Young adults with blindness and visual impairment need more preparation than their sighted peers to land – and keep – a job. The Pre-Employment Program provides the instruction and hands-on experience they need to compete, whether for an internship, summer employment, college work-study job or career.
During the course of the PEP, students will:
- Understand the difference between a job and a career
- Identify their skills and interests relevant to volunteer or paid work, and address skill deficits
- Define the jobs for which they are currently qualified
- Master job search strategies
- Establish an online profile and strengthen online work skills
- Increase self-advocacy skills
- Create a plan to cultivate and expand their personal networks
- Create a personal data sheet, resume and a sample cover letter
- Prepare for job interviews (practice an elevator pitch, a disability statement and answers to 10 common interview questions)
Students will exit the program with:
- An action plan (one- to three-year plan) with identified supports needed and follow-up activities spelled out (include IEP ideas/connections)
- A career portfolio – resources for job planning including a personal data sheet, sample resume, sample cover letter, list of references and letters of recommendation available in hardcopy and on a USB drive
- An online presence, supported by Perkins Pre-Employment Program faculty
- A Perkins Pre-Employment Program Certificate of Completion
Part I: Self Awareness and Career Exploration
The Job Readiness Challenge
In their first PEP class, participants meet one another and the Perkins faculty. They have an opportunity to self-explore – to identify their interests, abilities, values, work personality and any vocational liabilities that they face. They learn how to access and set up an account on a social networking website used by many businesses, Yammer. A panel of young adults with visual impairments have been invited to present their journeys.
Next, participants explore career options and jobs available nationally and in their local communities to determine what they are able to do now and how those jobs relate to the careers they may want to pursue. They are introduced to informational interviewing and techniques to help them with nonverbal communication skills: body language, facial expression, gestures, etc. Adults who are blind or have low vision will present to the participants about their employment and life experiences.
This session ties together for participants the “who they are” with the “what they want to do” and helps them identify where they may need additional training or experience. They have an opportunity to draft their career action plans. They can document courses they may need to take while still in school and experiential learning opportunities they may want to seek out. Assistive technology power users will present the array of technology tools available and how to transfer skills learned with those tools into future work environments.
Part II: Job Seeking Skills
Finding Your First Job
As they progress through the program, participants learn how to search for jobs – as young adults seeking a first employment experience and how to tie available jobs to their longer term career goals. Hiring professionals from Boston corporations (Perkins Business Partners) will be on campus to discuss hiring concerns and desires and participate in a group informational interview with the youth.
Building Your Profile
Participants will draft their personal data sheets, resumes and sample cover letters to accompany written requests for jobs. The emphasis is on developing strong written communication skills to use in current and future job seeking either online or in-person. Social media demands and concerns when job seeking will be discussed. Guest speakers with and without visual impairments will work with the students on appropriate attire for interviewing and different work environments.
Preparing for the Interview
Participants will explore presentation options and discuss how to address employers’ possible misconceptions about hiring individuals with visual impairments. Resources available to facilitate in the job search process are described by representatives experienced in the employment process for individuals with a disability. HR professionals describe their experiences in interviewing and hiring staff.
Part III: Application of Employability Skills
Acing the Interview
In the final section of the program, participants practice developing responses to common interview questions and prepare for the inevitable questions concerning their disabilities. Disability experts from Boston-area businesses will speak to attendees about their employment rights and responsibilities as individuals with disabilities. These professionals will also conduct practice interviews with participants. The emphasis in this presentation is on successfully communicating confidence and enthusiasm for work in interviews without downplaying the impact of disability on work performance.
Getting Ready for Work
Participants problem solve moving from school into work environments: the logistics of getting to and from interviews and jobs; plus, the importance of self-advocacy and working well with others. Employed adults who are blind or have low vision will be guest speakers to describe how they manage the challenges of transportation and job accommodations in employment, as well as explain their abilities and needs to employers and coworkers.
Polishing Your Skills
Participants will engage in a lively discussion of what it takes to keep a job and learn about employer expectations and how they change over time. Afterwards, the participants perform and capture on video their final interviews. They also share their perceptions of each other’s overall program performance.
Finalizing Your Action Plan and Celebrating Your Success
This final session allows participants time to finalize their resume, cover letter and celebrate their accomplishments to date. They receive their Certificates of Completion in a short ceremony with families and significant others in attendance.