September 29, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 29, 2023
Maine Awarded $7.6 Million Pathways to Partnership Grant
Grant will support hundreds of youth with disabilities transitioning to employment and post-secondary education
AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Labor announced that its Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) has been awarded a $7.6 million Disability Innovation Fund grant by the U.S Department of Education's Rehabilitation Services Administration to support hundreds of youth with disabilities as they prepare for employment and post-secondary education.
Maine is one of 20 states whose projects were selected for funding through USDOEs "Pathways to Partnerships" - https://rsa.ed.gov/about/programs/disability-innovation-fund-pathways-to-partnerships innovative model demonstration project, supporting collaborative partnerships between state vocational rehabilitation agencies, state and local educational agencies, and federally funded centers for independent living to help individuals with disabilities seamlessly transition to life after high school, preparing them for independent living, competitive integrated employment and community integration. Pathways to Partnerships is the largest discretionary grant ever administered by RSA.
"I am thrilled that MDOLs Division of Vocational Rehabilitation was chosen for this exciting opportunity, which will allow the Department to begin working with students with disabilities as early as middle-school to raise aspirations and explore career opportunities as they complete their secondary education," Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said. "The system-wide impacts of this grant will further result in the preparation of young people with disabilities to meet Maines future workforce needs."
Maine will launch a web-based site to serve as a primary hub for cross-agency transition information, training, and learning opportunities across the state, develop accessible on-demand curricula on transition topics such as benefits counseling, financial literacy, and pre-employment transition services, and increase awareness and use of work-based learning, internships, pre-apprenticeship, and Registered Apprenticeship.
In addition to extensive training and establishing a seamless system across agencies involved in the project, 300 - 500 children ages 10 - 13 will be provided opportunities to gain career readiness skills and 300 - 500 youth ages 14 - 21 will be competitively employed.
Recognizing the important role of interagency collaboration in this grants success, the Maine Department of Education and Alpha One, Maines sole Center for Independent Living, will also serve as core partners in Pathways to Partnerships. Additionally, numerous youth-serving state and community agencies, including MDOLs Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, will join in the collaborative efforts. Regional School Unit #29 in Houlton, which also serves the towns of Hammond, Littleton, and Monticello, and Regional School Unit # 71 in Belfast have been identified to pilot activities for students. All schools serve diverse populations, including those experiencing economic disadvantages.
"Thanks to this funding, hundreds more students with disabilities in Maine will gain meaningful skills and work experience that sets them up for success. As a Department, we are committed to expanding opportunities for career exploration and meaningful employment opportunities to help students build successful careers," said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin.
"Alpha One, Maine's Center for Independent Living, is honored and thrilled to join as a collaborative partner in this exciting innovation project which will serve people with disabilities throughout the State of Maine," said Thomas C. Newman, Executive Director of Alpha One.
The grant begins October 1, 2023, with the initial year focused on planning and development. Pathways to Partnership grants the full funding for a five-year project period, meaning successful applicants receive all project funds at the beginning of year one. Through the five-year project period, award recipients will pilot, refine, and implement their proposed projects while also collecting and analyzing project data.
Read the U.S. Department of Educations press release here: https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-awards-nearly-199-million-improve-career-opportunities-students-disabilities-through-partnerships