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Temple U study urges facilities to update job training.

Temple U Study Urges Facilities to Update Job Training

The job placement programs of vocational rehabilitation centers that provide vocational training for people with mental disability may not be effectively preparing their clients for the realities of the job market, a Temple University study reveals.

"We found very few of these disabled adults got into competitive employment, and even fewer were able to maintain a job," said Dr. Simon Hakim, professor of economics at Temple who served as a consultant to the project.

The 3-year study, "Barriers to Employability of Persons with Handicaps," examined the placement efforts of five vocational rehabilitation centers in Philadelphia, New York and Israel. Temple's Developmental Disabilities Center received a $238,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Labor for the project.

"Vocational centers are ignoring today's economic conditions and seem to be out of touch with the changing job marketplace," Dr. Hakim said.

Despite the rapid decline in the manufacturing sector and the transition to a service-based economy, vocational centers in both countries continue to train clients for now obsolete manufacturing jobs, he explained. Training at the centers -- sorting, assembling and packaging, using equipment that was frequently quite old and outmoded -- continues to reflect this discrepancy.

The majority of the trainees at each site were mentally disabled. At one vocational rehabilitation center in the U.S., for instance, 90 percent suffered from an emotional handicap, mental retardation or a learning disability.

"The center-based vocational training programs may be inadvertently presenting a barrier to employment for these trainees by training them for jobs which no longer exist."

To successfully find employment for adults with disabilities, vocational centers must assess changing job market conditions and gear their training programs to the realities of a restructured economy, the study recommends.

Researchers on the project followed 180 disabled clients for a period of 18 months, at the end of which time only 16 percent of trainees in the United States and 20 percent of clients in Israel had secured competitive employment. The majority of the disabled adults were working at the centers, engaged in contract work. While the centers did provide a place away from home for their clients to go and gave them something to occupy their time, they were not meeting the objective of competitive employment for these people, Dr. Hakim explained.

"What's needed is more accurate monitoring of local market conditions and a re-orienting of job training to respond to market demands. Vocational rehabilitation should actually be directed to a particular job in a particular workplace."

With greater sensitivity to changing market conditions, the placement officer can communicate the realities of the job market to the director of the center who can then make the appropriate changes in the training program, he added.

The study indicates that if the centers can substantially update their programs to address the market demands of the changing economy, disabled adults, their families and businesses in the community in need of trained employees will all benefit.

"The new service sector depends on a variety of unskilled workers -- computer operators, fast food servers, cleaning services, clerical workers, and health care assistants are jobs which are available and can be filled by adults with disabilities through the vocational centers."

Dr. Hakim pointed out that adults with disabilities are often model employees. "Both businesses and vocational centers often overlook how valuable disabled employees can be in the workplace -- they remain on the job for many years and are reliable."

For disabled people, it is important to find jobs in industries where the region has a competitive advantage -- a "safe" industry that will offer stable employment over the long term. "A better job in a factory that might close is not necessarily a better job -- these people would be the first to be laid off," Dr. Hakim stated.

Dr. Hakim worked with Dr. Edward Newman, principal investigator and director of Temple's Developmental Disabilities Center, and Dr. Diane N. Bryen, professor of special education and project director.

Among other barriers to employment of people with disabilities, the study found:

* The centers invested limited time in services directly related to securing employment for clients such as work adjustment training, job search, placement, and on-the-job follow-up.

* Lack of family support for competitive employment usually dooms the client to failure -- in securing a job or in the workplace.

* Placement efforts don't necessarily match client interests and aptitudes.

* Disabled trainees with no previous work experience were less successful in finding and keeping a job.

Temple's Developmental Disabilities Center is Pennsylvania's federally designated University Affiliated Program for the study of issues and training of personnel who work to improve the lives of disabled people.
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Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Jun 22, 1989
Words:774
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