LOCS PHASES program seeks business partnerships for student job opportunities

By Megan Kelley
Staff Writer
ORION TWP. — The Lake Orion Community Schools PHASES program is looking to partner up with some local businesses to secure some form of work and growth opportunities for its students.
PHASES is a program run through LOCS for post-secondary aged adults with disabilities. The program, run by the district’s Director of Special Education Julie Gutman, works to “promote the development of self-determination through the acquisition of skills in the transition into adulthood through community participation, employment and adult living,” Gutman said.
One part of this is providing an avenue for students to learn job skills in the hopes that they will be hired some day.
Pre-COVID, the district had a good portion of PHASES students working at a variety of different local businesses. Since then, the program has essentially taken a backseat with the district losing connections with their former job sites.
“I really am looking for the community to get involved because we could place them in (the businesses), they don’t have to pay them,” Gutman said. “We train them, we teach them, but my hope is that they do the job really well and then they offer to employ them. Or we could go in and volunteer, or community members could come to us and teach us things.”
LOCS is hoping to provide opportunities in transition services which include job training, job shadowing, soft skills training, volunteer services, life skills and employment services. The special education program also provides on the job training and coaching at job placements until the student is independent. These opportunities can come from any local business that might need an extra hand. In the past, students worked at places like Buffalo Wild Wings, Petco and Goodwill.
“Our student’s have a variety of strengths,” Gutman said. “There are very high functioning kids that could be an asset to a business and everybody has ‘Help Wanted’ signs so, let’s work together.”
While the program allows growth opportunities for the PHASES students, it also provides a unique opportunity to bring disability awareness to the community.
“So many people don’t know all the cool strengths (the students have),” said Gutman. “My students will show up every day because they love it. They love meeting new people and talking to new people.”
Last week, the PHASES students held a car wash with the Orion Township Fire Department at the Pine Tree Center where students were able to hone in on skills by tending to cars and making signs to attract more customers
“As PHASES students, we love to help others. It makes us very happy! We are thankful for everyone supporting our program, for field trips, working on job skills and learning to cook and become independent,” said S. Bindig, one of the district’s PHASES students. “We are so thankful for this day.”
Because the district is basically starting over from scratch with the program, they are open to just about any kind of opportunity for their students to learn, whether it is folding pizza boxes for a day or job shadowing for a week.
“This could be a win-win for everybody. I think there are so many creative things we could do if we partnered with them (businesses),” Gutman said..
If you own a business and are interested in partnering with LOCS in providing opportunities for students to learn and grow, you can contact Gutman by phone at 248-693-5430 or via email at julie.gutman@lok12.org.

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