Beacons Pathfinder Program

Beacons Vocational Workshops
Beacons Vocational Workshops

Small group postsecondary workshops to learn vocational skills, such as office and customer service skills!

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Assistive Technology Training
Assistive Technology Training

Beacons trainees explore assistive technology to create accommodation plans.

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Vocational Filing Training
Vocational Filing Training

Beacons' learn filing skills using a small ratio hands-on learning model.

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Beacons Vocational Workshops
Beacons Vocational Workshops

Small group postsecondary workshops to learn vocational skills, such as office and customer service skills!

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Real life pathways need real life training!

Here at Beacons, we believe that everyone should be able to be lifelong learners to develop their skills and interests! 

Structured postsecondary instruction can dramatically improve the employability of those with developmental disabilities. However, those with developmental disabilities often need smaller ratios and settings to learn and apply the vocational skills taught. Most educational institutions are not able to provide vocational instruction that uses small ratios and adapted pacing due to funding, staffing costs or space constraints. At Beacons, our workshops have ratios of less than 4 to 1, with workshops capped at 10 trainees with 3 instructional staff. (For individuals still in an adult transition program, please click here).


In Spring 2019, with the help of a grant from the National Foundation for Autism Research (NFAR), Beacons opened its doors to launch vocational workshops that are curriculum supported, assistive technology rich, progress monitored and outcome driven. As a result of the significant improvement in skills and knowledge our pilot trainees demonstrated, on August 19, 2019, the San Diego Regional Center approved Beacons, Inc. as a state funded vendor to join its efforts to build bridges to the workforce.


Each vocational workshop includes the opportunity to earn digital badges and skill certificates to reflect the skills and levels learned. Employment pathways and community exploration with local employers are built into each workshop. 

Results of our spring pilot? Click here to learn more!  


"Why postsecondary

Instruction is so important!"



Self Advocacy:

Leadership Council



Planning, Services & Training


Social Skills:

Club Beacons


General Information about us





Programming is designed for those with mild/moderate intellectual/developmental disabilities. Beacons, Inc. does not currently have sufficient staffing to support participants with a history of elopement, bullying, disruptive behaviors, self injurious behaviors or behaviors that are likely to injure others, or who have medical or other issues that require 1:1 assistance or monitoring. While we hope to expand programming options as we build our resources to serve all persons with developmental disabilities, the Pathfinder vocational training programs are not designed for those with a history of the above items at this time. Please contact us at if additional support is needed but can be

provided through agency or caregiver support. 





Recommended for: Trainees interested in creative design for self-employment or community employment. Trainees will work with actual customers to develop connections for possible post-workshop employment. 

Workshop highlights: Trainees in this project-driven workshop will learn how to:

  • use a graphic design program to create graphics, animation and .gifs,

  • make marketing materials and devise a sample social media campaign,

  • design and make books, puzzles, and wall art, to explore possible product lines that use graphic design,

  • work with a real community client to practice soft skills, capture client input, and make a website per their direction,

  • create their own website to showcase a portfolio and/or employment profile, and

  • develop person-centered and person-directed plans to present to help shape their futures post-workshop. 


Each unit includes pre- and post-unit assessments to measure progress, with extra hours for instructional support if needed to reach proficient levels in a targeted area. Workshop includes creation of a portfolio with designs and animation graphics, client meetings to develop soft skills, and meeting with community employers.


Recommended for: Trainees interested in learning about the skills and documentation needed to start their own business (or growing their existing business). Instruction includes assistive technology, creation of accommodations, and other tools to increase independence and sustainability of the business.

Workshop Highlights: Trainees will explore: 

  • community sales skills such as cashier and customer interaction skills;

  • photography and graphic design to help with branding and marketing, logo creation, and packaging,

  • basic office skills for record-keeping and order /inventory management;

  • creation of "forever" tools to support sales, order management, and inventory tracking;

  • person-centered planning to devise a post-workshop transition plan or to help with Self-Determination planning if needed;

  • development of a commercial website ready for linking to payment processor/merchant card carrier;

  • what documents they will need to get to start a business (e.g. business license and/or sales permit),*

  • and more!

Each unit includes pre- and post-unit assessments to measure progress, with extra hours for instructional support if needed to reach proficient levels in a targeted area, creation of a marketing email tool, meeting with retailers to discuss possible produce placement, and the making of items to help with product displays.

*Note: Trainees will not compete filings to secure a business license or sales permit in this workshop due to the interplay of these items with SSI, taxes and other considerations. However they will be provided with information they can explore with their home support team about how to obtain free business development support, business licenses and a seller's permit. 


Recommended for: Trainees interested in employment with local businesses in retail, restaurants, hospitality, animal care and other customer-driven sectors.

Workshop Highlights: Trainees will focus on: 


  • workplace and soft skills such as cashier skills, pre- and post-hiring social skills, and other tasks used in settings that require a high level of customer interaction, engagement and satisfaction;

  • creation of "forever" tools to support job searches, applying for jobs, identify accommodations for the workplace, how to use and request of accommodation;

  • learning about person-centered planning to devise a post-workshop plan and running a person-driven meeting to self-advocate for steps to implement the plan;

  • development of an online employment profile through creation of a website; and

  • learning food handling skills and taking the county test to try to earn a county food handling license.

Each unit includes pre- and post-unit assessments to measure progress, with extra hours for instructional support if needed to reach proficient levels in a targeted area. Workshop includes applying to local jobs during the workshop, support at interviews during the workshop, meeting with employers to learn about their interview process, job tasks and hiring opportunities.


Recommended for: Trainees interested in learning about the skills needed to work in an office environment for a government agency, corporation or small business, and employment through the State of California's paid internship program (PIP) and/or competitive integrated employment (CIE).

