Program is the first of its kind in Northern Virginia
Inclusive Pathways to Success (IPS) officially opened its doors this month, welcoming the first cohort of students participating in a short-term pilot program to learn about carpentry as well as social and communication skills.
Founded and led by two mothers of autistic teens, IPS helps differently-abled adults (ages 18-30) with developmental disabilities such as severe ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, mild intellectual impairment and learning disabilities find new career paths in the skilled trades. Next
fall, IPS will offer a school-year long program with customized training in order to create meaningful careers for this often unemployed sector of the population.
Before launching a formal school program in 2023, IPS sought to test its innovative curriculum during the month of October and offer local adults an opportunity to explore the trade of carpentry. Students receive instruction in small groups with individualized attention from behavioral educators and a trade teacher. The program is taking place at a local community center called The PARC at Tysons, made possible through the support of Fairfax County and Celebrate Fairfax Inc. (CFI) a fellow nonprofit organization that is generously donating free space to IPS.
During this month’s program, the IPS team teaches safety skills and students work on small carpentry projects. Special education staff also teach the students about developing their soft skills in order to prepare for successful employment. Students in this inaugural program were selected through an online application process as well as an in-person assessment with an occupational therapist in order to determine their ability to benefit from the program.
October is the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). According to its founders, Naina Narayana Chernoff and Hope Hohmann, IPS aims to help solve two major challenges that our community and our nation faces. In 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics
(BLS) reported that the employment rate for disabled people capable of working is about 36%. Also, the nation is in severe need for skilled tradespeople as the Baby Boomer generation retires.
Both mothers are excited to bring their vision to life and change the way others view differently-abled young adults. “Our students are highly capable but often lack the right training opportunity to enter a new field,” said Cofounder/CEO Chernoff. “We want to change that dynamic to offer students more employment options in the skilled trades and become more economically independent.” Added Hohmann, IPS’ cofounder and chief administrative officer: “I am thrilled to bring additional vocational opportunities to the differently-abled community to increase their chances of finding and sustaining well-paying employment opportunities.”
Ensuring that graduates follow safety procedures is a huge part of the program to ensure successful employment for the IPS students with safety certifications and real world knowledge. “The IPS Carpentry curriculum features a heavy emphasis on Safety First, for both woodworking
projects in class and worksite safety for when students advance to working in the trades,” said Carpentry Teacher Max Hochberg. “Being a safe worker is an individual responsibility and IPS students will learn the good habits that are required to be safe on any jobsite.” In the fall of 2023, IPS aims to serve students interested in working in carpentry, woodworking and construction. Upon graduation, IPS also plans to provide support to help graduates with job placement. For more information, please visit the IPS website.