May 3, 2019
August 8, 2019
Palo Alto Career Training student serving food

Santa Clara County School Boards Association (SCCSBA) announced that PAUSD and Palo Alto Veterans Administration’s Palo Alto Career Training (PACT) program has been selected as one of four 2019 Glenn Hoffmann Exemplary Program Award recipients.

2019 Hoffman Award: Palo Alto Career Training

Brief Description

The Palo Alto Career Training (PACT) program teaches skills through direct instruction and work experience that will help prepare students to obtain, maintain, and sustain meaningful employment. A student with an IEP or 504 plan is on site for job training with a job coach and is exposed to a variety of work experiences. There is a 5:1 teacher-student ratio to ensure that each student receives individual attention and support. In the words of PACT transition specialist Susan Tapella, “The time and compassion given by VA staff helps. Our students are treated like everyone else and the experience gained here really is a selling point for their resumes.”

The goal of the PACT program is for students with special needs to gain work experience in a career interest and/or to obtain competitive employment while developing key job and life skills. To accomplish this, students receive (a) on-site job training from teachers and job coaches, (b) social and employment skills instruction including the development of a career portfolio, and (c) assistance from PACT staff with job placement upon completion of the program.

History of the Program

The PACT program began over 20 years ago as a small group of students working a couple hours a week at the VA Palo Alto hospital campus. Over the years, it grew to become a part-time program serving the hospital 20 hours per week in the canteen and hospitality departments. In 2012, the program was shut down for a year to reorganize and change the focus of training. 

The newly reformed PACT program was reopened in 2013 with availability for students to work all hours during the regular school week. Opportunities were expanded from the canteen and hospitality departments to areas throughout the entire hospital campus. Job coaches were added in early 2016 to better support students. In the words of one PACT job coach, “our goal is to grow their independence, but we are always here to support them.” Currently, student work experience positions are available in the following departments: Information and Technology; Medical and Research Administration; Canteen Services; Retail Store; Nutrition and Food Services; Prosthetics; Patient Transportation Services; Environmental Management Systems; Hospital Information Desk; Reproduction/Printing Services; and more. All work experience assignments are offered during the school day. Arshdeep Shinh, an education specialist brought on as part of the 2013 reboot, now presents the PACT program at national conferences as a model for other districts to emulate.