Workshop Highlights: Trainees will learn: 

  • soft skills for workplace hierarchies,

  • office filing and basic organization skills,

  • mailing handling and office deliveries,

  • typing skills and the LEAP civil service program,

  • basic data entry, 

  • coffee cart/station management,

  • common receptionist responsibilities,

  • how to develop accommodation plans,

  • how to interview and job search, 

  • how to create person-driven plans,

  • how to create and use common business presentation tools (e.g. slideshows),

  • basic job search and interview skills.

  • and more!  

Each unit includes pre- and post-unit assessments to measure progress, with extra hours for instructional support if needed to reach proficient levels in a targeted area. Trainees will visit local businesses to meet with human resource teams, share their resumes and develop connections for possible post-workshop employment.


Beacons, Inc.

Workforce Planning Workshop: Office Skills


Per U.S. Dept. of Labor, only approximately 25.5% of individuals with developmental disabilities (DD) are employed in the State of California (compared to the over 90% of those without disabilities). 

In San Diego county, even with Covid-19 conditions, employment rates for non-disabled workers is over 93%. For those with DD, even before Covid-19, only around 
approximately 14.68% of individuals with cognitive disabilities were employed, which is about 11% lower than the state average. (Rates are even lower for women and for those with certain disability diagnoses).
 Solutions are urgently needed.

ATP Students

Can ATP students attend workshops?
Yes, as long as they otherwise meet the entrance criteria for the program (see below). Attendance in workshops should be driven by the individual's choice and interest in learning about the areas addressed by the workshops.

Entrance Criteria for Beacons Workshops

Ages: 18+ with developmental disabilities who have earned a diploma, or who have aged out of the district without a diploma.

Self Care Skills: Trainees must be independent in their self-care skills. If they are unable to independently tend to their self-care, they must be accompanied by a trainee-provided personal care attendant.

Medical, Mental Health & Physical: The pathfinder workshops offer assistive technology, accommodations and adapted tools to support those with physical disabilities, but does not offer medical care or medical assistance onsite. Individuals with medical needs that require the support of a personal care attendant may attend if accompanied by a trained and self-provided personal care attendant authorized to tend to the medical and other needs of the trainee. 


Individuals with mental health or other conditions/behaviors that may make them disruptive, or cause unsafe conditions for themselves or others are not suitable for the Pathfinder program.


Beacons staff does not administer medications or have emergency response teams in place to address or support individuals with significant behavioral challenges.

Educational Disabilities: The Pathfinder curriculum and instruction is specifically. designed for those with mild/moderate disabilities who are able to attend to lessons, follow and reasonably comply with instructional demands and instructor’s commands. Trainees learn to use a variety of assistive technology such as screen readers, text-to-speech, speech-to text, and other tools to access instructional materials despite reading or other educationally-related deficits. 


Behaviors: Trainees with a history of physical aggression resulting in or risking physical injury to others, self-injurious behaviors, damage to property, elopement, smearing of feces, displays of inappropriate sexual behavior, defiance and/or behaviors that impede the learning of self or others, or other disruptive or maladaptive behaviors, are not eligible for the Pathfinder program.


SDRC Funding
Under § 4648.55 of the Lanterman Act, the SDRC normally cannot pay for services for individuals aged 18 to 22 years if that consumer is still eligible for special education through a school district. However, if the IPP team agrees that the "consumer's needs cannot be met in the educational system" or grants an exemption under subsection (d), the SDRC may purchase vocational education services for individuals still eligible for special education through the district.

District Funding
District's may fund a workshop:

1) IEPs:
If the IEP team agrees that a workshop is needed to help a student meet his/her ITP transition goals related to securing competitive integrated employment or a paid internship.

2) Settlement Agreements:

In the event of disagreement, services may still be obtained through a settlement agreement with the district. 



In 2013, California enacted an Employment First Policy to make employment of those with developmental disabilities one of the state's highest priorities. Since 2014, the employment rate of those with developmental disabilities rose to approximately 27% in 2019 throughout the state. However, per data from the CA Department of Developmental Services, only around 13.96% of individuals who are regional center clients are employed in the San Diego area, which is 13% below the already low state and national employment averages. For women, employment rates are closer to 12%, and for those on the spectrum, unemployment can be as low as 10%.


The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability found that some of the important "guideposts" for improving outcomes for individuals with disabilities are: 1. "structured exposure to postsecondary education and other life-long learning opportunities," and 2. "training designed to improve job-seeking skills and work-place basic skills." Studies have shown that individuals with developmental disabilities who participate in postsecondary education reap significantly enhanced access to employment, with some studies showing an almost 50% increase in employment and up to a 57% increase in earnings.* Yet despite the demonstrated impact of postsecondary education on employment outcomes for individuals with developmental disabilities, very few structured employment-related postsecondary vocational training options exist in North County San Diego.


Beacons, Inc. is leading the charge in North County to offer postsecondary workforce workshops that are progress monitored, structured, low ratio and accessible to those in need of smaller settings, more individualized pacing, and assistive technology. 


All programming follows the Universal Design Guidelines and integrates assistive technology and hands-on exploration to optimize teaching and learning. Programming is guided by the dedication of the families who founded Beacons, Inc., but driven by the needs and interests of the individuals who seek empowerment in their daily lives. Join us today to help build a pathway for tomorrow!

*See, e.g., Migliore, Butterworth & Hart (2009). See also Smith, Grigal & Shepard (2018) (63.7% of youth with ID who received postsecondary education had paid integrated employment upon exiting with weekly earnings averaging $302, versus $200 for those who did not have postsecondary education).


"It is the policy of the state that opportunities for integrated employment shall be the highest priority for working age individuals with developmental disabilities regardless of the severity of their disabilities." WIC Sect. 4869(a)(1)