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Nonprofit teaching the trades to students with autism, leading to employment

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    Denver (KMGH) — Sparks literally flew during a metal shop class in the workshop of a Denver nonprofit. The goal was simple: teach skills to gain employment and help live a happy life. It sounds like any college or trade class out there, but it isn’t.

“We teach all kids that are on the spectrum,” instructor Mason Ferick explained.

The class is part of a larger program of the nonprofit TACT, Teaching the Autism Community Trades.

“The autism community has about a 90% unemployment rate and we want to change that,” Ferick said.

The metal shop class involved teaching a small group of students how to cut, grind, and weld metal to learn the hands-on skills needed for a future job, along with other baseline skills that can be more difficult for some with disabilities.

“One of the most valuable things that our program offers is teaching kids to know how to work. Teaching them work efficacy, where they’re learning how to show up on time, clean up their work station, do what you’re asked, follow directions, and do a quality job at the same time,” TACT founder Danny Combs explained.

The organization was founded by musician Combs after he learned that his son had autism. TACT has grown to now include classes in carpentry, woodworking, instrument building, welding, auto mechanic skills, STEM, computer science, photography, graphic design, textile arts, and more.

The program partners with local schools to teach students from 14-21 while partnering with local businesses. The founder of TACT says they are having success in cultivating baseline skills, coaching hands-on techniques, and by getting students real jobs.

“Eighty-six percent of the students in our automotive program are getting jobs within the automotive industry,” Combs said.

“They all have skills. They need that opportunity and that’s what we’re here for,” instructor Ferick added.

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