Person-centred transition programme for students to post-school life
- VAST Academy
- Houston Community College
- Country of Implementation
- United States of America
- North America
- Texas/ Houston
- Start Year
- First published
“The HCC VAST Academy was the push I needed to achieve my Associates Degree.” Tiffany Grady, HCC alumna
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.
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.
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.