Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Implementation of an Employment Consultation Model of Job Support Following Online Training

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Implementation of an Employment Consultation Model of Job Support Following Online Training

Article excerpt

A growing body of research continues to identify and refine effective strategies for assisting individuals with significant disabilities to access and succeed in paid employment. Three developments have been particularly noteworthy. First, there has been an increasing focus on utilizing the natural supports available within the workplace (Kirsh, et al., 2009; Ohtake & Chadsey, 2003; Storey, 2003). Facilitating natural supports allows for reduced staff presence, which avoids duplicating supports available internally and also minimizes the stigmatizing effect of rehabilitation staff presence at the worksite. For example, a particular office may have a designated person to contact if a worker is having difficulty with the photocopier. An employment specialist can ensure that the employee with a disability knows how to ask this person for assistance, rather than providing the assistance directly.

A second development has been on fostering coworker relationships (Vila, Pallisera & Fullana, 2007; Wehman, 2003). Coworkers are an important source of support for one another on the job (Freeman & Audia, 2006; McGuire, 2007), and employee job retention and job satisfaction are both related to an employee's relationships with coworkers (Wehman, 2003). For example, an employment specialist might help identify common interests between an employee with a disability and his or her coworkers, or help a coworker feel comfortable communicating with an employee who uses an assistive communication device.

Thirdly, the strategy of adopting a consulting approach with managers (Gilbride & Hagner, 2005) has been developed to replace a focus on "fixing" the individual with a disability with a broader emphasis on assisting the business to include disability as an aspect of diversity (Carrier, 2007; Neault & Mondair, 2011). For example, a supervisor might be reluctant to talk with an employee with a disability about a needed performance improvement, perhaps worried about appearing harsh or insensitive, and an employment specialist might advise him or her as to the best approach.

A common feature of these strategies, which we will refer to collectively as the employment consultation approach, is that they make skill demands on job support staff above and beyond the job coach role as originally conceptualized (e.g. Wehman & Melia, 1985) and commonly practiced (Chadsey, 2008). Implementation of these strategies requires an infrastructure of staff training resources to support the development of the required skills. As Butterworth, Migliore, Nord, and Gelb (2012) have emphasized, the mere existence of a new approach does not automatically translate into dayto-day employment practice.

Training employment staff has been a difficult challenge (Hagner, Noll & Enein-Donovan, 2002). Most direct service employment staff working within Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs) are paraprofessionals who bring little or no pre-service training with them to the job (Kluesner, Bordieri & Taylor, 2005). Moreover, these direct service staff positions tend to experience a high rate of turnover (Armstrong, Hawley, Lewis, Blankenship & Pugsley, 2008). The need for agencies to continually hire and train new people--for convenience, we will refer to these staff as "employment specialists"--results in a need for consistently available training.

Many agencies provide in-service training to their own agency staff, and employment specialist training external to individual service agencies is also available in many states. Many of these training programs are affiliated with the Association of Community Rehabilitation Educators (ACRE), which has established a core set of employment staff competencies and a curriculum review process for approving training programs that address these competencies (ACRE, 2013).

To award a basic employment certificate to a trainee, ACRE-approved training programs must devote at least 10 hours of a 40-hour training to the training domain of Workplace and Related Support. …

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