IVRS trains students to succeed in the workforce

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From left are Brandi Reisdorf, IVRS Rehabilitation Associate, and Lisa Bergfeld, IVRS Vocational Counselor. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

An organization known as Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) has been working with Clayton Ridge staff and students to help prepare all youth, especially those with disabilities, for success after high school. IVRS focuses on job exploration counseling, work-based learning experiences, counseling on opportunities, workplace readiness training and self-advocacy instruction. 

“Based on recommendations from the downtown assessment in December and the city’s comprehensive plan, we decided that it would be beneficial for the community, the employers, and the residents if we started investigating the possibilities of working with the school or with NICC to make sure that we have a reliable, responsible work force – our students – that’s ready to be a part of the community and help the community function at its best,” said Emily Sadewasser, director of Guttenberg’s Chamber of Commerce.

Sadewasser pulled together a meeting between IVRS Rehabilitation Associate Brandi Reisdorf and Clayton Ridge Superintendent Shane Wahls. “Voc rehab is already teaching valuable skills students need to learn about, like how to search for jobs, fill out applications, write a resume,  and have a successful interview,” said Sadewasser. “The organization helps them determine what their post-high school path could be – whether that is going to a 4-year school, a 2-year program, or right into the workforce.

“We learned that the school is working on some of the things that we wanted to make sure were accomplished, such as tours of different businesses in the area, a career day, and the financial literacy program Reality Check. I think those are important things that all fit together with what we’re trying to accomplish, like professional skills training and filling gaps in the work force,” Sadewasser told The Press.

IVRS regularly interacts with students at Clayton Ridge, as well as at high schools in Elkader, Postville, Monona, and other schools and colleges throughout the state. “We typically start working with students their sophomore year of high school, but usually provide some orientation and information to freshmen as well,” said Reisdorf. She and her team communicate with school counselors and superintendents, special education teachers, and resource teachers. In addition to the school personnel, IVRS makes contact with various businesses to focus on job shadows and informational interviewing opportunities for high school students.

“We focus on working with students that are on an IEP, or 504, or have some type of disability. These are students who have barriers that may result in them needing extra help with finding a job, being successful in post secondary education, and maintaining employment,” said Reisdorf, noting that the skills they teach are valuable for all students. “We can assist with job seeking skills (resume development, filling out job applications, interviewing skills, making contact with employers on behalf of the job candidate), job readiness training (getting to work on time, appropriate work behaviors, attire and grooming, increasing productivity), referral to other resources, assessments, and assistance with rehabilitation technology (purchasing required adaptive equipment to assist the job candidate whether it be hearing aids, or other adaptive devices).  We also have a self-employment program if this is the appropriate route for a job candidate to go.” 

“We haven’t had an opportunity yet, but we would like to be more intermingled into the classrooms to aid in teaching employability skills such as filling out job applications, creating a resume, performing mock interviews, etc.  We also would like to start bringing employers, college representatives, and other speakers to the school to preach these same things,” said Reisdorf.

IVRS also serves a large adult population. "Statewide, we assist thousands of clients successfully in becoming employed in competitive jobs in the community.  Many of the services for youth can carry over to adult services, and we can also connect adults with various services such as job development, supported employment, or on-the-job training programs where we work with the employer to cover some of the employees wages until they are fully trained," Reisdorf told The Press.

"The district currently has numerous things in place that we may be able to have IVRS support or assist with,” said Wahls. “We will need time to determine what those needs are and how we might best collaborate together."

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