PAES is a great way to kick of your students transition to work and independent life. 

If students experience PAES prior to going out to their first work experience in the community, they will be better prepared. They will have found out what work skills they are good at, and what work skills they like to do.  But also, and importantly they will have learned and practiced the positive work behaviors that are expected on a job site.  Because of  all of this, their first work experience will be planned based on their proven work skills, abilities and work strengths. Therefore, they will be positioned for a positive first work experience, that will set them up for work success in the future.  


We have 65 PAES labs in Minnesota, nine PAES labs in Wisconsin, and four PAES labs in South Dakota. PAES works really well for students with mild and moderate disabilities all the way through to students who function at high levels, but struggle with academics or behaviors that wouldn't be exceptable at work.  


Location, location, location
Your PAES lab can be in a school or out in the community.  Because PAES is recommended for Middle School and High School students when they are starting their transition planning, these are great choice locations.  As an alternative, some PAES labs are in 18-21 program sites; however we want to catch students early with PAES, so often times if PAES is in the 18-21 program, the Middle School or High School students are transported to this site.  And/or the districts often times "work backwards" getting their students in earlier and earlier each year, until they are getting their students through PAES in Middle or High School.  In fact, some 18-21 programs are servicing 95% or more high school and middle school students in their PAES lab.  Others eventually move their PAES lab physically to a program site where students served are younger as they work backwards in their transition programming; by eventually serving students at the beginning of their transition with PAES.  Many districts see PAES as the starting point to transition planning.  Here's a great idea:  Do you have a city bus?  If so, consider requiring your students to take the city bus to work in the PAES lab each day.  They will not only learn and practice how to use the city bus to get to work, they will also be in the habit of taking a bus to work each day.  You can also consider a site in your community, like in a business in your community that is looking to increase their employment pool, or in an alternative school property or you can lease a retail store or community site.  Some PAES labs have their students walk to work by walking to the PAES lab each day. Either way, these options get the students accustomed to "going to work".  Another advantage of a community site is the natural connection to local businesses for community job site placements for employment, work experiences, internships, short term volunteer work experiences, customized employment and of course, competitive employment.


How much space do I need and what type of floor plan works well?
No two PAES labs are alike. You will need at least 400 square feet, but some labs are as large as 1,000+ square feet. It is nice to either select a room with a sink, or install a sink in your space.  Some programs use portable sinks.   Take a look at the variety of floor plans that have been used.

PAES Lab Floor Plan Examples 

These floor plans are listed in order by square footage.  The actual PAES lab site layouts may vary from the floor plans as the PAES program supervisors make changes to their room layouts periodically. These plans are posted in order to help those looking to plan a PAES space of their own to reference.  


Also see PAES lab photos


How much does PAES cost? 
Packages run between $26,000 and $30,000, and include everything you need to run the PAES jobs with the exception of some furnishings and PC's that are listed below which can add $0 - $3,000 to your budget depending on if you can source items from your school inventory. PAES comes in many large shipping boxes that are shipped on a couple of pallets. Packages INCLUDE having someone come to your site and unpack and set up your PAES lab, and conduct a 2-day in service on site training. (see tips for a successful in-service training below) You should also budget for $1,000 - $1,500 per year for consumable supply budget. This will be dependent upon how many students you run through, and if you decide to offer a school store for incentives. 

PAES Packages:

Packages are recommended. They come with onsite set up, and 1 1/2 -day in service staff training.

  • The Standard PAES package

  • The Premium PAES package includes upgraded tools & equipment (Craftsman tools, as opposed to generic brand) 

  • Email heidi@worklifeready.com and ask for a PAES price sheet


Items Not Included in PAES Packages: 

Most schools find these items from school storage, except stand up work tables and pegboard tool wall which are often ordered.

Tables & Equipment Storage you will need for your PAES Lab: 

  • 2-3 storage cabinets or book shelves, 1 business table, 1 check in station table, 1 computer table, 2 office type chairs, small table with no wheels, & chair for supplied sewing machine.

  • 3-5 Stand Up Work Tables - Schools either have/make tables or Order 60" X 30" Packing Tables through ULINE   (See Work Tables Idea Sheet

  • Pegboard Wall for Construction Hand Tools (pegboard/hooks)  Typically installed after in-service training.  (See Tool Storage Idea Sheet)

  • 2-5 PC Computers & Printer (black/white or color) PAES Technology Requirements

  • See below optional set up package; which includes: shelves to store your job boxes on, & a construction work bench.


