By Ariana Estes
Preparing for a first job can be stressful and overwhelming. There are job applications to fill out and tough questions to answer during interviews. Once the job is landed, the new employee still needs to get through job training and learn to work with his new coworkers. While most young professionals can navigate their way through this process, it can be more complicated for individuals with disabilities. Deidra Preston, employment specialist at Lutheran Family Services of Virginia, is working to make this process easier for transitioning Roanoke Minnick Vocational School students through a new Job Club.
“This club is part of the transition services we just started. It focuses on working with students at the vocational campus to help them master their soft skills like teamwork, decision making and communication. The goal is to help them develop job-readiness for whatever they transition to,” says Preston.
Preston met with Principal Walter Raines and teachers at the vocational school to discuss what activities would be beneficial to students at the school. The team worked together to pick activities they felt would best serve their students and extend what they are learning during the school day.
A recent activity focused on how individuals communicate with family, friends, and coworkers. Different scenarios were presented, and students practiced how communication in those settings would change if they were speaking with a friend, family, or a manager or coworker.
“Our program is focused on teaching our students valuable vocational skills that they can use one day when they enter the work force. But we all know that having a job is more than just handling the vocational aspect at the work site. The Job Club is another vehicle we can use to teach the social components involved in working,” says Raines.
Teachers have embraced the new Job Club. Justin Johnson, a teacher at the vocational school, helped students transition from the school day to Job Club by sharing a video that depicted a good job interview and a bad job interview. He talked with students about the differences in how the interviewees presented themselves and communicated during each interview and how these behaviors impacted the interview.
Preston would like to eventually take Job Club one step further by meeting one-on-one with students to focus on their individual needs. She also hopes to extend the program to students at the main campus.
“Job Club is just a first step for these new transitional services. We will continue to add services for students, parents and family to promote and make them aware of all of their available community resources,” says Preston.