BPCC’S Program for Successful Employment trains students with cognitive disabilities

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Courtesy Photo | Kenny Lee, general manager of Walmart in Blanchard, BPCC PSE student Kelly Huddleston; Jessica Ginther, assistant manager; Bobbie Brown, BPCC PSE Job Coach.

PSE provides opportunity to gain independence through workforce & vocational training

Bossier Parish Community College serves students with cognitive disabilities and autism through its one-of-a-kind Program for Successful Employment (PSE) program.

This unique two-year training program, which is in the pilot stage, combines a mix of academic and job skills training which helps students with varying cognitive disabilities gain paid employment in a career field of their interest. Students in the program aren’t just working toward the goal of finding a job, they are working toward developing a new level of independence.

PSE familiarizes students with the college setting and provides an environment to develop certain skill sets such as healthy study habits, goal setting, self-confidence, customer service and interpersonal relations.  Students in turn put these skills into practice by serving in a series of externships which are required for program completion.

Sabrina Langley, BPCC’s PSE program director, shares about the important role the community plays in supporting students with cognitive disabilities.  “PSE teaches the foundation and skills needed to become independent in the workforce, while local businesses ensure we have a place to implement the skills learned,” states Langley.

PSE job coaches are another component of the program’s success and they serve to get these students ready for their new role in the workforce by providing help with job applications, resume writing, and mock interviews.  They help to teach students to advocate for themselves while on the job.

Although in its pilot stage, the PSE program has recently marked its own success.  In the last quarter, the percentage of students who have gained paid employment through the PSE has more than tripled, and nearly half of those enrolled in the program are taking college level and vocational literacy courses.  Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from the specialized training; local employers who have hired PSE graduates are also pleased with the quality of training.

Kelly Huddleston, a current student enrolled in the program, has recently been hired for her first job. “Kelly came to us excited, energetic, and ready to work,” shares Kenny Lee, general manager of Walmart in Blanchard where Kelly works as a greeter. “Ms. Bobbie, her job coach, was instrumental in helping Kelly achieve her goal of getting into the workforce.”

“Her smile, enthusiasm and positive attitude are great not only for our customers but for our associates as well,” adds Lee.

Kelly’s father, Mark Huddleston, is grateful to BPCC for providing the program.  “The instructors are great and go the extra mile for the students. The management at Walmart has been great to my daughter and our family. The PSE program has been a real blessing,” shares Huddleston.

The program is actively seeking to expand partnerships with businesses in the region to serve as externship sites where students can put their skills to work and community support is vital to the success of the PSE program.

“As for other corporations considering hiring applicants from BPCC’s program, all we can say is it’s the right thing to do,” states Lee.