Printer Friendly

Programming for vocational competence in sheltered workshops.

Programming for Vocational Competence in Sheltered Workshops

The employment focus for workers with mental retardation is changing from segregated, sheltered employment to integrated, community-based employment (Bellamy, Rhodes, Bourbeau, & Mank, 1986). This trend toward community employment has many implications for sheltered workshops. One is that sheltered workshops will need to shift their focus from extended sheltered employment to placement into jobs in the community (Whitehead, 1986). Success in community jobs demands that workers have a higher degree of vocational competence than in segregated employment. That is, skills such as job initiative (McCuller, Salzberg, & Lignugaris/Kraft, 1987) and helping co-workers (Salzberg, Stowitschek, & Lignugaris/Kraft, 1985) which may be useful in segregated employment may be essential for competitively employed workers. Therefore, workshop personnel will need to upgrade the skills that they teach to their workers with mental retardation.

Salzberg, Agran, and Lignugaris/Kraft (1986) suggest that vocational competence is the product of three interacting domains: (a) job responsibility, (b) task production competence, and (c) social-vocational competence. Job responsibility includes characteristics such as punctuality, low absenteeism, and consistent performance of tasks on the job. Task production competence refers to meeting performance standards for quality and rate with the level of independence normally expected in competitive employment sites. Social-vocational competence refers to the interactions that occur with co-workers and supervisors on the job. Social-vocational competence consists of two subdomains: (1) task-related social competence, which refers to the interactions that directly affect the performance of job tasks (e.g., following instructions or responding to criticism); and (2) personal-social competence, which refers to interactions not directly related to performance of job tasks but which may be important for successful employment (e.g., aggressive behavior or obscene/offensive language).

Recently, researchers have noted that workers with mental retardation lose their jobs for reasons related to job responsibility and social-vocational problems at least as often as for deficits in task production competence (Salzberg, Lignugaris/Kraft, & McCuller, 1988; Salzberg, Likins, McConaughy, & Lignugaris/Kraft, 1986). Indeed, after reviewing the research on reasons why workers with mental retardation lose their jobs, Salzberg et al. (1988) contend that social skills and production skills cannot easily be separated. Clearly, the nonproduction (i.e., social and job responsibility) skills necessary for vocational competence play a crucial role in the employment success of workers with mental retardation.

This article reports the results of a survey in which workshop administrators describe the skills that they teach their clients, beyond performance of required job tasks, staff members who are responsible for teaching these skills, and the settings in which they are taught.


Sample and Survey

Administrators from all facilities providing sheltered work in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada participated in the survey. All facilities are private, not for profit, and provide a range of services. For example, in addition to sheltered work, many facilities have supported work programs, some have competitive work programs, and some have work activity programs. These programs are provided to individuals with a range of disabilities and ages. The majority of these individuals, however, are mildly to severely developmentally disabled and from 18 to 65 years old. Some clients are emotionally disturbed or mentally ill and some clients have secondary sensory or orthopedic handicaps.

Administrators were telephoned and told the purpose of the survey and the name and affiliation of the caller. A time was established in which the rehabilitation director, production manager, or executive director could be available to answer questions over the telephone. All (100%) the facilities participated in the survey.

Respondents were asked if their workers are given systematic training in skills not directly related to production. If respondents reported positively, they were then asked, "Who provides the training in nonproduction skills; the functional skills teacher, direct staff, both, or someone else?" If respondents answered "someone else," they were asked for clarification. Finally, respondents were asked the setting in which most nonproduction vocational competency training occurred: a classroom, a production setting, or another setting. Again, if respondents said "another setting," they were asked for clarification.


Table 1 presents the number of workshops surveyed and the number of workshops in which nonproduction vocational competencies (i.e., job responsibility and social-vocational competencies) were taught. Utah had the highest proportion of facilities in which nonproduction vocational competencies were taught (100%), followed by Idaho (75%), and Nevada (36%). Twenty-one of 30 (70%) workshop administrators reported that vocational competencies not related to performance of job tasks were included in their training curricula.

Table 2 present data on the staff members responsible for teaching these competencies. In nine facilities, production supervisors taught job responsibility and social vocational competencies to workers. In six facilities, more than one staff member was involved in teaching nonproduction vocational competencies. In three facilities, functional skills teachers provided the instruction. Also, in three facilities, the program coordinator, group home operator, or work adjustment coordinator were listed as the skills trainer for non-production vocational competencies.

Table 3 describes the settings in which the nonproduction vocational competencies were taught in each facility. Of the 21 workshops in which job responsibility and social-vocational competencies are taught, 48% provide instruction in the classroom, 19% provide the instruction in the production setting, and, in two facilities (10%), these skills are taught at a group home or in another, unspecified setting. There are three facilities in which the instruction occurred in both a classroom and a production setting. One facility reports that the training initiated in the classroom is reiterated in production and community settings and one facility attempts to transfer training to an outdoor recreation setting.


