The Uniquely Abled Academy: an unconventional approach to CNC training rewards both students and industry

Several members within the AMP SoCal partnership are generating social change while simultaneously benefitting the manufacturing industry. Glendale Community College (GCC), Verdugo Jobs Center, Goodwill Southern California, and other partners, have collaborated with the Uniquely Abled Project to provide the first Uniquely Abled Academy (UAA). Additional key organizations contributing to the success of the program include the Exceptional Children’s Foundation and the California Department of Rehabilitation.

The UAA is an innovative approach to education and workforce training for individuals with high functioning autism. The program operates with the understanding that the unique abilities held by people with high functioning autism – such as attention to detail and maintaining focus during repetitive tasks – align exceptionally well with the skills needed in certain manufacturing jobs. In particular, these skills are highly sought after in CNC machine operator and programmer positions, which are currently experiencing a shortage of qualified talent.

GCC currently provides a 16-week program to train “uniquely abled” students to program, set up and operate CNC machines, as well as complementary skills such as proper use of tools, understanding of safety procedures, understanding programming formats and manual data entry. The UAA relies on knowledge from over 40 individuals whose experiences range from an education specialist for those with autism to private sector business owners. After completion of the UAA program, students are qualified for multiple entry-level, well-paying jobs, or are also able to continue taking courses.

The UAA program, while still new, has already proven to be beneficial for its students and local manufacturing industry employers. 10 of the 13 in the inaugural class from 2015 have sustained jobs in the manufacturing industry. The rest of the class decided to either pursue other careers or enroll in additional courses at GCC, but it is expected that 100% of the program’s students will be placed in full-time steady employment positions. Employers who have been fortunate to hire GCC UAA students have reported extreme satisfaction with their new employees. Several of the students have performed so well in their new positions that they are now being cross-trained in additional skills.

“They learned in weeks where others have taken months,” said Susan Solebello, Human Resource Generalist at Mulgrew Aircraft Components, Inc. When discussing a recent hire, Björn N.P. Paulsson, CEO & President of Paulsson, Inc. said, “In two months he is now equal to the best CNC operator I ever had.”

The second cohort will graduate in June, and a third cohort will begin classes at GCC on August 28, 2017. UAA is working to use its success at GCC to create programs at other locations and in other disciplines. AMP SoCal is glad to support this initiative and proud to see its partners at the forefront of this movement!

For more information on the Uniquely Abled Project or the Uniquely Abled Academy, please visit http://uniquelyabledproject.org/ contact: info@uniquelyabledproject.com

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