York County School of Technology: Linking Life Skill Students with CTE Programs that Align with Their Interests and Skills

Posted on Categories Individuals with Disabilities, Special Populations

At a Glance

The YTECH-X program at the York County School of Technology (York Tech) offers life skill students from 14 school districts in York County the opportunity to attend York Tech in 11th grade and experience six different technical programs for three weeks at a time. The students then select one of the technical programs to enroll in for their senior year with the goal of developing job-ready skills and obtaining meaningful employment.

Note: “Life Skill Students” are students with significant intellectual disabilities who need to learn functional life skills and are pursuing a “life skills” diploma v. a traditional high school diploma.


Prior to the development of the YTECH-X program, life skill students at the York Tech attended all four years of high school in one technical program that they had little understanding of when they and their families agreed to be placed in it. For many of these students, this arrangement meant they spent all of their high school experience in a program they may not have had any interest in pursuing.

York Tech administrators and faculty wanted to find a way to better meet the needs of life skill students so that they could select a CTE program that best aligned with their interests and skills. Ultimately, they hoped to provide the students the opportunity to determine where their interests are and to develop skills that would allow them to obtain life-sustaining wage jobs after leaving high school. To do this, they realized they needed to completely revamp the program for life skill students.

As with any major change in a long-standing program, York Tech administrators and faculty knew their first challenge would be to develop stakeholder support for changing the entire format of the existing program. They met with instructors from the two technical programs the life skill students were enrolled in to discuss the learning experiences of the students over numerous years. Based on these conversations, the team came to two conclusions: 1) Life skill students did not need four years to develop and become proficient in the technical skills, and 2) Some of the students were not interested in pursuing opportunities in their assigned technical program after leaving high school.

A team that included the York Tech Administrative Director, Assistant Director, Director of Student Services, Director of Special Education, several technical instructors, and representatives from the local intermediate unit (IU12)spent approximately 18 months planning, developing, and implementing a new program for life skill students. This program, known as YTECH-X, grants students greater say in their program selection and reduced the amount of time they spent in each program.

Now, YTECH-X students select one CTE program to enroll in for their senior year. They have six options from which to choose: Auto/Diesel/Power/Sports, Childcare, Construction/Trades, Cosmetology, Culinary, and Landscaping. To help students make a well-informed decision, they spend three weeks in each of the six programs at York Tech during their 11th grade year.

When York Tech first implemented the program in 2019, the planning team spent time observing students, identifying the advantages and disadvantages of the new approach and evaluating the extent to which it helped students select a program suited to their needs and interests and develop the necessary skills to be successful after high school. The team found the new program to be a more positive learning experience for both students and their instructors.

Moving forward, York Tech plans to continue the YTECH-X program. It will continue to evaluate which technical programs the life skill students will visit for the three-week experiences. The team hopes to add additional instructional aides to accompany the life skill students in their technical area classes. Ideally, the team also would like to hire a Tech Ed teacher to work with the students in the various technical classes.


York Tech administrators and faculty have received positive feedback from students and their families, as well as from representatives of the local school districts about the YTECH-X program. Students have expressed satisfaction with the opportunity to visit a variety of programs and select “their major” for their senior year. Anecdotally, the CTE instructors also have indicated that the program is a better overall experience for the students.


York County School of Technology
David Thomas, Administrative Director