TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Learning Academy at USF and MacDonald Training Center have announced a collaboration to give students with disabilities new opportunities in technology fields.

The Learning Academy at USF is a 30-week customized training program that assists with preparing students with autism for employment. MacDonald Training Center offers similar services to students with disabilities, focusing on career paths in technology, health care, hospitality and manufacturing/logistics.  

Students can earn globally recognized industry certifications in many fields, including Microsoft Office, at MacDonald Training Center.

The collaboration between schools made perfect sense to Director of Learning Academy Services at USF Dr. Karen Berkman and President and CEO of MacDonald Training Center Karenne Levy.

Dr. Berkman says the collaboration will allow students to move from one program to the other. Students can also be enrolled in both programs at the same time.

“The partnership really entails our ability to help people to move from one system to another more easily,” Dr. Berkman said.

“So for folks that come to MacDonald Training Center and go through their Microsoft foundational program, this could then, for some people, lead on to a more advanced level course in automation and we can facilitate that transition from MacDonald Training Center to USF more easily for folks, so that they don’t feel like they have to start all over from the beginning.”

The Learning Academy at USF will launch the new automation course in October.

Dr. Berkman said the course will teach students to create robotic solutions to make companies more efficient.

Levy says the course collaboration will mean so much for these students, as technology is one of the fastest growing fields in Florida.

“And so what this will do is that it will offer opportunities for the individuals with disabilities that we work with on a day-to-day basis to not only have a job, but to actually have a career and to actually have an opportunity to earn a living wage,” Levy said.

“So sometimes what you’ll see is we have folks who are earning a minimum wage and are working part time. But we feel that with this skill set, of technology, the opportunity to do Microsoft Office Suites, Microsoft Technical Assistant, or the IC3 or the automation that Dr. Berkman talked about, that folks will be elevated and have much better opportunities and have lives that have a meaningful impact.”

To learn more about the Learning Academy at USF, click here.

To learn more about MacDonald Training Center, click here.