Concept Development for Employment Skills

In an earlier post, I addressed concept development for building independent living skills in transition-aged youth. Continuing with the concept development discussion, I want to present some ideas for using concept development for transition skills, this time specific to employment. There is a lot of talk in the field today about transition for people with disabilities, and with that comes talk about work and work readiness skills. The topic of employment skills is immensely important, especially because the unemployment rate for individuals who are blind or visually impaired remains astoundingly and persistently high. But today I want to focus not on work skills, but on the concepts behind these skills. After all, without the basic concepts, it is very hard to develop the appropriate skills necessary for employment success. Below are some concept areas specific to work and professionalism to teach transition-aged students who are preparing to enter the world of work.

Job Awareness

  • What kinds of jobs exist in various settings? For instance, what are the different kinds of jobs in a supermarket? A restaurant? A school? A person without vision may have no concept of how products get on grocery store shelves, or how many jobs are involved in preparing a meal in a restaurant
  • What is the difference between a job and a career?
  • What is an entry-level job and why is it important?
  • What are some examples of entry-level jobs?
  • How can you learn what kind of education or training is required to do a job?

Professional dress

  • What constitutes casual attire? Business attire? Business casual?
  • What types of settings generally prefer very formal dress and which often allow more casual attire?
  • What kinds of jobs require uniforms?
  • What are the names of some stores in your area that sell work-appropriate clothing?
  • What do various professional clothing options feel like? How can you tell by feel if something is casual or formal?
  • What kinds of shoes are appropriate for a particular workplace setting? (i.e. not all high heels are created equal)
  • What are some methods of color identification or sorting/organizing clothing?
  • What are some general rules for matching clothing?
  • What kinds of clothes can be washed in a washing machine and what must go to a dry cleaner?
  • How can you tell if something fits you well?
  • How can you learn about a worksite’s dress code and culture?

Professionalism

  • What is good posture?
  • How do you demonstrate confidence and attentiveness through body language?
  • What is a good handshake and how do you know when to shake someone’s hand?
  • What constitutes appropriate hygiene for a work day?
  • What kinds of accessories are professional and which are not? (i.e. solid-colored bag vs. bag with movie characters or other graphics)
  • What are ways to present a cane or dog guide in a professional way? (i.e. keeping dog well-groomed, using a cane that is not too well worn)

Job Application concepts

  • How can you tell if a business is hiring?
  • What does a typical job application look like? What kinds of questions does it include?
  • What information should you know offhand when filling out a job application? (i.e. personal contact information)
  • What if the job application is not in an accessible format? What are some strategies for getting help to complete an application if it is not accessible?
  • What does a resume look like? What kinds of information are included and how is a resume formatted?
  • How can you tell if resumes and other application paperwork are presentable to an employer? (i.e. wrinkle-free, no spills, stapled neatly)
  • What is a cover letter?
  • What are some common components of a job application process? (interview, background check, aptitude test, etc.)
  • What are the laws around reasonable accommodations in the job application process?
  • What is the difference between a job interview and an informational interview?

Work Concepts

  • What is a time clock? What does it look like and how does it work? What is a timesheet?
  • What are various ways of being paid and what do they mean? Hourly? Salary? Tips? Commission?
  • What information is included on a paycheck?
  • What is overtime?
  • What is sick time, vacation time, or paid time off?
  • What happens if you don’t show up to work or if you arrive late?
  • How can you learn your way around a new workplace?
  • How do you eat lunch at work? Should you bring your own? Is there a cafeteria? Where can you prepare your lunch and where do employees eat?
  • What is an appropriate use of break time?
  • How do you learn about workplace expectations and work culture?


Work Site Specific Concepts

Below are some examples of various work settings for some entry-level positions, and some concept development questions to consider for each one. Each job site is likely to present its own new concepts and challenges. The examples below are meant as a starting point only.

Kitchen or restaurant setting:

  • What do industrial kitchen appliances look like (i.e. dishwasher, oven, etc.)? Do they operate in the same way as home kitchen appliances?
  • What sanitation measures and safety precautions are taken in a kitchen?
  • Besides the tables and/or ordering counters, what are the components of a restaurant? Where is food prepared? Where are dishes cleaned? Where are payments processed if there is no checkout counter?

Office setting:

  • What does a copy machine look like? A fax machine? Printer?
  • How is print information such as files stored and how can you access it without vision?
  • What does an office desk phone look like and how does it work? (Many office phones are far more complex than home phones and look very different from the cell phones students might be used to)

Store or retail setting:

  • What does a cash register look like? Are there ways to operate one with a vision impairment?
  • How does merchandise arrive at the store and how does it get on racks and shelves?
  • How are various items displayed in a store so as to attract or visually appeal to customers? Are there proper ways to hang clothing or to stack fruit and vegetables?

If students have a firm grasp of many of the concepts in the lists above, they will have a thorough understanding of employment and work readiness. With these concepts, they will be able to develop the skills they need for employment success. Feel free to comment below if you have additional ideas to contribute to these lists.

Transition-age student shaking hands with teacher