Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Characteristics of Early Work Experiences and Their Association with Future Employment

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Characteristics of Early Work Experiences and Their Association with Future Employment

Article excerpt

Abstract: Introduction: Early work experiences are a key predictor of future employment for transition-age youths with visual impairments. We investigated how specific characteristics of early work experiences influence future employment and whether the receipt of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is associated with early work experiences among this population. Method: Secondary data analyses were conducted using four waves of data from the second National Longitudinal Transition Study, which included a nationally representative sample of high school students with visual impairments who were receiving special education services. Results: Future employment outcomes were positively associated with the characteristics of early work experiences, including finding a job independently, holding multiple jobs, and holding jobs for longer periods of time. Participating in school-sponsored work was not associated with future employment. Youths who received SSI benefits were significantly less likely to engage in productive activities, including employment, in Wave 3 than were those who did not receive benefits; however, this was not the case for youths who received SSI benefits in Wave 2. Discussion: Not all early work experiences were found to be equally predictive of future employment for youths with visual impairments. The results indicate that it may not be sufficient for youths simply to be employed during high school without consideration of the types of work, how the jobs were obtained, or how long the jobs lasted. These characteristics of early work experiences are important to future employment and should be considered when helping youths prepare for the transition from school to work. Implications for Practitioners: Professionals and parents should emphasize the benefits of early employment to youths with visual impairments. Youths should be encouraged to obtain multiple work experiences during high school while keeping in mind that longer job tenure is also positively associated with future employment. Professionals should particularly encourage youths who receive SSI benefits to obtain early work experiences and should inform them and their families about incentives that allow them to retain benefits while working.

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Despite academic success and achievement in other domains, transition-age youths (those aged 16 to 24) with visual impairments (that is, those who are blind or have low vision) typically experience challenges in finding employment (McDonnall, 2010a; Newman, Wagner, Cameto, & Knokey, 2009; Shaw, Gold, & Wolffe, 2007). One important factor that is known to predict future employment for youths with disabilities and the general population is obtaining early work experiences (Landmark, Ju, & Zhang, 2010; Patton & Smith, 2010; Test et al., 2009; Wright & Carr, 1995). Researchers have begun to identify critical factors that predict employment outcomes for youths with visual impairments and have found that employment during high school is one of the strongest predictors of future employment (Mc Donnall, 2010b, 2011). There are a variety of ways in which youths may gain work experience during high school; the types of work include paid employment, volunteer experiences, internships, and school-sponsored work experiences.

Previous research has paid little attention to the specific characteristics of early work experiences that are most predictive of future employment. Although many youths with visual impairments have reported working during high school, the quality of their work experiences is uncertain. Many of those who were employed worked a limited number of hours or held short-term jobs (McDonnall, 2010a). To gain a deeper understanding of the factors that affect employment outcomes for youths with visual impairments, we examined the influence of the characteristics of early work experiences to determine how these characteristics are associated with future employment. …

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