The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 requires that state vocational rehabilitation (VR) departments create local partnerships with school districts. These partnerships have led to improvements in the transition from school to work for youth in Florida with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).  

Many students with IDD aged 14–21 are accessing VR services before completing school through a work-based learning experience, or WBLE. While participating in a WBLE, students spend their time in a real work environment, taking on workplace responsibilities, acquiring skills, and gaining insight into their own work interests and the requirements of careers.

This profile describes an innovative WBLE in Brevard County Florida that connects youth to careers in the construction industry.

In 2018, VR, the Home Builders and Contractors Association (HBCA) of Brevard County, and other partners created WBLEs that took place over the summer. This partnership is formally known as Brevard Internships in Construction Knowledge, or BRICK. Students from five Brevard County public high schools participated.

The construction industry is a small but high-wage portion of Brevard County’s economy. It is experiencing high demand for workers due to a looming skills gap as many current employees prepare to retire in the next seven to ten years. The Brick WBLEs are an innovative strategy to connect youth to high wage and high demand jobs in their community.

The WBLEs were so successful that the BRICK program reoccurred in the summers of 2019 and 2020 and expanded the number of participating employers from six to 16. Additionally, similar partnerships came together and developed construction WBLEs in Volusia and Duval counties. In total, there have been 150 construction industry WBLEs in Florida since 2018.

Each student interested in participating in a WBLE worked with a VR counselor to choose a service provider. Next, the provider helped to match the students with the employers and supported the students to interview for the opportunities available. 

Once the students were matched, they participated in the WBLEs over two three-week sessions. They worked from 8 to 30 hours a week, depending on employer preference. Students were given specialized construction, maintenance, and clerical tasks, often taking on a variety of tasks each day. They were paid $11 per hour, and earned $12 per hour if they were promoted into team leader positions.

Some students became interested in learning specific skills, such as welding, and in pursuing careers in the construction field, and others planned to enter into an apprenticeship upon graduation. The partners compiled a video showcasing BRICK and its expansion.

Lessons learned:

The partnership between VR and the HBCA was based on a sector strategy—a plan to address the needs of an industry with a high demand for workers with specialized skills. The HBCA anticipates an increase of 1.7 million new construction jobs by 2030 to meet the needs of Florida’s growing population.

The WBLEs offered students the opportunity to explore many types of work at an apprentice level. They also introduced employers to new potential employees to add to their talent pipeline. Overall, the partners considered the WBLEs successful and increased the number of employers and locations for future WBLEs.

BRICK found that a strategy to increase students’ leadership skills was to assign more experienced students roles assisting others in the WBLE. Employers found that the additional responsibility was a strong motivator for many students and improved their work performance.

For more information, please contact:

Kathy Davis
Business Relations Administrator, Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation