VSDB students get real-world job experiences at Vector Industries in Waynesboro

vector vsdb1Real-world experiences are an important complement to the education that students get at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton. A new collaboration between VSDB and Vector Industries in Waynesboro is providing a unique opportunity for a group of five students to gain valuable job skills.

“We were interested in seeing if this would work out as a joint venture, and they were very excited, and we were very excited, to get this started,” said Sharon Ernest, a transition specialist at VSDB, during a visit this week to Vector Industries, as the student group worked with two VSDB job coaches in packaging and assembly.

VSDB has a work-study program for students who are ready to work in a competitive work environment, but there was a need to develop something for its population that isn’t quite ready to go into a competitive environment.

For those students, “we wanted to be able to find out what kind of work skills they have, and provide work opportunities outside of VSDB,” Ernest said.

Cheryl Moran, the director of human resources at Vector Industries, said the Vector team is working with VSDB to help assess the students’ work abilities. The group was started on Vector’s ongoing work with Reynolds Consumer Products by inserting zip ties into brochures.

“Everybody who comes here on a situational assessment starts there. That gets them assimilated into our environment. Then we can engage their situational abilities,” Moran said.

Based on the early success of the program, Vector and VSDB are looking at ways to expand the collaboration.

“We feel that this is a super-positive experience for our employees to see different faces. They have an opportunity to answer questions from VSDB students and help out as buddies if needed so they get to learn some new skills as a result as well. This is a real win-win for Vector and for VSDB,” Moran said.

The collaboration with Vector Industries is a perfect fit for VSDB, because not only do the students in the program have the opportunity to learn job skills, but they do so in a real-world work environment.

“They improve with their work skills every time they come,” said Marleen Roberts, a job coach at VSDB who works side-by-side with the students in the Vector Industries program.

The experience at Vector gives the students “a sense of pride and self-advocacy in being able to do something for themselves and contribute to the community,” Roberts said.

“This is beneficial to them in their future goals. Knowing that they can do something and be able to contribute is really important,” Roberts said.

About Vector Industries: Located in Waynesboro, Va., Vector Industries is a unique non-profit that employs and trains persons with diverse disabilities to enable them to reach their potential as productive community members. Founded in 1969, Vector Industries provides services to customers in assembly, logistics and operational support. More information online at VectorIndustries.org.

About Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind: One of the oldest schools in Virginia and the second of its kind in the world, the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind, located in historic and scenic Staunton, VA, was established by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on March 31, 1838. As the school celebrates more than 170 years of continued excellence in educating deaf and blind children, it remains at the forefront of educational technology. The school utilizes some of the latest and most advanced audio-visual equipment and disability tailored computer applications in its classrooms to provide its students with the best education. Now, as in 1839, the arms of the school are open wide for the deaf and blind children of Virginia. More online at vsdb.k12.va.us.