LUBBOCK, Texas– The Summer Earn and Learn Program is a statewide initiative that helps students with disabilities learn job skills by giving them paid opportunities to work, a Workforce Solutions South Plains employee said on Thursday.

In the West Texas region, 88 students between the ages of 14 and 22 signed up to participate this year.

The initiative is made possible through partnerships with groups like the Science Spectrum, United Supermarkets, CVS, Mighty Wash, Walgreens and Adventure Park.

53 employers signed up to have SEAL students this year. By the end of the 5-week program, students sometimes receive full-time job offers from these placements.

It’s Neil Milton’s second year as an employee of the SEAL Program. This year, he chose to work at the Science Spectrum.

“I’ve really learned how everything works and operates. I’ve basically learned what it means to be a good employee,” Milton said.

His time at the Science Spectrum has helped him prepare for his future career.

“I want to major in wind turbine tech. That includes helping to build wind turbines, fixing parts that are broken, and replacing parts to keep the wind turbine in good condition,” Milton said.

Not only has he learned some of the basic principles of engineering, but he has also gained other skills.

“[The program] helps them develop interpersonal skills and confidence in their abilities that maybe they haven’t had the opportunity to experience,” said Allison Roberts, the Director of Communications for Workforce Solutions South Plains.

Roberts said the program is meant to focus on students’ abilities.

“They are more than their disability,” she said.

Dan Allen is the Digital Content Specialist and Volunteer/Intern Coordinator at the Science Spectrum Museum and he works closely with SEAL students.

“These students have been a shining example of what I think programs like [this] can do, as well as giving us a chance to see more of the diverse talent that we have here in Lubbock,” Allen said.

The program is no longer accepting students for this summer, but Roberts said there will be plenty of opportunities available next summer.

Students must be receiving services from Vocational Rehabilitation to be eligible, according to Workforce Solutions South Plains. After they are referred, they must attend a 6-hour job readiness workshop to be placed at a worksite.

To learn more, contact your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor of visit Texas Workforce Commissions.