School-based Preparatory Experiences Jump Start

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   - Getting it Right
   - Research Base
   - Resources
   - References

School-based preparatory experiences are those core activities that help youth become prepared for a successful future in careers or postsecondary education institutions. They include the core activities of career assessments (formal and informal), introduces the concept of opportunity awareness (guest speakers, informational interviews, research-based activities, community mapping, exposures to post secondary education) and work-readiness skills (soft-skills development, computer competency and job search skills).

Getting It Right

Helping youth make informed choices about what they want to do as adults is the root of why school-based preparatory experiences are so essential. Assisting youth to negotiate the transition from school to employment and further education means, in part, preparing them to adjust to the workplace and the performance of work. In a major sense, what happens during the preparatory (work-readiness) stage of career development can significantly affect the transition to employment of the young person. A stable, smooth, and supportive transition to employment can reduce the problems of unemployment and productivity that sometimes plague young workers, particularly those with disabilities.

Research Base

Work-Ready

Someone is "work-ready" when they can make the educational and vocational decisions and perform the kinds of educational and vocational tasks (behaviors) that are expected by schools and employers (Sarkees-Wircenski & Scott, 1995). Individuals differ in their readiness to deal with career development tasks at the "expected" or "appointed" time. Some youth are more aware than others of the work-related decisions that must be made at various points in their lives, and are therefore, better equipped to enter and participate in the world of work. Research indicates that youth with disabilities tend to lag behind their peers in readiness for the career development process (Faas, D'Alonzo & Stile, 1990). Family involvement in skill development has been shown to positively contribute to the development of work-readiness skills for youth with and without disabilities (Mooney, 1998; Way & Rossmann, 1996).

13 Basic Skills and Workplace Knowledge and Competencies
 

What do youth need to know and be able to do to be considered "work-ready"? A number of national taxonomies and research studies looked at this issue and identified the following skills and competencies which young people needed to know in order to succeed in the working world.
 

  1. Identifying, organizing, planning and allocating benefits and resources;
     
  2. Working with others on teams, teaching others, exercising leadership, negotiating and influencing others, and working with diverse groups of individuals;
     
  3. Acquiring, organizing, interpreting, evaluating and communicating information;
     
  4. Understanding complex interrelationships and distinguishing trends, predicting impacts, as well as monitoring and correcting performance;
     
  5. Working with a variety of systems and technologies and choosing the appropriate tool for the task;
     
  6. Developing higher-order thinking skills such as creative, innovative thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, goal-setting and decision-making skills;
     
  7. Developing self-knowledge, self-determination and self-advocacy skills;
     
  8. Developing self-discipline, self-management skills, and the ability to work without supervision;
     
  9. Strengthening basic academic skills such as reading, math, writing and oral communications skills;
     
  10. Being self-confident, willing to learn new tasks, and maintaining a positive attitude toward work;
     
  11. Developing effective skills and traits such as dependability/responsibility, conscientiousness, punctuality, efficiency, flexibility, honesty, integrity, being well-mannered, cooperative, and using appropriate dress and good grooming;
     
  12. Developing leadership skills to guide and support others and seek guidance and support from others to pursue goals;
     
  13. Exercising rights and responsibilities.

Assessment

A number of sources (Clark, 1999; Clark & Patton, 1997; National Council on Disabilities, 2000; Schelly, Kothe & Sample, 1995) identify assessment as an integral component of a successful post-secondary transition program for students with disabilities.

Formal and informal career assessments should be conducted periodically to:

  • determine a young person's evolving levels of functioning in reference to these critical work-readiness areas;
  • assist in identifying individual characteristics, education, and training needs; and
  • plan appropriate opportunity awareness activities to enhance current knowledge and skills.

Not only can career assessment provide valuable information about work-readiness skills, it can also provide insight into basic skills levels, vocational interests, vocational aptitudes and abilities, and learning styles. Effective transition plans and services often depend on reliable and useful assessment data.

Career assessment is important for all youth transitioning to adult roles, but it is particularly important for youth with disabilities. Many youth with disabilities experience a variety of difficulties handling the realities of work demands, and career assessment offers them the opportunity to discover their career, transition, and pinpoint to their vocational and educational strengths. Both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STWOA) identify career assessment as integral to assisting youth to make informed choices and set realistic goals for their successful transitioning to adulthood (Leconte & Neubert, 1997).

Seven Major Uses of Informal and Formal Career Assessment Data
Identified by Neubert (1985) and Leconte (1986)
 
  1. Determination of career development: To find out where the student stands in terms of: career awareness, orientation, exploration, preparation, placement, or growth/maintenance;
     
  2. Measurement: To identify abilities, interests, capabilities, strengths, needs, potentials, and behaviors within the areas of personal/social, functional/academic, community/independent, employment and employability areas;
     
  3. Prediction: To match an individual's interests and abilities with appropriate training, community employment, or postsecondary training;
     
  4. Prescription: To identify strengths and needs, and to recommend types of adaptive techniques and/or remedial strategies that will lead to improved career preparation and development;
     
  5. Exploration: To "try out" different work-related tasks or activities and to determine how interests match abilities for work-based experiences, community jobs, postsecondary, or other adult activities;
     
  6. Intervention: To implement the techniques or remedial strategies that will help a student explore career or work options;
     
  7. Advocacy: To develop a career profile to help students, their families, and others identify concrete ways to assist students in achieving their goals.

