Focus on Innovation is a series of interviews designed to provide our members with information on successful programs throughout the nation.  Our goal is to spark new ideas and discussions. This month’s interviewee is Lena Balk, Training and Assessment Services Manager at Minnesota Resource Center.

Why did you join the ARPCT Board of Directors?
I felt it was a nice way to have a greater connection to all the programs that were out there, and to help shape the direction of this important organization.

What do you think is the greatest benefit of membership?
Having access to Skillsoft is a huge benefit. Outside of that, our members get a better sense of what is going on around the country especially in the areas of funding and innovation. We get to learn and grow from each other.

Is there are program you are working on that you would like to highlight?
Our Focus Forward
program is currently working with individuals diagnosed with or have a suspected diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

We are seeing a huge need for career skill navigation help. We also provide services for career exploration, planning and placement. We want to make sure people have access to all the services they need, and that they have one person who will follow them through the process. One of the most important things we do is expose people to different workplaces so they can see that career in action. This activity gives them valuable information so they can make better decisions based on facts and real life experiences.

What was the problem you were hoping to solve when you started this program?
We saw that many kids with Individual Education Plan (IEP) were transitioning out of high school and were not prepared to be successful in school or the workplace. We found that many of these individuals need a little more time to refine their skills and gain self-confidence. We did some innovative programs at area high schools, which helped eliminate many of the transportation issues and connection them to the community. We are so proud that we have been successful in getting these kids into the right program and moving in the right direction.

How is this program funded?
We have a grant covering the individuals with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder funded through the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This model historically been funded through Vocational Rehabilitation Services, the Department of Health, and MOFAS.