When you imagine the future for your child on the autism spectrum, do you imagine her or him using computer guided tools to create precision metal parts for aerospace companies? Maybe you should.
In 2013, an organization called the Uniquely Abled Project sought to find out what people with developmental disabilities were good at. How are these folks “uniquely abled”? The answer they found was that many were good at repetitive work with clear instructions, work that couldn’t be done solely by a machine, where they are mostly working as an individual. They began asking aerospace and defense companies whether these talents would be useful, and experts in those industries said they would.
Uniquely Abled Academy (UAA) was born.
Jay Nolan Community Services, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities live fulfilling lives, is now partnering with College of the Canyons to bring the UAA to the Santa Clarita Valley this spring. The academy helps young adults with high-functioning autism learn computer numerical control (CNC) machining. Participants gain skills that could qualify them for careers in industries such as aerospace, automotive, medical device and other manufacturing companies.
There is a tremendous shortage of CNC machine operators in the manufacturing industry, and in partnership with machine technology educators, state and local service agencies and nonprofit and for-profit organizations, Uniquely Abled Academy now works to fill this gap. In 13-16 weeks a UA Academy teaches young adults with high functioning autism to be entry-level CNC machinists and provides job placement and post-hire support.
The UAA at College of the Canyons is a 12-week program, with 240 hours of in-class instruction led by an experienced CNC operator and instructor, plus 60 hours of focus on job readiness, soft skills, site visits and open laboratory. Students will learn to program, set up and operate CNC machines and quality control instruments, shop mathematics and blueprint reading. Graduates will qualify for a number of entry-level positions, including machine trainee, machinist apprentice, CNC operator and CNC programmer.
Participants must be 18 or older and have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Some tuition assistance is available. Participants must also:
- Show competence in organizational skills and be able to function independently in social and academic settings;
- Exhibit competence in reading, basic math and computer comprehension;
- Demonstrate social competency including skills in self-advocacy, independent living and social collaboration; and
- Demonstrate skills in the appropriate use of language in a social context.
A similar UAA program at Glendale Community College is 13 weeks long. A graduation and open house for that program takes place at 6 p.m. March 14. To attend and learn more about the program, RSVP at UAAGrad2018.eventbrite.com.
For information on both programs, and to apply, visit uniquelyabledproject.org/academy-program.