Youth Forum: Transition to Work
By Shanti Nair
Presenters made remarkable contributions in discussing the importance of mentoring and voicing out one’s needs when preparing for the working world.
Kara Sheridon, Strategic Planner, National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN), suggested that one needs to know the 411 on disability disclosure, which is to inform one about benefits and consequences of disclosing a disability. Youth could be guided in discerning what is appropriate to disclose through mentoring. After all, knowing if one should disclose their disability is always a dilemma without guidance. This is especially difficult when one has an invisible disability. Empowering youth in their transition from an academic to a professional environment is key to gaining employment. Individuals with disabilities should exude confidence and ask for necessary accommodations. They should develop skills to deal with discrimination. A common problem is that liability issues prevent employers from hiring individuals with disabilities. A useful website for employers to get educated about the facts on disability is www.usajobs.com. Employers should perceive disability as strength rather than a liability. They also need to be held accountable for any risk or injury a disabled individual faces. Sheridon’s interest in being involved in the conference was because she wanted to share the perspective of youth with disabilities by representing them. She was amazed at how people from diverse backgrounds gathered for the common cause of networking. At a professional level she has learnt from other’s experience in coping with obstacles to gain employment. Personally, she is appreciative of being part of such a great experience
Jordan Nasser, Peer Mentor, Center for Independent Living of South Florida, believes education, employment and support are needed for individuals with disabilities to lead fulfilling lives. Education should be consistent and persistent to be effective in pursuing a career. He feels society puts forth limitations on individuals with disabilities by sending out negative messages on disabilities. He strongly suggests emphasizing capabilities to let employers know what one can do despite having a disability.
Having knowledge of resources for assistance in seeking employment, and through networking ensures a path to employment. Individuals should work with organizations in creating awareness by sharing ideas and contributing suggestions. A strong support system is of the essence in advocating the needs of individuals with disabilities.
Donna Mundy, State Coordinator, The Able Trust/Florida High School/ High Tech Program shared some of the services made available by her organization. Their goal is to present a school based preparatory experience for youth. Career and work based experiences are available to learn different jobs. They offer paid summer internships. Youth are connected with employers and various services. E-mentoring is provided, which has got a very favorable response among the disabled population. For more information on such a unique process of mentoring and to learn more about High School/High Tech programs visit: www.abletrust.org. Florida Youth Leadership Programs are offered under these programs. Able Trust also offers grants to individuals and organizations. Job shadowing is central to networking and as a valuable learning experience.
Mundy reiterated technology helps students with disabilities in coping with limitations they might face in the workplace. Students are interested in careers that match their needs. School/High Tech program has committed $1 million toward various projects. In reply to a question if mentoring is important in helping youth make a transition from academic life to a career, she said it significantly influences them in their career development. Having role models to emulating helps in adjusting to the changes in their life. Disability Mentoring Day give people the opportunity to get hands-on experience on career exploration and job shadowing for students and job seekers with disabilities. Learn more on this day, by going to: http://www.floridadmd.org. Of equal importance is assisting youth in identifying with others who have made a similar transition.