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School-to-Work Transition Program

The School-to-Work Transition Program (STWTP) has a history of more than thirty years in Milwaukee Public Schools. Its mission is to provide a continuum of transition services to MPS students to develop their skills and help them achieve their highest level of independence.

The vision of STWTP is to provide social and vocational opportunities in real-world settings. STWTP focuses on abilities and on promoting and supporting the highest capacities of our students in their personal and professional development. STWTP assists and supports students with their goals as they journey toward responsible citizenry.

The program is supported by a multidisciplinary team of professionals — special education teachers who are connected to the Community Assessment and Training Program, employment training specialists, paraprofessionals, a children's health assistant, and a school social worker — to meet the myriad vocational, academic, and social and emotional needs of students. STWTP has partnerships with over twenty businesses and organizations in the city through the following programs.

The School-to-Work Transition Program is divided into several distinct sections:

CATP — Community Assessment and Training Program

Students earn credits while working in the Milwaukee community. They learn vocational skills and receive specialized instruction to meet their individual needs and goals, which are aligned to their individualized education program (IEP) and transition plan.

OJE — On-the-Job Experience

Students who have demonstrated being almost ready for competitive employment learn essential skills required for employment and receive the opportunity to practice and demonstrate these skills in a work environment with the support of a professional affiliated with STWTP. Students earn credit toward diploma requirements.

OJT — On-the-Job Training

Students who have achieved a level of independence and consistently demonstrate their employability skills but still require some additional training can work to earn credits toward graduation while getting paid from STWTP.

ETP — Employment Training Program

This program provides an additional layer of service to students who are in their last year of high school and who have developed skills needed for employment. Employment training specialists provide additional instruction and support, and they create opportunities for students to link with businesses so that students can become employed.

Project SEARCH

Through a partnership among STWTP, Goodwill Industries, the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Milwaukee County, students have the opportunity to participate in Project SEARCH International. This unique, business-led school-to-work program takes place over a full school year entirely at the workplace: Mitchell International Airport. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through work site rotations for students who are in the last year of high school and who have developed skills needed for employment.

View Project SEARCH video


School-to-Work in the News!

Spectrum News 1 – "MPS Helping Students with Disabilities with Career, Life Skills"

TMJ4 News – "Milwaukee Public Schools Equipping Students with Hands-on Job Skills"

DPI CTE Newsroom – "Help Wanted: Seeking Applicants with Social and Emotional Skills"

FAQs for Parents

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  1. What are the attendance expectations for the student?

Students should attend every day just as they would attend any other class. If the student is unable to attend, they are expected to contact the site teacher to practice calling-in procedures. For each site, students receive directions on how to do this.

  2. If school is closed, is the work site also closed?

Yes. If the student's MPS school building is reported as closed, the student is not to report to the work site.

  3. Who provides transportation to the site?

Transportation to and from a CATP placement is arranged and provided by MPS.

Students in the OJT (paid) program are expected to arrange their own transportation.

Students in the OJE program are provided with city bus tickets.

  4. Is there a policy about uniforms?

Each work site has a different uniform policy. Please contact the assigned site teacher for details.

  5. Will the student be paid?

CATP and OJE students receive school credits for their participation.

OJT students do receive a paycheck and school credits.

  6. Can parents visit the work site?

Rules and policies differ from work site to work site. COVID-19 limits some typical practices. Please contact the assigned site teacher for details.

  7. Are there background checks?

Depending on the work site and type of job that the student is assigned, a background check might be required. This information will be forwarded to guardians once placement has been made.

  8. What kind of support is there for the student's emotional and social well-being while participating in STWTP?

MPS has a school social worker specifically assigned to STWTP who is able to work with students as needed. Contact the assigned site teacher for referral information.

  9. What happens after a student completes CATP?

Students have a variety of options after CATP.

They can apply for DVR if they have not done so already.

Students also can apply for OJE or OJT, they can pursue an internship or youth apprenticeship through the MPS Career and Technical Education office, or they can work with an employment training specialist to seek competitive employment.

  10. What is DVR?

DVR is the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. The program works with individuals with disabilities who face a substantial barrier to employment. DVR provides employment services and counseling to people with disabilities, provides or arranges for services to enable an individual to go to work, and provides training and technical assistance to employers regarding disability employment issues.

  11. When should the student consider applying for DVR?

DVR application varies for each individual student. Speaking with the IEP team or the school's transition coordinator may be a good place to start.


