Uniquely Abled Academy to open 

South Central College of North Mankato is expanding its offerings with a free first-of-its-kind program in Minnesota geared for young adults with autism. The program, Uniquely Abled Academy, provides individuals with autism the training needed to prepare for a career as a computer numerical control operator. 

“It’s a job-placement program,” said Jim Hanson, South Central College’s dean of business and industry. “It’s not just education. It’s not just instruction. It is our goal to have them go to work in the local manufacturing industry. That’s the end goal.” 

South Central sought initial cohort of six to eight students for its Uniquely Abled Academy program. Applications closed in May. There is no age cutoff for the program, but based on it having been operated previously at other colleges, students ages 18-28 are found to have the best success rate with the instruction, Hanson said. 

South Central is the 10th college to offer Uniquely Abled Academy. The new academy offered through South Central’s Customized Workforce Education division is the first one available in Minnesota. 

Uniquely Abled Academies were developed through the Uniquely Abled Project and are also available in California, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ohio. 

The academy is funded with a $50,000 Innovation Grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. 

Area employers such as Winegar in Waseca, 3M in New Ulm, K&G Manufacturing Inc. in Faribault, Dotson Iron Castings in Mankato, and Jones Metal Inc. in Mankato have shown interest in hiring the Academy’s participants. 

(Source: Free Press of Mankato)