Job Assessment and Training Strategy
Job assistance for people with disabilities, often done through vocational counseling, employment negotiation, labor market analysis, job modification, and job-search help, is a crucial skill for service providers.
Purpose and Anticipated Benefits
Development of a seven-step strategy for assessing and training job-related skills can help determine level of skill in job-related situations and teach people to find a job.
Research and Training Center on Independent Living researchers Mark Mathews and Stephen Fawcett with feedback from Paula Whang, Tom Seekins, Stephanie Mathews, Kaye DeFoor, and Ray Petty tested their job-seeking strategy with 25 employed adults, 25 unemployed adults, 25 adolescents with learning disabilities, and 25 adolescents without disabilities.
The job-seeking strategy development and validation procedure had seven steps with this study focusing on step 3:
- Analyzing employment-related tasks commonly involved in job searches. A literature search identified the 13 tasks needed to find a job, including seeking job leads, telephoning potential employers to schedule job interviews, writing letters to request an interview, participating in job interviews, writing a letter following an interview, accepting suggestions from an employers, accepting criticism from employers, providing constructive criticism to a co-worker, explaining a problem to a supervisor, accepting compliments, complimenting a co-worker, and completing a federal income tax return.
- Analyzing behavioral activities that an individual should perform when participating in each job-related situation. The way a person should behave when doing a job-related task was determined to fall into 10 separate behaviors such as the responses used when seeking a job lead (start the conversations with a greeting, state intent of looking for a job, describe desired word, describe work-related experience, etc.)
- Developing and using a behavioral assessment instrument. The authors developed role playing scripts and performance checklists for 10 social interaction situations that occur in job searches and also prepared instructions and forms for two employment-related writing tasks and one computation task. These materials were used with the 100 study participants with the employed adults performing significantly better than the rest on each of the 13 skills tested.
- Analyzing the validity of assessment procedures. In this study, eight employment experts rated the importance of each task with results showing the job-related tasks were rated as both important and representative. The experts also viewed videotaped performances of the participants and rated their satisfaction with each participant’s performance. Their scores matched up with testing results.
- Developing and pilot-testing skill-training materials. The authors wrote a text with lessons on 23 employment-related skills. Each lesson described the skill to be learned, gave examples of the skill in performance, summarized critical lesson pints, and had study guide questions.
- Evaluating experimental skill-training materials. Three studies were done to test the instruction materials effectiveness. The studies analyzed the instruction al effect on resume writing and job application completion with three participants, job interview skills with three participants, and job-related social skills with two participants. Testing done before and after instruction showed impressive skill gains.
- Disseminating the job-finding materials. Information about this study was presented at professional meetings, published in scholarly journals, and used in workshops.
The programs reported an average length of time in operation of five years, with a range of seven months to 55 years; only 10 programs had been operating for 10 years or longer. Forty percent of the programs were in areas with a population of over 500,000; 46% were in areas with populations ranging from 50,000 to 500,000. Only 8% of the programs were located in communities of less than 25,000. Four percent of the programs were campus-style residential facilities.
The responding programs provided services to an average of 428 consumers per year with a reported range of 15 to 4,000 consumers per year. The most frequently served disability group was people with cerebral palsy (served by 86% of the programs), followed by people with brain injuries (80%) and spinal cord injuries (74%). The elderly were served by the fewest programs (57%).
The most common direct service provided was information and referral, followed by individual advocacy, and community public relations and outreach. The most common indirect service was medical treatment and services, followed by vocational training, vocational placement and vehicle modification.
After being asked three questions about consumer involvement and control of their operation, programs reported that, on the average, consumers comprised 50% of the membership of governing boards (range = 0-100%). An average of 41% of the staff had disabilities (range 0-100%). Sixty-one percent of the programs reported they were controlled primarily by consumers, and 32% of the programs by persons who were not disabled; 7% of the sample did not respond to this question.