Work Sites Affiliated with the School-to-Work Transition Program

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View Healthcare Cluster Video Overview

Ascension Columbia St. Mary's Hospital Milwaukee: With a beautiful view of Lake Michigan, this hospital environment centers on spiritual and holistic care and offers students an abundance of opportunities to explore the world of work. Areas include patient care, environmental services, nutrition services, and supply and distribution.

Ascension SE Wisconsin — Mayfair Road: This outpatient center allows students to work in a smaller healthcare setting, assisting patients and visitors in navigating the facility. There are opportunities in food service and environmental cleaning.

Ascension SE Wisconsin Hospital — St. Joseph Campus: Milwaukee's "baby hospital," this facility provides students with opportunities to pursue interests in healthcare careers, information technology, and food and environmental services. In this diverse and lively setting, students are warmly welcomed into the St. Joe community.

Aurora Sinai Medical Center: A national model for urban healthcare, Aurora Sinai embraces students' contributions to its community of patient care. Serving nutritious meals, stocking patient rooms, and ensuring a clean environment are a few of the roles that our students fill.

Milwaukee Catholic Home: This residential services facility for older adults, with its focus on compassionate care, welcomes our students to assist in a variety of ways. Engaging with residents in recreational activities, assisting in the café, and attending to the environmental needs of the facility are just a few of the opportunities in which students can participate.

VMP Healthcare and Community Living: This community for senior citizens provides housing with varying levels of support. Students work with staff and residents, helping to celebrate the past, make new memories, and create a meaningful community for each resident. Opportunities abound in recreational activities, environmental services, and food service.

  Food Service/Service Industry/Hospitality

View Food Service/Hospitality Cluster Video Overview

Alverno College cafeteria: A liberal arts college, Alverno welcomes our students into its cafeteria, allowing them access to every corner. Students can assist with everything from stocking food items to preparing entrees to serving the public. Students develop a sense of belonging and pride in the work they do here.

Hilton Garden Inn Milwaukee Northwest Conference Center: The Hilton Garden Inn welcomes our students and program with open arms. Students assist staff in preparing and serving meals to guests, laundering linens, and attending to the landscaping of the hotel. The Hilton provides many opportunities for success in this environment for students to prepare for the world of work.

HMSHost at Mitchell International Airport: This airport food-service company represents such well-known restaurant brands as Starbucks, Chili's, Cousins Subs, and the Great American Bagel Bakery. Student interns have the opportunity to engage in a variety of work experiences as they cycle through rotations at these businesses over the course of their school year in Project SEARCH.

Lakefront Brewery: A must-visit location for both tourists and Milwaukee residents, Lakefront Brewery boasts many opportunities for students to grow in the world of hospitality, tourism, and service industry roles. Students beautify the grounds, prepare for guests' arrivals, and ensure that all souvenirs are ready to fly off the shelves. This lively and unique environment allows for a natural balance of work and fun.

Milwaukee Public Market: A landmark located near downtown Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Public Market encourages students to engage in work in the areas of culinary arts and the service and hospitality industry. Students are able to get behind-the-scenes experiences with many of the vendors at the market along with exposure to administrative and party-planning duties.

MPS Central Services Elaine Agee Courtyard Café: The students and staff of our program run the show at the café in Central Services. Students and staff develop menus, cook, serve, clean — they do everything, really! — in this location. It is truly an immersive restaurant experience that allows students to thrive in a team setting while experiencing personal success.

MPS School Support Center Garden Room Café: The students and staff of our program run the show at the MPSSSC café located near Milwaukee Marshall High School. Students and staff develop menus, cook, serve, clean — they do everything, really! — in this location. It is truly an immersive restaurant experience that allows students to thrive in a team setting while experiencing personal success.

Outpost Natural Foods: A locally owned cooperative grocery store that emphasizes healthful eating and a united community, Outpost welcomes students into its organization for the new school year. Assisting with stocking, customer service, and cleanliness, students are a vital part of the team.

Paradies Lagardère at Mitchell International Airport: With more than ten gift shops at the airport, Paradies Lagardère stores offer apparel, snack foods, beverages, electronics, Milwaukee-themed gifts, and other items for travelers. Student interns have the opportunity to engage in a variety of work experiences as they cycle through rotations at these businesses over the course of their school year in Project SEARCH.

  Human Services/Education

View Human Services Cluster Video Overview

Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School: An MPS elementary school in Milwaukee's Muskego Way neighborhood, Mitchell Street School offers students many opportunities to hone their skills in the human services area. With roles as teacher assistant in both bilingual and monolingual classrooms, students are able to delve deeply into the world of child care and teaching.

