Vocational philosophy and programming
Vista believes that work has an intrinsic value, adding structure, purpose and belonging to our lives. As a comprehensive program that builds the skills of our students is to live a life of productive activity in the community, work is foundational. Therefore, Vista’s approach to vocational training is both comprehensive and community based, with mediated training occurring almost continually as students learn and interact in a wide variety of settings. Each student’s team, works together to ensure all aspects of training provide the student with learning opportunities where skills can be developed and fortified.
There are 3 steps in this process: Getting Started, Training for Vocational Readiness, and Entering the Workforce. Upon completion of Vista’s Discover Program, which takes 2-3 years, students will successfully demonstrate competency in vocational training in order to achieve paid employment or volunteer opportunities, commensurate with their strengths, interests, and capabilities.
Upon entrance to Vista’s Discover Program, each student begins vocational skill building. Based on the assessment of the incoming student’s current level of vocational functioning, as seen during the 5-day Vocational and Life Skill Evaluation visit and through feedback and documentation obtained from the family, former employers and others, vocational goals are set. Given how intertwined the skills are for vocational, life skills, social skills and community involvement, the vocational goals very often overlap with the other goals identified for/with each student.
This period of vocational skill building is key. Often we have found that the expectations of many of the vocational experiences individuals have had before coming to Vista are not commensurate with the expectations of the “real” employment we help our students secure. We have found that “rushing” into employment, before a student has acclimated to their new environment and learns all the skills necessary to be successful, has not worked. Vista’s community-based curriculum is rich; the learning almost continual. All of it is geared toward paid and volunteer work opportunities. We are careful not to set anyone up for failure, especially during the first-year adjustment period when first coming to Vista.
Vocational skill building focuses on developing the skills everyone needs for successful employment in the community. These skills are
multi-dimensional and include:
- Interpersonal/Coping Skills
- Rules of the Workplace
- Performance and Productivity
- Resume Writing
Students work on vocational skill building the following ways:
- Community-based worksites
- Assessments and interest inventories
- Curriculum based-groups
- Individual counseling with Program Counselor
- Feedback meetings with Program Counselor and Job Coach
- AND through the mediation of their experiences as they live and learn with others the skills to take ownership of their lives, and find confidence and competence in their growth to adulthood
Throughout the Discover program, students are being exposed to opportunities to practice skills they are learning. We look to families as well as Vista staff to support the practice of skills learned at Vista. Students are also working with their Program Counselor on narrowing fields of interest. Assessments and interest inventories are completed to narrow down the types of environments, tasks, and jobs that are compatible and realistic. Our goal is to help students choose environments in which they can be successful.
When a student has demonstrated substantial readiness to work an internship is often developed so that this readiness can be tested in a more independent setting. For internships, the student creates a development plan with their Program Counselor and a Job Developer. Each member of the team, including the student, is assigned tasks and responsibilities to help make the internship experience more successful.Throughout the program year each student’s team communicates on an ongoing basis to address needs and to work towards success. Every six months during Semester Reviews, each student’s functional skills- growth and struggles- are reviewed and updated. In the Vocational Profile, information about what we’ve collectively learned about the student’s skills, strengths, interests, preferences and capacities is synthesized, and a plan is made for the following semester, paying attention to individual readiness and the encouragement needed to reach one’s full potential.