Opportunity for Work and Learning (OWL) was created in 1961 as a workshop for individuals with severe disabilities. Over the years, we broadened our focus to community-based employment services and expanded our programming to include individuals with all types of factors affecting their ability to obtain and maintain employment. These factors include physical disabilities, mental illness, intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, substance use disorders, socio-economic barriers, and those who are justice system involved.
OWL impact lives and strengthen communities by building a supported, inclusive, and sustainable workforce. We discover our qualified job seekers’ strengths, develop their skills, and connect them to integrated employers. We also connect our participants with the vital, ongoing, wrap-around support services needed for successful employment. Our individualized approach to service delivery allows us to tailor our programming and supports for each participant maximizing potential effectiveness for all we serve.
OWL offers a variety of services geared toward helping people obtain and maintain long-term successful employment. Services such as vocational assessments and evaluations, job preparation and work adjustments allow us to discover our participants’ strengths and work with each individual to develop a plan for them to enter the workforce. We provide Independent living and life skills support, workplace essential skills training, work experiences and accredited certifications for forklift operation and customer service to help our participants develop their skills preparing them for success. We also provide job search assistance, job placement, job coaching, and supported employment services assuring we help connect our participants to the right jobs and necessary supports to retain them.
OWL’s Skill Trade Academy, creates career opportunities in construction trades for our participants. Construction and building trades are in high demand in Central Kentucky and around our country. Employers need work-ready well-trained employees to make an immediate impact and our pre-apprenticeship program provides participants a pathway into construction trades. This 12-week journey focuses on an introduction to the building trades, construction math, tool and material identification, basic carpentry, basic electrical, basic plumbing, and painting and finishing. We also offer paid work experience as part of the program, paying wages to participants for approximately 28 hours each week.
Many of our work experiences, along with our forklift certifications, occur in OWL’s for-profit manufacturing company, Lexington Manufacturing Center (LMC). LMC provides paid work experiences and the opportunity for long-term employment in an integrated and competitive work environment for our participants whose goals include the type of work performed in our manufacturing company. LMC does more than creating employment opportunities for the community and those we serve though. Profits made by LMC are shared with OWL to help provide funding for our programs and services.
While our Vision and scope of impact changed some over the years, connecting people with opportunities for long-term successful employment and supporting them in obtaining and maintaining employment remains at the heart of everything we do.