Ready to Work Academy at College of the Canyons Takes an Innovative Approach to Teach Vocational Skills to Special Needs Students

The Ready to Work Academy at College of the Canyons is putting people with special needs on the path to self-sufficiency.

College of the Canyons (COC) and Carousel Ranch, a local equestrian therapy and vocational training program in Santa Clarita, worked together to launch the pilot Ready to Work Academy in June 2019. The program provides equitable access to education and inclusion in the workforce to a population that often faces barriers to both.

While Carousel Ranch also provides equestrian therapy, that was not part of the new academy, which drew on their expertise in vocational training for people with special needs. The program began with a pilot class of six students with special needs who received Certificates of Completion from COC for the Customer Service for Retail, Food Service & Hospitality course.

Classes met twice a week for more than 15 weeks. Students spent one day training for two and a half hours in the classroom at the College of the Canyons campus. They spent three hours on a different day gaining work experience at Starbucks and Holiday Inn Express, the business partners for the program.

A second Ready to Work Academy cohort started in early 2020, with the addition of an entry-level Warehouse Fulfillment and Logistics course and business partner AMS Fulfillment. But due to COVID-19, it was put on hold.

The RTW Academy program began again in April this year with both pathways and 10 students. All three business partners returned, and Bluemark joined as a business partner for the Warehouse Fulfillment and Logistics course. More courses are in development.

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