Finding a job as a young person after recently graduating from college is a major challenge. Some know exactly where they will end up, some take time off to “find themselves”, and some dive head-first into the struggle of finding a job. As a person with disabilities, this struggle oftentimes comes with additional challenges. Fortunately, for those of us facing such challenges, there are many resources that can be used to assist in this endeavor.
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), operated by the Department of Education, can be utilized for their many tools to aid those with disabilities in the preparation for the job search, finding gainful employment, and maintaining this employment. In my own experience with VR and an On-the-Job Training (OJT) program, I was placed in a job position that was a great fit utilizing both my education and experience in Journalism and Digital Communications which ultimately led to an employment opportunity.
Vocational Rehabilitation isn’t just for adults
Often people think of VR as a service for adults, however, it also offers resources for families starting at a much younger age. This includes occupational and physical therapies, and daytime caregiving assistance, such as after-school care, specifically helping with school assignments and other scholastic activities. I sometimes wish my family and I would have utilized the “personal supports” available as this would have relieved my mother of some of her daytime responsibilities. The pressures on my family members can sometimes be a lot, for all of us, and VR resources could have aided in making the work load a little less heavy. In some cases, VR an also assist with many purchases of necessary equipment including paying for vehicle modifications to transport a wheelchair, adaptive work-stations for schooling and employment, and many other services. It is never too early in your child’s development to inquire about how services with Vocational Rehabilitation may be able to help you.
As I grew into an adult, VR has been the most valuable tool that I have had to help me plan out my future career.
Finding the right fit – Assessments and Job Coaching
My experiences began with an assessment of my skills and needs. This included an initial technology assessment. This is done to determine what kind of technology and outside tools I could utilize to be a successful and efficient employee. A representative came to my home and asked many questions about my capabilities and any difficulties I had when it came to fulfilling school assignments. It was determined through this meeting that I would benefit from an iPad Pro. I have difficulty with tracking and seeing small print, therefore this iPad provides me with a large surface to see, write, and review my work. Another helpful feature of the iPad is the advanced voice recognition software which allows me to dictate and record my notes. This piece of equipment also required a new mounting system that allows for adjustable settings and for my workspace to be attached directly to my wheelchair system. This technology assessment was the first stepping stone into the future that VR would be able to help me build. It was clear that the representative had an idea of the next steps that I would be taking with VR because the iPad is now how I complete most all of my meetings and work. The next steps would no longer be about the tools that I could use, but about honing the skills that I already have in conjunction with these new technological aids to find my future job.
The next step of the VR process was to find the preferred vendor of my choice to assist in the job coaching experience. After several recommendations and phone calls, I chose a company called The Grow Group. The Grow Group is a non-profit organization that offers a variety of employment services for people with disabilities. Once VR placed the contract with Grow Group, they became my main contact. Shortly after this decision, I underwent a vocational evaluation which helped to determine what sort of work I would be best suited for. After several questionnaires and aptitude tests, I was placed with a job coach to begin the search. We began this process by establishing goals and desired jobs that I would consider to be dream positions. This was the baseline for where I wanted the direction of this process to head. Some of our initial steps included creating a refined resume showing my education and experience, and updating social media platforms that assisted in the job search (i.e., LinkedIn, Indeed). I then began applying for jobs and reaching out to companies that I was interested in working for. I would present a potential employer with an On-the-job Training Program that is a four-way partnership between VR, The Grow Group, my prospective employer, and myself. This partnership would provide funding from VR to the Grow Group who will in turn pay me to gain experience and training with the employer. This program is typically short term (6-8 weeks) and the employer would not be responsible for my compensation, but instead be solely in charge of providing me with the opportunity of employment. As a person with a disability, this opportunity is a huge chance for growth and discovery to determine my capabilities in relation to maintaining steady employment in the future.
Employment is the Goal!
Through the On-the-Job-Training-Program with the help of VR and The Grow Group, I was placed with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation’s digital team where I learned about and contributed to the operations of CPresource.org and their social media platform. This experience led to an employment opportunity with the foundation where I am now officially part of the team!
I sometimes wish my family and I would have utilized the “personal supports” available as this would have relieved my mother of some of her daytime responsibilities. The pressures on my family members can sometimes be a lot, for all of us, and VR resources could have aided in making the work load a little less heavy.