Transitions From School to Work

There are many aspects of planning for a transition from school to work. Goals for successful employment are typically a central part of transition planning for all youth, including youth with disabilities. Below are some helpful strategies for assisting youth with disabilities to achieve employment goals after high school.

Developing a Career Portfolio

A career portfolio is a written record of a student’s activities, accomplishments and goals. It shows a person’s unique accomplishments, experiences and personal strengths. It helps to identify the skills learned or needed in order to be prepared for achieving employment goals after school has been completed.

In New Brunswick, the Department of Education has developed Linking to the Future, a career-planning portfolio for all students beginning in middle school through to graduation from high school. This portfolio is designed to assist all students in planning for their futures and is intended to be updated regularly by students with help from parents, teachers and counselors.

A career portfolio can be an important way to record your child’s progress towards developing employability skills and a plan to ensure successful transition from school to work. Your child’s portfolio might include specific items or documents that may be helpful when looking for a job.

Career Education and Work Experience

Career education simply means learning about work, different types of jobs and the skills necessary to be apart of the everyday work force.

Work experience means having opportunities to actually experience different kinds of jobs and one’s own role as an employee. Sometimes, work experiences are simulated within your child’s school. Most often, however, work experience will mean that your child actually performs a job at a regular workplace in your community. Work experiences can either be for a very short time or last several months, and may be either paid or unpaid. Often, work experiences that are a part of a school program do not provide pay.

Having opportunities for career education and work experience will be crucial for your child’s successful transition from school to work. Career education and work experience should receive a lot of attention during the transition planning process.

Decisions about career education and work experience opportunities for your child should relate to the goals you and your child have set for employment after high school. Decisions will have to be reviewed and updated as goals become clear and more specific.

Identifying Your Child’s Career Interests

Career education involves learning about different occupations, various roles of workers, the importance of work and having a good attitude toward work. Career education will also involve your child learning more about him or herself and about his or her interests in future work.

Career education should begin during the elementary and middle school years. If this has not happened for your child by the time you start planning, you will need seriously think about providing opportunities for career education as soon as possible.

Career education is also about starting to match your child’s interest about potential careers or jobs. Use the questions below to help your child identify his or her interests with potential work:

  • What jobs do you think you might enjoy doing?
  • What jobs have you held in the past?
  • Where do your parents work and what do they do in their jobs?
  • What do your brothers, sisters or other relatives do in their jobs?
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?
  • What subjects do you like best in school?
  • What subject do you like least in school?
  • What subjects would you like to try that you haven’t taken yet?
  • What responsibilities do you have at home? What responsibilities do you like best and least?
  • What accomplishments or achievements have you had outside of school?

Work Experience and Exploration

Work experience and exploration should build on what your child will have learned about work through career awareness activities. Work experience and exploration is important because it will:

  • Help your child identify his or her interests;
  • Allow your child to explore a range of different jobs or occupations through hands on experience;
  • Allow your child to become familiar with a variety of work settings; and
  • Assist your child in developing skills that may be required for employment.

Work experience and exploration activities can begin as early as middle school. For most students, work experience and exploration will happen during high school. For work experience and exploration activities to be useful keep the following in mind:

  • Activities should provide hands on experience at worksites within your community (with the provision of whatever help your child may require).
  • Activities should be linked to the transition goals you and your child have set.
  • Activities should be decided on the basis of your child’s interests and abilities.
  • Activities should start with short-term work experience in a variety of regular workplaces and work toward longer-term experiences.

Making decisions about the best possible work experience and exploration activities should be part of transition planning. Any specific activities that are identified should become part of the action plan for your child.

Evaluating Work Experience

You and your child’s transition planning group should be prepared to evaluate the quality of the work experience for your child. This means that people have to take the time to determine the effectiveness of the work experience. Here are some general questions you may wish to consider:

  • Was the work experience desired by your child and supported by yourself and the transition-planning group?
  • Has the work experience been consistent with the goals set out as part of your child’s transition plan?
  • If your child required help on the job site, was it adequately provided?
  • How much responsibility has the employer or your child’s co-workers taken to provide this support?
  • Has the workplace generally been a positive experience for your child? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Has the work experience provided your child an opportunity to practice skills he or she has learned while in school?

Has the work experience helped your child to develop new social and work related skills and to develop a positive attitude towards work?

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