Uniquely Abled Academy at COC celebrates first class

From left, Ivan Rosenberg and Jeffery Forrest watch Justin Gamboa receive a National Career Readiness Certificate as well as a Certificate of Completion from UAA Director Mike Bastine. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Corral / COC Public Information Office.

COC celebrated another graduation recently, as the college’s first Uniquely Abled Academy (UAA) class finished a pilot program designed for highly functional autistic individuals.

“We vetted and tested and interviewed and got 10 candidates,” said UAA Director Mike Bastine. “All 10 did extremely well in the training program, which was very intensive.”

After completing a 12-week program that provided 420 hours of training and instruction, participants enrolled in the college’s first Uniquely Abled Academy (UAA) cohort graduated June 8th and qualified for entry-level positions as CNC operators, machinist apprentices, and machine trainees

During the program’s first ever session, the cohort underwent Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) training, Monday through Thursday, and soft skills training on Fridays, according to Karen Navarro, Career Program Coordinator for UAA at COC.

“We call them a cohort because it’s much tighter than a class,” said Bastine. “A lot of them drive in together, go to class together, eat together… they establish lifelong friendships.”

College of the Canyons launched UAA in spring 2018 with the purpose of creating career and job opportunities for highly functional autistic individuals by providing them with soft skills, open laboratory, job readiness, and 21st century skills training.

“The last day of the 12 weeks we had set up 16 employer interviews,” recalled Bastine. “Right now they’re continuing follow up interviews and we anticipate that all 10 [trainees] will be employed in a couple weeks,” Bastine stated proudly. Some have multiple offers.

After reflecting on the first UAA session, College of the Canyons officials have decided to continue the program. Its next session set to begin some time in January 2019. Recruitment for the next cohort of 10 students will begin in September.

For more information about the Uniquely Abled Academy program at COC visit the UAA website.

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