Clark State expands partnership with The Abilities Connection to offer assessment lab

The Abilities Connection empowers people with disabilities.

Clark State College has expanded its partnership with The Abilities Connection (TAC) to launch an assessment lab on the main campus in Springfield.

TAC collaborated with Quest Inc. to offer a hands-on, performance-based vocational assessment for students with disabilities and other barriers through a PAES (Practical Assessment Exploration System) lab that will launch this month at Clark State, according to the college.

Quest Inc. bought the PAES in the spring, which is a transition assessment of employment potential for students with disabilities or other barriers that may prevent them from obtaining employment after they transition out of high school. It’s validated to predict employment potential three to five years in the future and can help identify employment skills a student has or may need to develop.

The new lab is designed to mimic real workplace settings, with instructors being supervisors and students being employees, where students will explore jobs in five areas including business/marketing, service, production, construction/industrial and computer technology.

TAC, which was selected by Quest Inc. to manage and provide instruction for the lab, is a Springfield organization that empowers people with disabilities and other barriers to reach their full potential through employment, training and support.

“Shifting services and support from facility-based models to the community aligns perfectly with the PAES lab at Clark State,” said Scott Jones, director of community connections and employment at Quest Inc. “We’ve learned over the past two years that many individuals and families consider TAC to be their place of employment. But we also learned it’s not the TAC building that individuals and families are attached to — it’s the staff relationships they value and trust.”

Clark State housing the new PAES lab is an expansion of its partnership with TAC, which also relocated its Fresh Abilities restaurant to the Eagle’s Nest at Clark State for students to receive the classroom portion of their training program through the college’s workforce and business solutions.

“Clark State and TAC are two organizations with similar missions. The PAES lab is yet another great program that fosters our missions. The lab further exhibits belonging while preparing students for employment and exposing them to the Clark State campus,” said Crystal Jones, vice president of marketing, diversity and community impact at Clark State.

Jones, who serves on the board of directors for TAC, said the lab is also intentionally located in the Student Services department to ensure additional resources are available for those who need them.

“The PAES lab helps to bring our partnerships with Clark State and Quest Inc. full circle to strengthen opportunities available for people with disabilities and other barriers in our community,” said Jim Zahora, CEO of TAC.

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