Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

An Investigation of the Career Development of High School Adolescents with Hearing Impairments in New Zealand

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

An Investigation of the Career Development of High School Adolescents with Hearing Impairments in New Zealand

Article excerpt

Although the need for better-skilled workers has been signaled by the marketplace, people with hearing impairments generally are employed in unskilled or semiskilled jobs. They are, therefore, at heightened risk of unemployment and underemployment. Compounding this risk are the levels of vocational preparation and job awareness of adolescents with hearing impairments, which are generally considered inadequate. With a view to improving prevocational programs for hearing impaired adolescents, the researcher collected information on career awareness and vocational maturity. Significant differences were identified between hearing impaired and hearing adolescents on a range of career measures. In particular, adolescents with hearing impairments were identified as having less career awareness.

Studies have shown that adolescents with hearing impairments do not have the same prevocational skills as their hearing counterparts (Farrugia, 1982; McHugh, 1975; Silgar & Culpepper, 1979), and that this relative lack of skill causes problems when these adolescents seek employment. The vocational preparation and employment outcomes of people with disabilities have been discouraging; for such people, the process of vocational adjustment has tended to be characterized by limited marketable work skills (Schworles,1976), low income (Wolfe, 1980) underemployment (Brolin & Gybers, 1979), and unemployment (Levitan & Taggart, 1977). These characterizations highlight the need for improved career guidance (Curnow, 1989). This challenge is complicated by the limited availability of literature on career development of people with disabilities. In New Zealand, empirical data on the vocational behavior of school leavers with hearing impairments is limited to four studies (Burrows, 1984; Saunders, 1985; Stewart, 1985; Thompson, 1974), and provides little insight into the career development of deaf and hearing impaired students prior to their school leaving. King (1990a) also considers that the type of information in shortest supply in the literature on persons with hearing impairments is on the topic of career development.

DeCaro (1981; cited in Burrows, 1984), observes that "historically jobs for deaf people have fallen into occupational areas of processing, machine trade and benchwork (p. 8)." New Zealand data likewise indicate a conspicuous absence of people with hearing impairments in professional and technical occupations (Burrows, 1984). Of the 31 deaf adults in Thompson's (1974) survey, 30 were employed in unskilled or semiskilled work. The findings of Stewart's 1985 study of young adults with hearing impairments who lived in New Zealand's Otago/ Southland area agreed with the findings of previous studies in North America, which had shown that people with hearing disabilities are conspicuously absent from professional and managerial positions. Although comparison of census figures can be difficult, because of the different categories used for data collection, the 1981 New Zealand census (New Zealand Official Year Book, 1983) showed that 46.5% of all New Zealanders 15 to 24 years old (both male and female) held unskilled or semiskilled jobs. In contrast, 74.1% of the Deaf and hearing impaired subjects in Stewart's (1985) study occupied such positions.

Manual and semiskilled positions are the most likely to be threatened by advances in technology, the trend toward a service-oriented economy, and the effects of recession (Schildroth, Rawlings, & Allen, 1991). These are the jobs in which deaf people are generally employed. Economic downturns and other factors responsible for the reduction of employment opportunities are seriously affecting all school leavers rather than particular subgroups (Saunders, 1985). However, according to Saunders, the rate of unemployment among hearing impaired school leavers in Auckland, New Zealand, was seven times higher than that of a hearing control group.

The transition from school to work is a critical time, as the gaining of employment boosts psychosocial development and a failure to gain competitive employment has a negative affect on identity formation (Gurney, 1980). …

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