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 Funded by the United States Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

Summer Work Experience Plus: Effectiveness of Adding a Guided Job Search Component to a Traditional Summer Work Experience on Future Employment Outcomes for Youth

Principal Investigator: Jennifer Cmar,

Many studies have found that high school work experience is predictive of obtaining employment later in life for youth with disabilities, including youth with B/VI. Unfortunately, youth with B/VI are less likely to obtain work experience while in high school and are less likely to be employed after leaving high school compared to the general youth population and youth with other types of disabilities. Perhaps because numerous youth are not obtaining early work experiences, many VR and private agencies currently facilitate short work experiences for these youth. However, NRTC research indicates that sponsored work experiences are not associated with later employment for this population and that it is more beneficial for youth to find jobs on their own. This intervention efficacy project will expand an existing summer work experience program being administered by the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) by adding an innovative, research-based guided job search component.

The five-day guided job search intervention includes four hours of group sessions and two hours of individual activities per day. The curriculum is based on two existing job search programs (School to Work and JOBS) that have extensive evidence supporting their effectiveness. NRTC researchers will expand those programs to include additional content for youth with B/VI in areas such as non-verbal communication, disclosing a visual impairment to an employer, and identifying accommodations for jobs. The curriculum incorporates the six components of effective job search interventions: teaching job search skills, improving self-presentation, boosting self-efficacy, encouraging proactivity, promoting goal setting, and enlisting social support. The intervention will be implemented by ADRS and the NRTC will provide the curriculum, materials, one day of in-person training for the trainers, and support.

A quasi-experimental repeated measures design will be used to evaluate the job search intervention. The comparison group will participate in the existing 6-week summer work experience (SWE) program. The intervention group will receive the guided job search intervention prior to participating in the SWE program. Participants in both groups will complete a pre-test before beginning the program. They will also complete three post-tests over the course of a year. The pre-test and post-tests will measure job search knowledge, job search behaviors, self-efficacy, perceived control over job search outcomes, and job attainment. The project will be implemented with youth who sign up for the SWE during the summers of 2016 and 2017.