By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
In January, Mid-State Education District, based in Little Falls, will be implementing a new program. Practical Assessment Exploration System (PAES) will begin assisting special education students and young adults with simulated work experiences. This hands-on transition program will give each “employee” the opportunity to learn exactly what they want to do with their work lives and what they are good at.
The students become the employees and teachers become supervisors. Strict work procedures are followed so each student gets the feel of real work, while at the same time learning and exploring new career and vocational areas.
“We are starting in January with ninth graders and older,” said Jennie Stumpf, a special education administrator with Mid-State. “All Morrison County and Onamia schools are able to send their students to the PAES lab.”
PAES labs teach work and life skills training. It stresses proper work behavior development while allowing participants to explore work options.
“Here, they will be focussing on a variety of different jobs to see what they like and what they may be interested in doing after high school,” said Desi Cary, PAES lab supervisor.
Each session begins with the student clocking in, just as if they were at work. They get paid with Mid-State bucks (not real currency) and with that, they also learn about budgeting.
The students will get their job materials, preselected by their supervisor. He or she will explain to the supervisor what they are supposed to do for their timed task.
The program offers more than 260 job tasks within five areas. The levels of each range from very easy to difficult. Students work independently from each other.
The five areas include computer technology, construction and industrial, processing and production, consumer and services and business and marketing.
Each area includes a minimum of 48 tasks. Under computer technology, a participant may work on data entry or with digital photos. Under the area of construction, the tasks could include shop measurements or electrical projects such as wiring a doorbell. With consumer and services, students could work on food measurement, sewing or housekeeping.
The tasks ascertain if the student is able to complete the job within a competitive time frame, ensuring employability. The students rate how well they like the task and the supervisor marks how independent each student was at completing each task.
At the end of the semester, the student returns to their school with a comprehensive report which shows the completed tasks, what they like to do and which areas were a strength.
“Students work independently, working through problems, just like a real job,” said Dave Erickson, PAES lab supervisor. “This simulated program is just like a real job.”
Funding for this project ($15,000) was made possible by the National Joint Powers Alliance through an innovative funding grant for a Region 5 transition improvement project and the Morrison County Interagency Collaborating Council.
The PAES Lab will be having an open house for the public from 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday, at 1906 B First Ave. NE, in the mall across from Century 21 New Horizons Real Estate. For more information, call (320) 631-0030.