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About WorkAbility


WorkAbility is a state funded program that provides pre-employment skills training, worksite training and follow-up services for youth (12-22) in special education who are making the transition from school to work.


It provides special education students with the opportunity to complete their secondary education while obtaining marketable job skills. WorkAbility is funded by the California Department of Education, Special Education Division.



  • The California Department of Education completed a two-year study in 1981 that provided substantive information concerning the status of vocational programs for students with disabilities. Results of the study indicated that these students were not being adequately prepared for the labor market.
  • WorkAbility I was initiated in November 1981 as a pilot project to test the concept of work experience for youth with disabilities. 
  • WorkAbility I continues to successfully conduct interagency coordination of services, which began with a September 1982 Employment Development Department, State Department of Rehabilitation and California Department of Education (CDE) non-financial interagency agreement.
  • Through a designation as one of the ten best transition programs of its type in the United States, WorkAbility I has received national recognition of its success in matching young adults who have disabilities with employers who need workers

Array of Services


The Array of Services is a full continuum consistent with the Education Code. These components comprise an effective transition system for middle school and high school students. A WAI student (served) must be provided curriculum integration of work readiness skills, career/vocational assessment and a minimum of one Connecting Activity and one Work Based Learning Service. Of these, at least one must be directly provided by WAI or documentation must exist of WAI's role in the indirect provision of the service.

  • School Based Component - Elements that are commonly part of the school curriculum and/or educational delivery system.
  • Connecting Activities - Programs and services that help link school and work based learning opportunities.
  • Work Based Learning - Work site learning experiences or strategies to connect the classroom to work.

In addition to these mandated services, served high school/middle school students may receive:

  • Unpaid opportunities
  • Industry Tours
  • Workshops
  • Assessments such as interest inventories
  • Guest speakers
  • Career awareness and guidance activities
  • Community/volunteer projects
  • Mobility training

Placed high school students receive:

  • Paid opportunities - student receiving a paycheck through subsidized or unsubsidized wages.
  • Subsidized - WorkAbility I Grant Funding, Workforce Investment Act, Department of Rehabilitation, etc.
  • Unsubsidized - paid by employer
Students Learn To Earn!