The demographic data reported by these programs suggested considerable diversity in the programs providing independent living services. For example, programs varied in areas such as length of operation, services provided and degree of consumer involvement and control indicates that some of the respondents were not independent living centers according to the generally accepted definition. Because there may be important programmatic and/or philosophical differences between centers for independent living and other programs providing independent living services, the perceived technology needs of these groups might have varied as well. Since any differences would be obscured in a single analysis across all respondents, a second analysis for centers for independent living only was conducted. This analysis was conducted with the responses of only those programs funded by Title VII and therefore met the statutory definition of a center for independent living; eighty-one (63%) of the responding programs are Title VI-funded centers for independent living.
Regarding services for consumers with disabilities, the top 10 strengths (in order of ranking) were information on the availability of community referral services, medical care, personal skills training, assistance in applying for services provided by social agencies, homemaking skills training, assistance in personal budgeting and money management, advocacy for individual consumers, advocacy for consumers in general, assisting in locating and applying for financial assistance, and access to recreational areas and parks
Problems (in order of ranking) were integration of transportation services for all persons with a disability in the community, variety of housing options suitable to the needs of consumers, access to public transit services, emergency personal care services, preventative health care and maintenance, job training programs directed to specific employment opportunities, on-the-job training opportunities for consumers, effective job placement services, follow-through procedures in vocational training to facilitate job success, and community support for issues related to having a disability and independent living.
Independent living programs were relatively satisfied with the existing technology for many of the services they provide: items related to the three services provided by the greatest number of programs — information and referral, independent living skills training, advocacy — were rated as strengths. The major problem noted by respondents related to technology for vocational training and placement of consumers. This finding was somewhat surprising since independent living services are chiefly concerned with areas other than vocational training and employment and since few of the programs provide this service directly. This finding may have reflected the overall employment problem for people with disabilities, or a general dissatisfaction with existing vocational rehabilitation services. Another prominent area of concern was community accessibility and support, particularly transportation services and housing options for consumers.
Programs expressed relative satisfaction with existing technology related to staffing; however, they also noted that staffing levels were less than optimal. The programs were satisfied with methods for promoting consumer involvement as staff and board members, and with procedures for fiscal management/accountability, and case management. The major problem area appeared to be program evaluation methods, followed by procedures for improving funding, and community development and outreach. As may be expected from the individual item analysis, vocational training opportunities emerged as the top problem area related to services, and program evaluation as the top problem area in organization. This analysis also reflected programs’ dissatisfaction with existing methods for community outreach services.
The overall importance score for all categories was 87%. In addition, the respondents appeared to be only moderately satisfied with the existing technology for independent living, with the technology in some areas (for example, 69% satisfaction with staffing/administrative support) being clearly more advanced than in others (for example, 38% satisfaction with vocational training opportunities). In general, it appeared that technology development was a higher priority for consumer services than for program organization.
“Some general conclusions may be drawn from the research findings presented in this article. First, the occupational skills assessment instrument appears to be a reliable and valid method of determining the level of a person’s skill in job-related situations. Second, as a group, youths and unemployed adults performed poorly on the occupational skills as compared to successfully employed adults. Third, the instructional procedures used to teach job-related skills appear to be effective. The result of each of the three intervention studies reviewed indicated that training of young and unemployed adults resulted in performance increased to levels higher than those achieve by the successfully employed adults. Fourth, skill training procedures appear to be effective with both learning disabled adolescent and unemployed adults. Finally, while much of this research relied on role playing situations to observe the subjects’ performance of job-related skills, preliminary information providing in the training studies suggests that the subjects’ performance generalized to actual employment situations and is valued by employers.” (p. 35)
Giving job seekers the skills to obtain and keep jobs appears to enable people with various types of disabilities and work history to apply reading, writing, and community skills to common job-related situations.
Besides being used in several vocational rehabilitation programs, including one at the Arkansas Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, and presentations, this information appeared in the Journal of Rehabilitation (Mathews, R.M., & Fawcett, S.B. (1985, April/May/June). Assisting in the job search: A behavioral assessment and training strategy. Journal of Rehabilitation, 31-35.