Someone must ensure that constant communication is maintained between employer, REHABILITATION SYSTEM and service providers at every step of the process.
Expectation Once a given step in the process has been completed or turned over to a responsible partner, the Employment Project involvement is complete.
Reality Most employers know little or nothing about how the process should work or at what pace. Communication between employer, REHABILITATION SYSTEM and service providers needs constant coordination to work correctly.
Result Equipment and/or services do not reach the workplace in a timely manner.
Lesson Learned: Someone must fill the communication gap or the process doesn’t work.
Computer course completion should have an exit criteria directly related to workplace requirements
Expectation Clients who attended computer training sessions at an authorized training center will complete training with a knowledge level appropriate for entering the workplace.
Reality Clients were completing computer training successfully, but were still not prepared to take the competitive tests associated with job interviews. The clients knew the course topics but, in many cases, did not know how to put them together to accomplish a typical workplace oriented task (e.g., the creation, editing, merging and saving of a document. Nor were the clients capable, in many cases, of typing at 35 words per minute, the normal requirement.
Result Many clients did not pass the interview test.
Lesson Learned: Course completion should have an exit criteria directly related to workplace requirements.
A means must be found to provide students in computer training with equipment that can be used at home to reinforce their training.
Expectation That clients who attended computer training courses would have the resources needed to complete that training successfully.
Reality That attending training sessions faithfully once or twice a week is not sufficient. Unless the capability exists to practice and enhance the lessons learned, the knowledge is lost or vague by the time of the next session. As one client put it ‘it’s like trying to learn to cook without a stove’. Most clients cannot afford to buy their own computer or assistive technology software and the state will not provide equipment until a job is at hand.
Result Much of the value of the training is lost within a short period of time. Training time is prolonged because part of each session must be used to repeat material already covered.
Lesson Learned: A means must be found to provide students with equipment that can be used at home to reinforce training. The Employment Project has started a ‘loaner computer’ program to address this need.
The interviewer must be contacted and be aware of the applicant’s blindness before the interview occurs.
Expectation A job interview with a blind applicant can be conducted like any other job interview.
Reality An interviewer is invariably shocked when a person shows up for an interview and that is the first indication that the applicant is blind.
Result The interview becomes an awkward one that does not address necessary issues
Lesson Learned: The interviewer must be contacted after the interview is scheduled, but before the interview is conducted. Our Employment Project offers to make this ‘bridge phone call’ as an advocate of both the client and the employer.
The importance of the clients viewing themselves as a networking group must be stressed early in the process and reemphasized often.
Expectation Once a client is on the job search, their sole interaction is with the Employment Project.
Reality Networking with the other Project clients starts during the Job Readiness Workshops and continues even after they are hired.
Result Their successful job search and subsequent job performance opens the workplace door for other clients.
Lesson Learned: The importance of the clients viewing themselves as a networking group must be stressed early in the process and reemphasized often.
The job does not wait for the system to catch up to the job requirements.
Expectation A major ally in the job acquisition process would be the rehabilitation system.
Reality The system is often unable to react in the timeframe needed to provide equipment and job-related training when a client is hired. The time between job interview and hire/start date is usually measured in days or a week. The rehabilitation system also does not support key elements during the job search process, such as the availability of equipment to the client while the client is in training (see Loaner Computers).
Result Ad hoc methods must be used to fill the gaps. This usually translates to the Employment Project providing loaner equipment (not always fulfilling job requirements) until the real equipment arrives. This approach can not work long-term.
Lesson Learned: The job does not wait for the system to catch up to the job requirements. Jobs are lost.
Employment services must be raised to an equal priority level with traditional services at budget time to be successful.
Expectation With the unemployment rate at greater than 70% among blind and visually impaired persons, employment would be a top priority in the blindness community.
Reality Funding is always a problem in organizations that provide services to the blind and visually impaired. Funding, hence emphasis, is placed on traditional services and, if a cutback occurs employment services are often the first to be hit. This, despite the fact that employment services add clients and funding to the traditional services such as computer and O&M training. Developers of assistive technology software are reluctant to test their products in a complex workplace environment, opting to concentrate on more targeted individual and training center environments. Unless a conference is devoted exclusively to employment, which is rare, employment sessions are usually sparse on the agenda.
Result Employment is still the ‘new guy on the block’ and is given a relatively low priority within the blindness community.
Lesson Learned: Employment services must be raised to an equal priority level with traditional services at budget time, or else employment projects cannot be successful.