Tag Archives: work

What’s In A Job?

What’s in a job? An awful lot, I believe, if you’re a young person with additional needs. I should qualify that by acknowledging that for some young people there will be restrictions on the kind of jobs they can hold down because of the nature of their needs. I know certain jobs my daughter has expressed an interest in won’t work for her, like being a tour guide at Harry Potter World. She gets anxious in large groups. But I do remember one parent telling me how important it is to work with what our children want to do, and try and find a creative way for them achieve that. So for my daughter possibly a tour guide in a smaller attraction is an option.

In my mind I have this plan: my daughter will one day have a job, earn her own money and live independently. But it isn’t a plan with a timescale attached. She is 16, so plenty of time to worry about that later, right? No, wrong! the years fly by. So instead of just talking, I need to start timing the plan. At the same age, my oldest already had a part-time job on the weekend. This not only helped her confidence, but it gave her a sense of control over her own life because the money she earned she could spend any way she wanted. A sense of control is an essential part of growing up, and one many young people with additional needs miss out on. The fact is very few young people with additional needs end up having part-time jobs while still in full-time education.

So what is the first step to getting this part-time job? One option is to start with volunteering because there needs to be a dose of realism here. Volunteering can enable her to experience the world of work without the pressures that come with a paid job. But this has to be temporary. Volunteering, in my mind, is not a job; it’s giving something back to the community, which we should all do but it won’t help pay the bills.

Another option could be asking friends with businesses to help out with some work experience, unpaid at first most likely. Most of us know people who have a business, and maybe they have a role which fits into what your young person is interested in. If you’re very lucky you just happen to have a friend who owns a video games company or a chocolate factory. But I don’t think the role is as important as the responsibility of having to be somewhere, to do something. That gives the sense of progress towards independence.

If you are lucky enough to have one of the organizations I have talked with on the podcast on your doorstep, then this whole process might be easier. Approach them and see what connections they can help out with.  This is a good chance to start planning ahead because if you’re similar to me your son/daughter is still at school so not in need of these services just yet. Organizations like Invictus Enterprises, Team Domenica, Acceptable Enterprises, Yes She Can Inc. and bemix are ready and able to provide the stepping stones into paid employment.

In so many ways we support our children, so helping them transition into paid work is just another one of our many challenges. But I feel the rewards will be worth the struggles. I can’t wait for my daughter to get her first paycheck and choose to spend her money on something I totally disapprove of. A job will equal more control over her life, more choices and she deserves this just like everyone else.

Invictus Enterprises: Building The Steps Into Work

Podcast Episode 46. What happens to young people with additional needs when they finish full-time education? How will they find employment? How will they cope on their own throughout adulthood? Continue reading

Team Domenica – Supporting Success In The Workplace

Podcast Episode 45. Successful sustainable employment opportunities for young people with additional needs comes when support is provided for not just the young person but also for their employer too. Continue reading

Why Supported Internships Work


Let’s start with a bad then a good statistic. Somewhere between 50% to 70% is the unemployment rate among young people with additional needs, depending on which website you visit. A good employment statistic happens on a Project Search program at the Marriott (the topic of my latest podcast Project Search at the Marriot), where around 70% of the young people completing their year-long program get paid employment at the end. As well, much of this is in full-time positions, not part-time.

How do they do it? through a much more integrated and systematic approach, and having very clear roles for the staff supporting the young people. So, as well as the program tutor there is a job coach and a job developer. The young people coming onto this supported internship program train with purpose, train with help from a job coach and have a job developer to ensure that by the time they complete the program, they not only have a better idea about what they want to do, but they also have links with prospective employers and, in many cases, have a job waiting for them when they graduate from the program.

The job coach, as the name suggests, is on hand to help identify the strengths of the young people and where they might see their work future. So, although this particular program is based in hospitality at the Marriot, the job coach talks to each young person about what careers they are interested in. These need not be in hospitality, in one case a graduate of the program now works in a skilled role in the care sector.

The job developer role is key though in breaking down the barriers with employers. It doesn’t really matter how ready, willing and able a young person is if there is no job for them to go to. Finding a suitable employer who is open to hiring someone with additional needs can be quite a challenge, according to Sam the job developer. However, she has also noticed that there is a growing shift in perceptions around what young people with additional needs can do. One thing she advocates is the idea of using unpaid trials as opposed to the usual interview process where sometimes a young person will perform poorly because of their lack of language skills. An unpaid trial can take the formal element out of the equation and allow the young person to show an employer how well they perform in the workplace. This means the employer can consider their capabilities rather than basing their decision purely on the interview alone. This gives the potential employer the opportunity to see just how capable the young person is and breaks down the “fear factor” that a lot of employers have and show them the young person’s real capabilities.

The ongoing support provided to employers seems key to this program’s success. The tutor, job coach and job developer all continuously support the young people, but this support also goes outside the confines of the program when they move to paid employment. This support seems to have been the difference in some cases as to why an employer has taken on a young person and why as well they have been able to make those “reasonable adjustments” we’ve talked about in the past, which ensures a young person can perform the tasks required. Often these reasonable adjustments are simple things an employer wouldn’t think of, but which fundamentally change the way a task is done without impacting on the quality of the outcome.

Project search and supported internship programs like it prove that with the right support and strategies it’s possible to break down barriers that exist among employers and sometimes the young people themselves, preventing them from working in jobs they want rather than the traditional jobs they might have been expected to take on.  More supported internship programs like Project Search will go a long way toward solving the lack of paid employment opportunities for young people with additional needs. Just as importantly every single young person who graduates from a program to paid employment helps in changing the perceptions towards young people with additional needs and their ability to have full-time paid employment.

 

Stepping Back – Part 2

Podcast Episode 38. Friendships and purpose are two of the most important things to have in our lives. For young people with additional needs finding these can sometimes be a challenge. Continue reading