This series, Employment 101, will give a brief overview of Vista's philosophy and process for approaching vocational training.
Vista believes that everyone can be employed in some way and that everyone can reach their full potential. Our strategy for employment success has three steps: build a general foundation of independence, cultivate vocational readiness through job development and training sites, and prepare students to showcase their abilities during the hiring process.
Part I: Building a General Foundation of Independence
Many individuals with disabilities want to become employed, but don’t know where to start. The first step to becoming ready for employment is building up general independence skills. After all, the traits that make someone an independent, responsible adult are also the foundation for making them a good employee. At Vista’s transition program, Discover, students in the dormitory learn three core areas in addition to vocational training: life skills, cognitive and social behavior, and community involvement.
Jordan Shamas, Vista’s Discover Program Lead, explains, “It is important to set students up for success. To maintain a job, whether it is paid or volunteer, all adults must ensure they have proper hygiene, look presentable, respect others, among practicing other positive behaviors independently.” For example, if a student is having difficulty waking up on time for their programmatic group, they most likely would struggle to be on time for work as well. Many skills covered in Discover also give students more potential employment opportunities, like being able to utilize public transportation. To ultimately achieve a higher level of independence, the student and Vista staff collaborate to find strategies to help the student be successful.
Henry at a Vista’s retail store, Creations, practicing handling money during a job assessment to evaluate his vocational skills
Once the student begins to feel comfortable with these core areas, they engage in an employment assessment to see how they do in a vocational setting. This evaluative process is important because even students with a lot of employment experience may respond differently when they are out of their comfort zone in a new environment, sometimes for the better. At Creations, Vista’s retail gift store in downtown Madison, CT, students are able to complete employment assessments. Henry, a new student in Discover, has been enthusiastic about his employment journey, but was apprehensive to consider positions involving money because of a past negative experience. At Creations, Henry was able to practice at the cash register and demonstrated his ability to correctly handle money, regaining confidence in his own abilities. This foundation of core skills and assessment opportunities give students the confidence to pursue the next phase of their employment journey.
Stay tuned for Part II: Job Development and Training Sites!
To learn more about Vista’s Employment Services, visit: www.vistalifeinnovations.org/programs-services/work