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‘Tools for life’

SWCC, IWD and IVRS continue to grow the local workforce while building confidence and independence

Students build structures made of marshmallows and toothpicks as a S.T.E.M. activity at the  "Tools for Life" camp in June 2018 at Creston Community High School.
Students build structures made of marshmallows and toothpicks as a S.T.E.M. activity at the "Tools for Life" camp in June 2018 at Creston Community High School.

As a steady partnership between Southwestern Community College (SWCC), Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) and Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) continues to grow, so does the “Tools for Life” program. The program exists to help the organizations achieve their collective mission – successfully preparing individuals for the workforce.

Tools for Life camp, now in its third year, serves students and recent college-bound graduates, ages 14 to 21, who have a physical, mental, or learning disability and have a desire to explore different career paths through an interactive, hands-on experience.

This year, the one-day event is being held at three locations. Yesterday, 7 students met at Creston Community High School, and 23 more will meet next week in Greenfield and Leon at Nodaway Valley and Central Decatur high schools.


Attempting to seek employment can be an intimidating process for some, let alone locating and navigating all the resources available within the community. Steve Neuharth, rehabilitation coordinator at IVRS, said the partnerships help ease anxiety with some individuals requiring certain accommodations or having special needs explore gainful employment options. This is done through a variety of team building S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and math) activities – such as building structures using only marshmallows and spaghetti – and touring local employers such as Bunn-O-Matic, Precision Optical Group, Adair County Hospital and Cardinal Glass.

“The reason we go to these places is to give students an idea of the careers available in their areas or ideas of what they can go to school for and study,” said Neuharth.

After the tours, students are encouraged to ask questions of the employers. Some prepared questions are also offered to help stimulate conversation in which the students may learn more.


Neuharth said the options offered through SWCC, IWD and IVRS is vast. Not only do camp attendees learn about career services, training and job opportunities available, but aspiring entrepreneurs who meet the requirements may be eligible to receiving funding through IVRS.

During the morning session, other topics are discussed, such as SWCC’s GAP tuition assistance program, which provides funding to eligible applicants enrolling in a GAP approved certificate program, such as information technology, health care, manufacturing, and transportation.

Neuharth said every every effort is made to help those who want to work find gainful employment, whether it’s making an introduction between a student and employer, exposing students to career possibilities, or helping individuals achieve their goals through financial assistance. The end goal of the single day event is to ensure students feel more prepared as they exit high school and transition into college or the workforce.

“That’s part of getting them ready for employment,” said Neuharth.

For more information about “Tools for Life” and other services offered by Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services, visit

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