September 2023

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Manufacturing Day is October 1!

Since 2012, Manufacturing Day/Month has grown across the nation with the goal of inspiring the future manufacturing workforce. The Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE), FloridaMakes and the Regional Manufacturers Associations (RMAs) provide support to help you plan events to showcase our manufacturing industry. Planned offerings across the state include in-person and virtual tours of manufacturing facilities, classroom visits and demos, student STEM/robotics competitions, career expos, networking events and more.

Learn More

Over 25% of Workers with Disabilities Employed in Skilled Trades: USDOL

According to recent data from the Department of Labor (DOL), 25.1% of employed people with disabilities in the United States work in trade professions. Covering a range of industries such as transportation, farming, construction and more, these jobs help maintain everyday infrastructure and represent great career opportunities for all Floridians. Recent Employ Florida search results indicate there are over 34,172 openings statewide in these five industry categories.

The DOL blog also states more than one-quarter of employed people with disabilities working in trades report having multiple disabilities. For those who report only one disability, hearing difficulty is listed as most common.

Learn More - Department of Labor Blog

Suggest a Partner for Disability Employment Awareness Month!

The Able Trust is looking for local coffee shops, carts or kiosks to join us in celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month, the recognition of ambitious people with disabilities in the workplace and their contributions to our workforce, this October. You can help us find partners for this endeavor! If you own, operate or have a relationship with a coffee shop that would be interested in sharing our mission of disability-inclusive employment, please click the button below and fill out the brief information form. We will send participating shops a toolkit and supplies, and highlight those businesses' support on our website and social media channels.

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Pulling Together for the 2023-24 School Year

With the new school year kicking off just under a month ago, I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to strengthen connections with our returning High School High Tech coordinators throughout the state, as well as the chance to meet new coordinators and highlight the range of HSHT resources available through The Able Trust. Thank you all for starting this journey for 2023-24!

Many of our sites in and around the Big Bend and North Florida were impacted by Hurricane Idalia last week. As the affected areas continue to work to rebuild as needed to return to normal operations, I encourage HSHT coordinators to reach out to me with any HSHT-specific questions. If you are working with a site that was impacted by the storm, click here to review the recovery resources available in your area. For coordinators and sponsors outside of Idalia's path, please feel free to let me know if you have helpful suggestions or resources to share to aid fellow HSHT sites.

We have a wonderfully collaborative community of educators and advocates throughout Florida. I know we can all work together to rise above the damage and distress caused by this hurricane, and ultimately make this one of our best years yet.

Keep an eye out later this month for a special newsletter from The Able Trust highlighting our slate of Disability Employment Awareness Month activities, including two education-focused presentations and discussions on October 4 and October 18 as part of our returning Webinar Wednesdays series. I look forward to HSHT participation in these events and many more throughout October and beyond!

Coleen Agner

High School High Tech State Director

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VR and The Able Trust Success Stories

VR Client, HSHT Alumnus Cooks Up Innovation on the Job

One key to thriving in any role in the restaurant industry is maximizing your resources--doing all you can and working with your team to make the most of your skills, available equipment and inventory. Jahnquace "Thermon" Watkins exemplifies that resourcefulness to a terrific degree.

A Florida High School High Tech alumnus and Vocational Rehabilitation client through Embrace Families in Maitland, Thermon is participating in an on-the-job training opportunity as a prep cook at Seminole BBQ. In addition to being a diligent, reliable worker and fast learner, Thermon is already offering valuable input and innovative suggestions which go above and beyond the usual assigned duties of a prep cook.

Recently, Thermon noticed Seminole BBQ serves a wide variety of fried foods--from french fries to mushrooms, okra, zucchini and even cookies. He also realized the restaurant was not using many of the tomatoes they purchased, since they were only used as hamburger toppings. Thermon asked Seminole BBQ's owner why the restaurant didn't offer fried tomatoes, and that question led to the creation of their newest menu item--fried green tomatoes.

Thermon will soon transition to a front-of-house position at Seminole BBQ, where he will work directly with customers. Kudos to this outstanding employee on recognizing an opportunity for growth and using his voice!

HSHT Resources

Pearson Offers Insights on Effective Educator-Family Relations

School leaders and educators may wonder how best to engage families amid staff shortages, educator burnout, tight budgets, the need for increased mental health services, and other challenges. Nationally Certified School Psychologist and Pearson Assessments consultant Deb Grill notes “Building trust with families is foundational. Through clear and consistent communication, you show parents you care about these kids and want what’s best for them.” Pearson Assessments’s new parent communication playbook details five effective ways educators can build bridges with parents and guardians.

Download the Playbook (PDF)

disAbility Mentoring Day: November 14 at Kennedy Space Center

NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center (JFKSC) will host an all-day event targeted to high school and college students with disabilities who are interested in exploring a wide range of careers. disAbility Mentoring Day will take place Tuesday, November 14, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering students the opportunity to meet with a JFKSC employee matching each student's interest and have one-on-one time with a volunteer workplace mentor. HSHT students are encouraged to apply and attend. All applications are due by Friday, September 29.

Download the Application (PDF)

Your support ensures Floridians with disabilities have opportunities to gain meaningful employment.


To make your tax-deductible donation to The Able Trust,


Forward this newsletter to other colleagues, and business and community leaders who are interested in disability employment.


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We welcome the opportunity to answer your questions about disability employment. Invite us to speak at your upcoming board meeting, conference or webinar.


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Speaker Request form.

The Able Trust, also known as the Florida Endowment Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation, is a 501(c)(3) public charity established by the Florida Legislature in 1990 as a direct support organization for the 

Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Its mission is to be a key leader in providing

Floridians with disabilities opportunities for successful employment.

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