 

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Resources

High School/High Tech (HS/HT) Program Guide
Provides opportunity for students with disabilities to explore careers in science, mathematics and technology. The HS-HT program manual includes a chapter on School-based Preparatory Experiences with examples, sample forms and resources.

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET)
National resources, technical assistance, and information related to secondary education and transition for youth with disabilities.

Job Accommodations Network
Information on job accommodations, modifications, and assistive technology for various disabilities.

NICHCY - Transition Guides

National Institute for Literacy - Equipped for the Future project

Jobs for the Future - Creating Strategies for Educational and Economic Opportunity

Division on Career Development and Transition - Council for Exceptional Children

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References

Busse, R. (1992). The new basics. Vocational Education Journal, 67(5), 25-26.

Carnevale, A.P. (1991). America and the new economy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Carnevale, A.P., Gainer, L.J., & Meltzer, A.S. (1988). Workplace basics: The skills employers want. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development.

Carnevale, A.P., Gainer, L.J., & Meltzer, A.S. (1990). Workplace basics: The essential skills employers want. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development.

Clark, G.M. (1999). Making the delivery of transition services collaborative: An epilogue. In S.H. DeFur & J.R. Patton (Eds.), Transition and school-based services (pp. 443-453). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Clark, G.M., & Patton, J.R. (1997). Transition planning inventory. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Council of Chief State School Officers. (1994). Survey of state school-to-work opportunity systems. Washington, DC: Author.

Equipped for the Future. Content framework for the EFF standards. (2002). [online], Available: http://eff.cls.utk.edu/PDF/standards_guide.pdf

Faas, L.A., D'Alonzo, B.J., & Stile (1990). Personality patterns of successful and
Unsuccessful adults with learning disabilities.
Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 13(1), 1-12.

Gribbons, W.D., & Lohnes, P.R. (1965). Predicting five years of development in adolescents from readiness for vocational planning scales. Journal of Educational Psychology, 56, 244-253.

Gribbons, W.D., & Lohnes, P.R. (1966). Career development. Weston, MA: Regis College.

Leconte, P. (1986). Vocational assessment of special needs learners: A vocational education perspective. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Vocational Association in Atlanta, GA.

Leconte, P.J., & Neubert, D.A. (September, 1997). Vocational assessment: The kick-off point for successful transitions. National Transition Alliance for Youth with Disabilities, ALLIANCE Newsletter, 2(2), 1, 3-4, 8.

Mithaug, D.E. (1994). Equity and excellence in school-to-work transitions of special populations. Berkeley, CA: University of California at Berkeley, National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

Mooney, M. (1998). Family contributions to the work-readiness of youth with learning disabilities. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.

National Council on Disabilities. (2000, January 25). Back to school on civil rights: Advancing the federal commitment to leave no child behind. Washington, DC: Author.

Neubert, D. (1985). Use of vocational evaluation recommendations in selected public school settings. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 9, 98-105.

Norusis, M.J. (1990). SPSS/PS+ advanced statistics 4.0 [Computer Software]. Chicago, IL: SPSS.

Patton, J.R., & Blalock, G. (Eds.). (1996). Transition and students with learning disabilities. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

O'Hara, R.P., & Tiedeman, D.V. (1959). Vocational self-concept in adolescence. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 6, 292-301.

Sarkees-Wircenski, M., & Scott, J.L. (1995). Vocational special needs. Homewood, IL: American Technical Publishers.

Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (1991). What work requires of
schools.
A SCANS report for America 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Labor. [online], Available: http://wdr.doleta.gov/SCANS/whatwork

Schelly, C., Kothe, J. & Sample, P. (1995). Vocational support strategies for students with emotional disorders. (ERIC Digest No. ED 383 152). Reston, VA: Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. [online], Available: http://www.ericfacility.net/ericdigests/ed383152.html

Super, D.E. (1957). The psychology of careers. New York: Harper & Row.

Ward, M.J. (1991). Self-determination revisited: Going beyond expectations. Transition Summary, 7, 3-5, 12.

Way, W.L., & Rossmann, M.M. (1996). Family contributions to adolescent readiness for
school-to-work transition.
Journal of Vocational Education Research, 21(2).

Wehmeyer, M.L. (1996). "Self-determination as an educational outcome: Why is it important to children, youth, and adults with disabilities?" In D. J. Sands & M. L. Wehmeyer (Eds.), Self determination across the life-span: Independence and choice for people with disabilities (pp. 15-34). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

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