Developing Community Partnerships Into Paid Employment for Students with Autism and LD

CVS Pharmacy is known by its slogan, “Helping people on their path to better health”. This Fall, CVS Pharmacy located on Pacific Coast Highway, right across from Long Beach City College, partnered with CIP Long Beach and is now “helping our students on their path to better careers.”


Creating the Partnership

As we at CIP, a comprehensive transition program for young adults with Autism and other Learning Differences, worked on career assessments with our newly enrolled students, one student demonstrated an interest in becoming a Pharmacy Technician or Pharmacist. We contacted the CVS Pharmacy she frequents to inquire about building a partnership - to assist the popular local retail pharmacy store with much-needed help and to assist students in developing much needed transferable skills.


We came up with an idea to develop an internship program that would allow 4-5 students to participate in an internship with a for-profit business, for a set period of time (1-2 hours a day, 1-3 days a week, for approximately 3-6 months). The purpose of this design is to give our students enough time to explore relevant career paths, build customer service/transferable skills, demonstrate their professional growth, and to build a community partnership. Unlike an internship at a non-profit organization, the design is developed to strategically place students in a company that would have the ability to offer employment opportunities. In the future, we hope to apply the same internship structure to other businesses and organizations.


A New Kind of Internship

CVS, the retail pharmacy store has a history of working with local high school students to assist with community service hours, but our partnership with them focusing on individuals with Autism, ADHD and other learning differences is the first of its kind. They provide our students with important areas for professional development while the students intern within the store.


According to the CVS store manager, “this is an exciting opportunity for your students and our company; if the students do well on the internship we are interested in offering employment opportunities based on their work performance”. If a student is hired in the retail store, they will also be given the choice to explore working within the pharmacy. CVS will provide the students with an opportunity to take part in a certification program to begin a career path in becoming a pharmacist. We currently have 3 students interning at CVS and things are looking bright.


The Internship Process At-a-Glance

    • Students were introduced to the opportunity and selected based on employment interests and skill abilities.
    • Students were encouraged to browse the CVS website to learn about the company.
    • Internship interviews were arranged to meet the student and the store manager schedules.
    • Students were explained the tasks to be completed at the internship and a task analysis was created.
    • Internship and transportation schedules were arranged and explored.
    • Students are supported by job coaches to ensure managers are supported and students are meeting employer expectations.


Helpful Tips & Tools for Students and Families

Network to identify an internship opportunity by:


    • thinking about a company you frequent and/or really enjoy shopping at and browse the company website
    • observe the different employees there and what their specific role is (for example: a cashier handles cash/credit card transactions/purchases at the register, involves interaction with a volume of customers and is responsible for counting dollar and coin amounts)
    • introduce yourself or student to an employee and ask if they have time to explain to you their job and the associated tasks
    • ask to speak to a manager on duty and explain that you are doing a job shadowing project and would like to request an informal tour of the store if possible

Popular career assessments being used:


About the Author

Jocelyn Howard is the Career Coordinator at CIP Long Beach. She has experience as an Employment Services Coordinator, where she coordinated Individual Supported Employment and led a strong team, providing all aspects of assessment, employment preparation, job development, job coaching and placement services. She understands and believes in the critical role that employment services play in an individual’s sense of worth.

About College Internship Program

The College Internship Program is a comprehensive transition program for young adults on the Autism Spectrum and with Learning Differences. Our Mission is to inspire independence and expand the foundation on which young adults with Autism, ADHD, and other Learning Differences can build happy and productive lives.