The results of this study indicate that personnel in 70% of the sheltered workshops in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada attempt to teach job responsibility and social-vocational competencies in addition to task production competence to workers with mental retardation. The study did not attempt to evaluate how well these skills were taught. However, research suggests that when skills are taught in one setting, they do not necessarily generalize to other settings, especially when those other settings are substantially different from the one in which the training took place (Stokes & Baer, 1977). This study suggests that, for the most part, training in nonproduction vocational competencies is occurring primarily in a classroom with a production supervisor as the instructor. However, to be functional, employment-related social skills must be evident on the job. To that end, they are best taught in the community, in the presence of co-workers, customers, and supervisors (Horner & Bellamy, 1978; Wacker & Berg, 1986). If workshop personnel are teaching nonproduction vocational competencies primarily in classrooms without using systematic procedures to promote generalization to actual job situations, it is unlikely that the instruction will produce functional skills on the job.

Whitehead (1986) suggested that most sheltered workshops will begin to shift their focus to transitional programming. The fact that 70% of the workshops in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada are attempting to train job responsibility and social-vocational competencies in addition to task production competencies supports Whitehead's assertion. Unfortunately, by training these skills in sheltered settings, workers' chances of success in community employment may be unnecessarily limited. As rehabilitation facilities increase their emphasis on supported and competitive employment, workers may benefit if training is shifted to community employment settings and other settings necessary for community success, such as homes, businesses, and community leisure settings.

The results of this study may be limited in that only facilities in three Rocky Mountain states participated. That is, responses by sheltered workshop administrators in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada may not accurately represent the response which would be provided by administrators in the remaining 47 states. However, a survey by Moore, McCuller, and Salzberg (1988), using the same sample, found that the amount of training received by staff in these three states closely replicates the amount of staff training received in several other states. Replication of this study is needed, however, to be certain about the extent to which workers with mental retardation in various regions of the United States are being taught the social-vocational competencies that will enhance the chances for successful community work.


Bellamy, G. T., Rhodes, L. E., Bourbeau, P. E., & Mank, D. M. (1986). Mental retardation services in sheltered workshops and day activity programs: Consumer benefits and policy alternatives. In F. R. Rusch (Ed.), Competitive employment issues and answers. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Horner, R., & Bellamy, G. T. (1978). A conceptual analysis of vocational training. In M. E. Snell (Ed.), Systematic instruction of the moderately and severely handicapped (pp. 441-455). Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill.

McCuller, G.L., Salzberg, C. L., & Lignugaris/Kraft, B. (1987). Producing generalized job initiative in severely mentally retarded sheltered workers. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 20, 413-420.

Moore, S., McCuller, G. L., & Salzberg, C. L. ((1988). Professional skill levels of sheltered workshop staff: Selection criteria and post-employment training. Journal of Rehabilitation, 54, 67-70.

Salzberg, C. L., Agran, M., & Lignugaris/Kraft, B. (1986). Bahaviors that contribute to entry-level employment: A profile of five jobs. Applied Research in Mental Retardation, 7, 299-314.

Salzberg, C. L., Lignugaris/Kraft, B., & McCuller, G. L. (1988). Reasons for job loss: A review of employment termination studies of mentally retarded workers. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 9, 153-169.

Salzberg, C. L., Likins, M., McConaughy, E. K., & Lignugaris/Kraft, B. (1986). Social competence and employment of retarded persons. In N. R. Ellis & N. W. Bray (Eds.), International review of research in mental retardation, Vol. 14. New York: Academic Press.

Salzberg, C. L., Stowitschek, J. J., & Lignugaris/Kraft, B. (1985). Assistance at work. Logan, UT: Outreach and Development Division, Developmental Center for Handicapped Persons, Utah State University.

Stokes, T. F., & Baer, D. M. (1977). An implicit technology of generalization. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 10, 349-367.

Wacker, D. P., & Berg, W. K. (1986). Generalizing and maintatining work behavior. In F.R. Rusch (Ed.), Competitive employment issues and answers (pp. 129-140). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Whitehead, C. W. (1986). The sheltered workshop dilemma: Reform or replacement. Remedial and Special Education, 7, 18-24.
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Rehabilitation Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Salzberg, Charles L.
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Previous Article:A model for teaching healthy nutrition to clients of rehabilitation services.
Next Article:New Orleans' Aquarium of the Americas.

Related Articles
A qualitative study of work stations in industry: employer, professional and service recipient views.
Closing the shop on sheltered work: case studies of organizational change.
Conclusions of a national think tank: on issues relevant to community-based employment for survivors of traumatic brain injury.
Supported employment and vocational rehabilitation: merger or misadventure?
Business and rehabilitation factors in the development of supported employment programs for adults with developmental disabilities.
Models of vocational rehabilitation for youths and adults with severe mental illness: implications for AMERICA 2000 and ADA.
Sheltered employment and the second generation workshop.
Computer training for the young adult patient with chronic mental illness.
Vocational rehabilitation and older adults: patterns in participation and outcome.
Psychiatric disabilities: challenges and training issues for rehabilitation professionals.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters