Innovative Practice 2020 on Inclusive Education and ICT

Person-centred transition programme for students to post-school life

VAST (Vocational Advancement and Skills Training) Academy, a department of Houston Community College (HCC) in the US state of Texas, gives students with intellectual and developmental disabilities the option of continuing their education after high school through a comprehensive post-secondary transition programme. Through this person-centred programme, students can gain credentials, vocational skills, and employment assistance as part of their transition to post-school life. Since its founding in 1990, VAST Academy has catered to more than 4,000 students.

“The HCC VAST Academy was the push I needed to achieve my Associates Degree.”

Tiffany GradyHCC Alumna
About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:VAST Academy
Organisation:Houston Community College / VAST Academy
Country
of Implementation
United States/ Texas/ Houston
Start Year1990

FACTS & FIGURES

  • The programme has catered to 4,000+ students since 1990.
  • Some 200+ students enrol annually.
  • The Academy boasts a 70 per cent employment success rate.

PROBLEMS TARGETED

Most students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the United States leave high school insufficiently prepared for living independently, with few skills for employment and few options to attend college.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

VAST Academy offers a post-secondary transition programme enabling students aged 18 to 25 to move into jobs or to further their education. It was one of the first institutions in the United States to offer inclusive continuing education to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Opportunities include vocational certificates (e.g., to work in the retail industry) and career-readiness credentials, such as the two-year Occupational Skills Career Readiness Certificate. Some students concurrently pursue a career while enrolling in college credit courses at HCC.

A complementary person-centred support service offers mentoring and tutoring, career counselling, and self-advocacy training. VAST also offers employment and internship placement assistance.

The Academy reports a 75 per cent successful completion rate for its two-year Occupational Skills Career Readiness Certificate and a 70 per cent employment success rate. In addition, between 15 to 20 per cent of its graduates transition to college credit programmes.

A group of graduates in ropes are waving their hands and holding their graduation certificate up.

The proud graduates of the Houston Community College, VAST Academy, Class of 2018.

FUNDING, OUTLOOK AND TRANSFERABILITY

VAST Academy has an annual operating cost of $730,000, half of which is financed by tuition revenues. The Academy also receives state funding and foundation grants.

HCC has shared VAST’s post-secondary transition programme as a good practice with other colleges, and has received national recognition.

VAST will implement a peer mentor model, provide enhanced support for students transitioning to college credit programmes, and create more pathways to continuing education and workforce training programmes.

FACTSHEET

Download factsheet as accessible word
download

LINKS AND FURTHER READING