Nurturing Nook: Adjacent to the Milwaukee Catholic Home, the Nurturing Nook is a wonderful opportunity for students who are interested in child care to learn about all the roles and responsibilities that child care entails. Additionally, a volunteer position of receptionist is available to encourage the growth of interpersonal communication skills for students.

OASIS: Students are able to engage in many roles while at OASIS, the "organization for active seniors in society." Included in the recreation program is a kindergarten classroom. Students can assist as a teacher's aide, help with the overall decor of the building through various arts and crafts activities, or perform duties as a maintenance assistant.

River Trail School: An MPS elementary school known for its innovative practices, River Trail School provides our students with many opportunities to assist teachers in the classrooms. From working in small groups with students to lending support in individual activities, our students explore the world of education and develop a sense of pride in mentoring the younger students.

Trowbridge SchoolTrowbridge Street School of Great Lakes Studies, located closer to Lake Michigan than any other MPS school, offers our CATP students the opportunity to focus on and support Trowbridge Street students in ecological, Great Lakes, and freshwater studies. CATP students support a hands-on approach to science thanks to the aquaponics lab, butterfly garden, and a perennial rain garden with an outdoor classroom. CATP students support the school’s endeavors by working with various community organizations to take science beyond the school walls.

Vision Forward: A nonprofit organization that provides education and support for people at all stages of vision loss, Vision Forward gives our students the opportunity to help with its mission. From managing money and selling snacks to clients to ensuring hygienic surroundings with environmental services, students interact often with clients and provide an upbeat atmosphere for all those who enter. They work closely as a team to grow in their skills and are provided with strong, abundant support from MPS teachers.


View Environmental Cluster Video Overview

Hawthorn Glen Nature Center: A hands-on nature center serving the students of MPS and residents of our community, Hawthorn Glen provides our students with unique and fulfilling opportunities. Students work as a team to help with everything from managing attendees of large field trips to the upkeep of the more than twenty-five acres of woodland and prairie to caring for the many animals that call Hawthorn Glen home.

MPS School Support Center environmental: The MPS special services site houses numerous opportunities for students to hone their environmental skills in an office setting. Provided with an abundance of support from staff and many situations in which to thrive, students are valued for their support, and they delight in a strong sense of community.

Vincent High School Agriculture: CATP students at this public high school in Milwaukee get hands-on agricultural experiences to learn 21st-century skills that prepare them for high-wage careers. These experiences may inspire some students to become farmers or take advantage of one of the numerous other agricultural careers available. There are six agricultural pathways for students to study and explore: animal science, horticulture, agribusiness and entrepreneurship, culinary arts, environmental science, and food science. CATP students help the school manage a barn, a greenhouse, and a large garden. They also tend to cattle, goats, a horse, chickens, and iguanas among other critters. Administration even has plans for a four-acre forest, an orchard, and beehives in pursuit of even more hands-on learning experiences.

  Design and Construction

View Design and Construction Cluster Video Overview

Milwaukee Public Schools Facilities and Maintenance

  • 11th Street: Known as the hub for all the MPS trades along with design and construction, the Department of Facilities and Maintenance provides a unique experience for students who may be interested in the trades or architecture. Student are provided with many mentors and opportunities to explore these career pathways.
  • 7th Street Garage: Connected with the Department of Facilities and Maintenance on 11th Street, this location offers students many opportunities to explore auto mechanics, technology services (rebuilding Chromebooks), and inventory of the many items that the MPS Recreation Services department has to offer. Students are able to see the inner workings behind the scenes at a major school district such as MPS.

MPS Studio Extension: CATP students interested in graphic design work with talented teachers to create marketing materials for Milwaukee Public Schools. They work collaboratively to create motivational material for their peers to meet their goals. CATP students develop their talents using paper and pencil, and their work will be digitized through Adobe Illustrator. Research is a fundamental component of this site for students while they also work on time management and follow strict deadlines.


View Clerical Cluster Video Overview

MPS Central Services clerical: The MPS Central Services sites afford students opportunities for meaningful office-based work in many different departments: finance, human resources, duplicating, and more. Provided with an abundance of support from staff and given many opportunities to thrive, students are valued for their support, and they delight in a strong sense of community.

MPS School Support Center clerical: The MPSSSC site houses numerous opportunities for students to hone their clerical skills. Provided with an abundance of support from staff and many opportunities to thrive, students are valued for their support, and they delight in a strong sense of community.

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