For a complete facilities and furnishings list please refer to the ​PAES New Lab Guide

Optional Set Up Package:  (Assembled shelves and workbench come with the lab)
You can purchase an Optional Set Up Package that includes: seven shelving units to store the job boxes on, and the construction workbench.  You can either purchase the set up package from TAI, or you can source and set up these things on your own.  ​


If you choose to NOT order the set up package because you want to source things on your own.

Consider these options:

Option for School Supplied Construction Work Bench: 

Option is to order one construction work bench direct through ULINE and set it up on your own.  Order 60" length particle board top packing table directly through ULINE. 


Hint: You can order additional benches to use in your lab as stand up work tables.

Option for School Supplied Shelving Units: 

Option is to order 8 shelving units direct from Home Depot and set them up on your own. 


Hint:  The set up package comes with 7 shelves, but preference is to order 8 shelves. 


Optional Money Manager Program: 
This is a Token Economy/School Store Set Up Program. 

This is optional programming to run alongside your PAES Lab.


What about funding?
Districts have also written for transition readiness grants, local grants, used Carl Perkins funding, Comp Ed Funding, MA dollars, and of course IDEA general funds for purchasing PAES.  In some state, funding through VR and WIOA have also been used through an agreement for schools to provide PRE-ets to students.

Here are some example grants that have been written and approved for funding. 

District names have been deleted for privacy.   


What about the in-service training?  Who should attend?  
PAES is a formal transition assessment of employment potential.  All staff running the PAES assessments should be officially trained in as PAES evaluators.  Typically you would send any staff that might work in the lab including teaching staff and paras and/or aides/job coaches.  This is teaching staff from many areas of SpEd, including mild/mod ID, high/low ASD, BD, LD, etc.  Many districts also invite their OT’s and/or DVR counselor to attend the training. Day one of training is 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.  Day two of training is 8 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.


What about staffing and scheduling for students?
There is a published document that gives the PAES staffing recommendations for administrators

There is also a published document that is a self-assessment for your lab after it is up and running, but this also shows the criteria for a lab that is run with integrity.  This makes for a great planning document as well.  

PAES Lab Self Check Inventory

Some labs assign staff to be in the lab working all day, and rotate students through.  Some labs rotate staff through.  Most labs however run several "work shifts" (class periods) per day, which are at least one hour long, and sometime 1 1/2 hours long.  Some labs run 2 work shifts, some three, and even some very busy labs run four work shifts per day. It is recommended that students work in the PAES lab at least four days a week, but it is set up for five days a week, so five days a week is most typical. Students should be in the lab at a minimum of a semester.  Some students are in for a year, some for two years.    This is dependent on varying student abilities and scheduling. Either way, the goal always is to get them into the community for work or work experiences as soon as they are ready. If you have the staff and the space, you can run up to 10 students per work shift.  See above staffing recommendations for pupil/teacher ratios.  Smaller sized labs may only run 5-8 students per work shift.  If your students function at lower levels, this will require more staff than with students who function at higher levels, so fewer students working at the same time in this case is common, sometimes even 3-5 students if the students function at low levels. It is recommended that you have one assigned person to keep track of your lab...the "work rules" and also keep track of the "inventory" on a day to day basis.  There are many bits and pieces and equipment in a PAES lab, and you want to make sure you have someone detailed that can keep track of it all, and make sure the work shifts are run consistently.  Most labs like to assign one person to be in the lab consistently over the course of the day.  Some labs have an aide or job coach that are consistently in all day, and teachers rotate through.  Others have assigned staff that are in all day, and the students rotate through.  There are many scenarios.  Most importantly to have trained staff in your lab, including trained aides, para professionals or coaches.  This is because PAES is run completely different than a typical special education classroom.  In PAES, we back off and give the least amount of assistance and see what the students can do independently on their own.  There are many techniques and tips to help the students gain the independence for competitive employment that are covered and practiced in during the in-service training.  



Considering a PAES lab? 

Read on for pricing/funding info,  planning ideas & helpful tips!

Transition Assessments & Curriculum at

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