Leaving school and starting the job hunt is a confusing time for anyone, but for people living with disabilities, the process can be even harder.
The Service to Enhance Potential, or STEP, is a Dearborn-based nonprofit that has been helping people with mental and physical disabilities prepare for, and gain, employment since the 1970s. Part of the program aligns high schools and local businesses to create a school-to-work pipeline.
“We’re a nonprofit that, for the last 47 years, has focused most of our services on engaging individuals with special needs or other barriers to employment,” says Brent Mikulski, the president and CEO.
The organization was started by three parents “who had a desire for their children to do more than what was typically offered in the community,” Mikulski says.
Today, roughly 1,300 people in the metro Detroit area use the services, starting from as young as 14 and as old as 70. STEP offers classes and onsite training, support for self-employed people, multiple programs for finding a job and seven resource centers.
“Our biggest growth area is our youth, from 16 to 24,” Mikulski says. “We’re providing more services for our students transitioning from high school to work.”
A recent addition was its school-to-work program, designed to give even more attention to students as they begin thinking about careers. STEP pairs restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, small businesses, banks, hospitals and more with high schools in the area. The partnerships allow students to meet with potential employers and do paid internships before deciding on a career.
“We have an 80-percent success rate of finding folks jobs when they graduate, and that’s because everyone works together,” Mikulski says.