The ACT/YSA Vocational Training Program

What is Ala Costa Centers’ Art-Based Vocational Program?

The Ala Costa Centers’ Adult Community Training [ACT] program in collaboration with Youth Spirit Artworks [YSA] in Berkeley, California is offering a unique Vocational Training Program which provides job training for adults with developmental disabilities through a daily, art-based vocational program and supported studio environment.  Clients will work alongside young adult peers under the instruction of Youth Spirit Artwork’s Art Director, ACT Program Coordinator, and peer leaders.  Through studio art-making and sales, community engagement, weekly life-skills training, and the hosting of public events, clients will work to effectively earn money, gain vital job skills, and improve leadership and communication abilities.  Our model of innovative programming benefits people with developmental disabilities by providing structured vocational training- allowing participants to improve their abilities to set personal and professional goals while identifying strategies for self-employment and entrepreneurial success within a microenterprise

This is how it works:

Clients meet Monday through Friday from 12:30pm – 6:30pm in Youth Spirit Artwork’s studio facility at 1740 Alcatraz Avenue in Berkeley.  The day will be split into an afternoon session from 12:30pm – 3pm and an evening session from 3:30pm – 6:30pm, with a half hour break in the middle.  During this time, clients will work in a supported art studio or on community projects, receive personalized art instruction, and participate in vocational and life skills training. Clients receive a $75.00 monthly stipend for successful participation in the program, as well as 50% of the proceeds from any art work they make and sell through the gallery.

Weekly vocational and life skills trainings will take place during Wednesday afternoon sessions and Friday evening sessions.  Weekly trainings cover a variety of topics including money management, non-violent communication, healthy lifestyle habits, and stress reduction, as well as any other topics that might benefit the personal and professional goals of clients.  Friday evening sessions will allocate 45 minutes of time to a weekly Youth Empowerment Group meeting.  This will be a time for peer-led discussions encouraging leadership and self-advocacy.

As clients become more immersed in the program, they are able to choose a “track” that fits their vocational needs and interests.  The five tracks are: Non-Profit Social Services, Retail Sales and Entrepreneurship, Non-Profit Management, Communications/Social Media, and Marketing.  Clients are encouraged to work on independent or group projects within their chosen track.  These specific tracks allow participants to recognize their unique talents and discover jobs that are in line with their interests.

ACT/YSA Vocational Training Program engages clients in completing a Progression Ladder of increasing opportunities and responsibilities as they learn and develop within the program. The Progression Ladder reflects a client’s success in setting and achieving goals, taking responsibility for their development as an employee and artist, and maintaining positive relationships with peers. The rungs on the Progression Ladder are: Aspirant, Apprentice, Apprentice Leader, and Jr. Artist.  Progression up the ladder provides clients with motivation to succeed as well as a clear indication of their own progress within the program as they work toward job-readiness.

The ACT/YSA Vocational Training Program is completely client-centered and programming is based on the needs and preferences of the trainees.  The Peer-Based Goal Achievement Program reflects the existence of clients in leadership positions at every level.  In the model, clients work with Jr. Artists in identifying their own goals, determining individual projects within the program, and participating in weekly community meetings on leadership and self-advocacy.  Clients and their peer mentors meet once a week to determine their progress and discuss the direction of their work.

The level of self-determination and personal expression available in an arts-based training program provides a truly innovative platform for professional growth.  Arts-based training opens new doors for local collaborations and meaningful employment for people with developmental disabilities.  Working alongside homeless and low income peers provides an enriching environment of diverse experiences and supports- leading to increased empathy and understanding between clients, staff, and the larger YSA community.

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