WINTAC’s Peer Mentoring Pilot Projects
The Peer Mentoring Workforce Innovation Pilot Project was developed in response to needs identified in the topic areas of pre-employment transition services, implementation of Section 511, and resources and strategies to promote competitive integrated employment for individuals with disabilities. The Peer Mentoring projects include the development and use of peer mentoring networks for young people with disabilities to help them transition from secondary education to postsecondary education and employment through the power and influence of high expectations, self-determination and the development of self-advocacy skills.
Research has shown that mentors, especially peer mentors, can positively affect the movement of individuals with disabilities towards self-sufficiency through the establishment of high expectations, support and empowerment.
The WINTAC worked closely with VR agencies to establish pilot sites where individuals with disabilities that have been successful in their postsecondary education and/or career goals can act as mentors to other consumers of the VR program.
The Peer Mentoring projects include training for the mentors and the individuals that coordinate the mentoring activities. This training is provided free of charge to the VR program. Led by PolicyWorks, these peer-mentoring networks have a demonstrated record of success in several States.
Peer mentors are being used to:
- help college students succeed in university programs,
- support work experience for youth with disabilities, and
- develop self-advocacy skills as they explore career opportunities through network building.
The peer mentor projects will demonstrate a replicable model that can be utilized by State VR Agencies and that can significantly contribute to improvements in services and outcomes for young people with significant disabilities served by the Workforce Development System.
WINTAC Subject Matter Experts are providing technical assistance to state VR agencies to support the development and implementation of the peer mentoring. The Peer MentoringWorks certification and training tools are customized for each state’s pilot as part of an Intensive Technical Assistance (ITA) agreement. The WINTAC WIPP peer mentoring pilots are: Alaska, Florida, Virginia, Maine, Maryland and Mississippi.
There are currently Peer Mentoring Pilots operating in Florida, Mississippi, Alaska and designing and implementing the model in 12 additional states. All of the models have consistent participants, helping to create a nation-wide population of a new workforce, including:
- Peer Mentees, a student, 14-21 years old
- Peer Mentors, like-age student, 18 years old or older, usually 18-30, receives training, advanced skills, postsecondary status
- CRPs as Administrators and/or Coordinators