National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which is observed in October, celebrates the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities and showcases supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices.
To mark the month, two Kentucky school districts, through a partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education Office of Special Education and Early Learning (OSEEL), Berea Makerspace and Parker Hannifin Inc., are stepping up to promote inclusion and workplace accessibility for people with disabilities. Parker Hannifin is a global leader in motion and control technologies. Berea Makerspace is a member-run multifaceted workspace offering mentoring experience in various career pathways.
The Purpose in Action Design Challenge engages schoolwide teams in designing and developing a manufacturing work cell prototype that puts workplace accessibility for people with disabilities at the forefront. A new initiative through OSEEL’s American Rescue Plan funding, the challenge is designed to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on postsecondary transition for students with disabilities.
Berea Independent and Woodford County are the first two school districts participating in this year’s inaugural Purpose in Action Design Challenge. In October, district teams visited Parker Hannifin’s O-ring Headquarters in Lexington, where they heard from workplace professionals about the characteristics of the work environment, work processes and the company’s mission. Students and staff learned firsthand from team members on the floor of the manufacturing center about designing a prototype that will be judged and, eventually, developed into an industry-standard work cell.
The Purpose in Action Design Challenge offers a new and innovative way to engage stakeholders in the principles of United We Learn, Kentucky’s vision for the future of public education. The challenge creates an opportunity to provide a collective voice in promoting inclusion that spans education and community (e.g., employment) environments.
The challenge runs throughout the 2022-2023 school year. The teams will present their designs to a panel of stakeholders and engineers from Parker Hannifin in the spring. Parker Hannifin will provide them with an industry-standard model of the work cell and offer work-ready certificates for all future students who meet efficiency measurement standards for their industry.
To learn more about the Purpose in Action Design Challenge, contact ARPtransition@education.ky.gov.