the West Valley College Disability Student Services Program, and other populations that historically have had challenges obtaining work. 

“Fostering a love of life-long learning for our students is our primary focus at the school,” said DeAnna Pursai, CAA Co-Founder and Executive Director. “With this additional support, we can now begin to prepare our students to seek out jobs, while exposing others to possible careers working with the I/DD community.”

CAA offers one-hour classes, taught in-person and virtually. The curriculum is tailored to meet the individual needs of each student, and courses build upon each other—allowing students to grow in their particular area of interest. The CAA, founded in 2009 by Pursai and Dr. Pamela Lindsay, started with just 12 students. Pursai expects over 200 students in the Summer/Fall semester, which starts on July 10th.

“The work being done at CAA is unique, and really empowering for people in the I/DD community,” said Simitian. “The workforce apprenticeship program builds on the innovative practices in use at CAA, and is yet another resource to help folks in the I/DD world achieve a high quality of life for themselves.”

Simitian’s push for the County’s workforce partnership with the CAA is designed to build on prior efforts to support local residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities:

  • Matching grants to catalyze the construction of all-inclusive playgrounds throughout the County;
  • Vocational training and long-term employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities through Ada’s Café;
  • Facilities redevelopment to provide a venue for practical employment opportunities in AbilityPath’s employment and careers program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities;
  • Annual funding ($10M/year) to support the creation of affordable housing with supportive services for lower income residents with developmental disabilities (including six different projects across the County in Milpitas, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and Palo Alto);
  • County development of one such project in Palo Alto; the 50-unit project will include 25 affordable units set aside for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as program space for the nonprofit AbilityPath; and,
  • County support for upgrades at Camp Via West in the Cupertino foothills, one of the few remaining camps serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the region. The upgrades will include new turf for the sport court, new ADA-compliant bathrooms, storage for sports equipment, and a concession stand to provide food and water for campers.

Simitian says such efforts, “help these folks live fuller, richer lives; support their families; and makes the notion of ‘inclusion’ real and tangible. We can do so much more when we partner with others. Partnership with the College of Adaptive Arts is a force multiplier.”

For consideration for the CAA workforce apprenticeship program, interested parties may send an email to workforce development coordinators Dr. Pamela Lindsay ([email protected]) and Professor Angel Coronado ([email protected]). For more information about enrollment, visit the CAA website at: