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State rehabilitation services, community college system ease access to credentials for in-demand jobs

GADSDEN — The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Alabama Community College System are streamlining access to in-demand credentials and jobs for residents with disabilities.

“People with disabilities remain disproportionately unemployed or underemployed in comparison to the general population,” said ADRS Commissioner Jane Elizabeth Burdeshaw. “The goal of the vocational rehabilitation program is to support the business community and the individuals we serve by reducing barriers that keep otherwise qualified candidates on the sideline.

“ADRS helps people in this special population obtain employment while also helping Alabama businesses fill needed vacancies by hiring and retaining highly skilled and highly motivated employees who come through the VRS program.”

The department’s Vocational Rehabilitation Service college training policy has eliminated most income-based eligibility requirements for individuals in the VRS programs and who are eligible through ADRS to access educational services at Alabama’s public community and technical colleges.

Services include financial assistance with tuition, fees, books and supplies for training in associate degree programs as well as technical, certificate or short-term certificate programs.

“This is why our colleges are here – to create opportunity for every Alabama resident who is able and willing to change their quality of life and be the change agents that their local businesses and communities need in order to help grow Alabama’s labor force participation,” said Jimmy H. Baker, Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System

“We appreciate collaborating with organizations who know what it means to truly serve our communities together with the best that we can offer. We look forward to continued growth in enrollment at our colleges as a result of eliminating financial barriers for residents who might benefit from the department’s services.”

Residents with disabilities train often at Alabama’s two-year colleges for in-demand careers such as truck driving, healthcare and business management. In addition to training in college programs, the ACCS Innovation Center’s no-cost, rapid Skills for Success training programs are also available.

Gadsden State student Dawson Gladden was among the first to train through this program. He earned a certificate in Automotive Collision Repair in 2022 and is employed by Nissan of Gadsden.

“The education I received at Gadsden State and the guidance I had through the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services allowed me to find full-time employment with good pay,” he said. “I couldn’t have reached my goals if it had not been for the training and services I received.”

Tony Phillips, the manager of the body shop at Nissan of Gadsden, values programs and services offered by the college and ADRS.

“The opportunity to partner with Gadsden State and ADRS is essential to keeping well-trained, competent certified automotive collision repairmen, which is an important component of Nissan’s commitment to best serve our customers in the Gadsden area,” he said.

In addition to financial assistance for qualifying VRS participants who attend Alabama’s two-year colleges, ADRS assists colleges with much-needed accommodations to help ADRS participants successfully achieve in the classroom.

“Programs like this are integral to changing the lives of students and helping grow Alabama’s labor force,” said Pam Clough, ADA director at Gadsden State. “Together, ADRS, Gadsden State and our sister colleges are paving the way for individuals to realize their potential by breaking down barriers and building bridges to success.”

Alabama residents interested in learning more about services through the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services can call 1-800-441-7607 or visit here. TTY users can dial 711 or visit alabamarelay.com for more information.

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