For many professionals, especially school professionals who have not gone through formal training on job placement or job development, this process can sometimes be more intimidating than searching for a job yourself!
To celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we would like to share three tips for job developing for high school students with disabilities.
Present Yourself as a Solution
Every business has staffing issues. By doing a little homework on the common staffing problems in that industry, you can craft your “pitch” to this employer. Explain how your work program or individual student can help solve some of these problems.
A common staffing problem is turnover rate. A study of 8,500 persons with disabilities in competitive employment showed a nearly 85% job-retention rate after one year with companies like DuPont and Sears, who measure retention rates. Safeway, a grocery chain, was quoted as saying, “…these workers’ time and attendance records tell the story. Their numbers are far superior compared to those of employees who are not disabled. They deliver incredible customer service.”
Retention rate is just one staffing problem a business may have. Staffing problems are a great way to start a job development conversation. Introduce yourself, share what your role is, and tell them that you’d like to get more familiar with their business and the staffing problems they face to see if your students or customers could be a solution.
Minimize Employer Risk Through Supports
Many high school transition work programs and community service providers have supported employment services to offer students, customers, and employers. This is a great selling point in the job development process because, unfortunately, many employers see hiring a person with a disability as “a risk.”
Making the employer aware of the supported employment services your school or agency offers is a way to reassure them that you care about the success of the potential employee and the company long-term. Reassuring them of how the need for supported employment services will be evaluated and how the services will be delivered helps you present yourself as this solution to their staffing problems.
If you have worked in job development or job placement for any amount of time, you know that sometimes things don’t turn out as positively as everyone would like. If you over-sell an individual student for a position, the employer may feel misled, which could effectively end that professional relationship.
While job developing for a student who has some attendance issues, it might not be a great idea to sell some of those retention rate stats. Sell the student’s strengths, but don’t ignore the student’s weaknesses. Instead, explain how your program will be there to provide on-site job coaching, off-site job coaching, or other services to help that student achieve success.
Honesty and a proactive approach during the pre-employment and on-the-job stages of the employment process help build rapport with this manager.
My first position in the disability employment space was as a job developer for adults with developmental disabilities. I took this approach I’ve shared with you when I worked with employers. Multiple times, I had a customer lose or quit a job, and that manager did not hold that resolution of employment against me. Instead, they came to me to ask if I had good candidates when they needed to hire.
As someone who does job development or job placement for individuals with disabilities, you are an advocate for them. But if you can demonstrate to businesses that you are an advocate for their staffing needs, you will establish yourself as someone who can help advance the lives of people with disabilities by meeting the needs of the business.