What Are Pre-Employment Skills and How Does My Child Get Them?
The pre-employment skills are the basic building blocks of being a solid employee. They are the foundation or corner stone of job readiness. Without a solid foundation, the building of employment is likely to crumble. What are pre-employment skills and how does my child acquire them?
Most of us take pre-employment skills for granted. We do not give them much thought. However, for students with a variety of disabilities, these skills are not learned by osmosis. They must be taught explicitly. These skills can include basic hygiene, dressing and self-care; managing time, and travel training. Granted some of these activities are better suited to training the student in the home. Consequently, much of the burden falls upon the parents for teaching the child these skills. However, many of these skills can be written into a child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and can include a home visiting and/or parent training component. While in school, a student can learn about how to dress for a job interview and how this might differ from dressing casually for home versus dressing up every day to go to work. Managing their time is something that will need to be reinforced both at home and at school. Once a child learns the basic concepts of telling time, then they can learn time management. A critical skill parents can reinforce is the child setting alarms on clocks or smart phones and making sure he or she gets him or herself up in the morning. Many students with disabilities will not learn how to drive a car while in public school. This severely limits their employability by limiting their geographical area in which they can find work. Travel training is an essential pre-employment skill. Students living in rural and suburban environments will be at distinct disadvantage when it comes to travel training because of the lack of mass transit infrastructure. The key to making the travel training useful for the student is not simply fixed route training, i.e., teaching him of her how to get to a location and back home. Rather, it is contingency management, i.e., what to do when your primary means of travel has failed.
Aside from the schools and home, where can my child learn pre-employment skills? Congress passed the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) in 2014. This is a transformative piece of legislation, particularly for transition aged youth (14-26 years of age) with disabilities. It’s important for parents to know the ins and outs of this legislation because it defines the rules around pre-employment transition services and is the source of funding. The legislation defines what are pre-employment transition activities, which one-stop partner programs are allowed to provide services, and outlines how this act works with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) along with a half dozen other pieces of legislation. As a result of the passage of WIOA State employment agencies generically referred to as Department of Vocational and Rehabilitative Services must now allocate 15% of their budgets toward transition aged youth. Each state refers to this agency by a different name or acronym (e.g. Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, [MRC]). Contact your local office of Vocational and Rehabilitative Services to find out what services they offer. Ask them which social service agencies and colleges have been awarded a contract as a one-stop partner through the Request for Funds Proposal (RFP) process to locate a pre-employment training program near you.
The one-stop partners defined in this Act provide career services including, but not limited to:
(1) Comprehensive and specialized assessments of skill levels and service needs…which may include:
- Diagnostic testing and other assessment tools; and
- In-depth interviewing and evaluation to identify employment barriers and appropriate employment goals;
(2) Development of an employment plan, to identify the employment goals, appropriate achievement objectives…
(3) Group counseling;
(4) Individual counseling;
(5) Career planning;
(6) Short term pre-vocational services including the development of learning skills, communication skills, interviewing skills, punctuality, personal maintenance skills, and professional conduct services to prepare individuals for unsubsidized employment or training; [emphasis added]
(7) Internships and work experiences that are linked to careers
(8) Workforce preparation activities
(9) Financial literacy services… (Fed. Reg. 81, pp-56012-56013).
These one stop partners can provide services during the academic year as well as during the summer. Look for summer programs that offer the opportunity for your child to work on soft employment skills such as punctuality, self-maintenance skills, travel training, and financial literacy. Ask if these programs offer internship possibilities and whether or not the internships are paid. Participation in programs such as these significantly increases the likelihood that a youth with disabilities will be employed and can lead to higher hourly compensation.
20 U.S.C. § 1400 et. seq. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997
Federal Register Vol. 81. No 161. Part V. Pages 55791-56470. Department of Labor (20 CFR Parts 676, 677, and 678). Department of Education (34 CFR Part 361 and 463). August 19, 2016.
The Workforce Innovations Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA). H.R. 803, 113th Cong. (2014).
Ernst VanBergeijk, Ph.D., M.S.W. is a professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA and is the Director of the Threshold Program which is a post-secondary transition program for students with a variety of disabilities. www.lesley.edu/threshold
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