The Skills Center
The BCI Skills Center is a first-of-its-kind vocational training facility that offers a variety of programs for individuals with disabilities. Courses are developed in partnership with local businesses. After successfully completing eight weeks of hard and soft skills training, students are hired and move directly into the community workforce where they earn a competitive wage and are ready to succeed.
A 2019 study titled The Inclusive Talent Pool: Employing People with Disabilities showed 81% of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities do not have a job—and of those, 46% would like one. Through comprehensive training at the Skills Center, we enable each student to have that chance.
While each course has its own unique qualifications, some common items would include:
- 18 years of age or older
- Documented disability
- Desire to train for competitive employment
- Strong attention to detail, work ethic, stamina
- Able to follow instructions and work independently or as part of a team without one-on-one supervision
- Reside in St. Charles, St. Louis or Lincoln County
- Eligible for authorization by Vocational Rehabilitation, Developmental Disabilities Resource Board, Department of Mental Health, Productive Living Board, Community Opportunities, or other funding source
- Able to self-administer medications
- Independent in self-care needs
The BCI Skills Center opened in 2019 after thorough research on training opportunities for people with disabilities. What we found was that most commercial training centers only accepted a small number of students with diagnosed disabilities. They were also required to test into the program, with only the highest functioning applicants earning admittance.
We then met with local school district representatives and asked what was missing for young adults with disabilities. They said students with behavioral issues were excluded from vo-tech training programs, even if they had been academically accepted. Instead, they were offered field trip-style, short-term work experiences. Educators feared services and support after graduation were even more scarce.
We also surveyed people with disabilities, who told us they needed opportunities to learn new skills, apply those skills in order to gain experience, and then pursue work.
Finally, we talked with local businesses. Many were open to employing adults with disabilities. However, since they were unsure how to hire or train this unique population, most had not yet started.
Armed with this information, we strongly believed it was time to create a vocational training facility specifically for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And today, the Skills Center is a reality that is meeting the needs of our communities and schools and the growing demand for a skilled workforce.
BCI offers a continuum of employment opportunities. For those who want to work competitively in jobs not offered through the Skills Center, our Competitive Employment program may be a good choice. We are dedicated to finding the right career path for each individual we serve.
I always knew my son Nathan was capable, but no one would give him a chance. Having Autism and being nonverbal can make it so challenging for other people to see your strengths. But now he is working, and we are all so proud of him—and he is very proud of himself! At age 37, it has been a long road for him, but he is finally working full time and is off disability. He also has insurance, a 401k, and more savings than me!