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Beacons PathFinder Program

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 follow their passion! PathFinder helps our trainees do this!

Per the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability, structured postsecondary instruction can dramatically improve the employability of those with developmental disabilities (see also the list of successful supports summarized by the Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy). Most educational institutions are not able to provide special educational models of vocational instruction or instruction that uses small ratios and adapted pacing because of funding constraints, staffing costs or space limitations. Beacons provides smaller ratios (10:3), workshops capped at 10 trainees, simulated or community instructional settings, assistive technology and much more to optimize learning, build peer relationships and more!


In 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 both skills and knowledge shown in our pilot, the San Diego Regional Center approved Beacons, Inc. as a state funded vendor to join its efforts to build bridges to the workforce.

PathFinder is a "hands-on, learn-by-experience (and fun!) type of place. Does this approach work? Our fall 2021 workshop helped 100% of our trainees who wanted employment competitive integrated employment within 1 month.


"Why postsecondary

Instruction is so important!"





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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 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 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 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.



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)

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