REHAB Bringing Research into
BRIEF Effective Focus
Vol. XV, No. 5 (1993) ISSN: 0732-2623
NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON DISABILITY AND REHABILITATION RESEARCH
OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WASHINGTON, D.C. 20202
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Things cannot be expected to tum up of themselves. We must, in a measure,
assist to tum them up.
Enhancing the employability of people with disabilities is a major goal
of the vocational rehabilitation process. In the shifting job market,
jobseekers and workers with disabilities need to be as vocationally flexible
as their nondisabled peers to insure their competitiveness. Vocational
rehabilitation service providers have a critical role in evaluating their
consumers' strengths and using interventions that will increase their
employability. This Rehab BRIEF summarizes highlights from reports of research
pertaining to employability enhancement assessment and intervention
methodologies. All investigations were conducted by the Arkansas
Rehabilitation Research and Training Center in Vocational Rehabilitation at
the University of Arkansas (Arkansas RRTC).
EMPLOYABILITY ASSESSMENT AND PLANNING
Despite the evolution of excellent measures of job selection,
acquisition, and retention skills, and the development of psychoeducational
interventions designed to enhance performance in these areas, little has been
done to create a model for overall, comprehensive and integrated employability
assessment and planning for use by field practitioners. In a project funded by
the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR),
Farley, Little, Bolton, and Chunn of the Arkansas RRTC developed a model for
the development or upgrading of employability assessment and planning programs
Organization and Administration
Farley et al. recommend defining a clear statement of the mission of the
EAPP, to provide a reference point for staff and consumers, and describing the
scope of services and restrictions, if any. They advocate specialized
personnel to perform the requisite tasks within the EAPP: supervisor,
coordinator/counselor, evaluator, psychologist, evaluator/psychometrist aide,
and secretary/clerk-typist. The recommended responsibilities of each are
specified, and team coordination is emphasized to optimize the quality of
services. A formal, systematic referral process is encouraged; however, utmost
flexibility is mandated for the consumer assessment and planning phase. The
commitment to empowerment within the EAPP places the consumer "at the center
of the evaluation/assessment process. The concepts of co-management and
partnership [are] operationalized."
Two specific strategies to promote client participation and
self-direction during the EAPP process are the Know Thyself Intervention (KTI)
(Farley, Parkerson, Farley, & Martin) and the Occupational Choice Strategy
(OCS) (Schriner & Roessler). Each of these interventions is designed to
enhance consumer awareness of the assessment process and results, and provides
activities that require participation in goal setting and planning. In KTI,
the user is given a structured notebook that contains information about all
formal assessments that are planned and other related activities. Following
assessment, the findings are shared and joint planning results. OCS consists
of training and exercises in three broad categories (Understanding Myself,
Knowing the World of Work, Making a Vocational Choice and Plan) that explore
personal characteristics and occupational information and assist with decision
making and planning.
The model stresses that the desired goal of employability enhancement is
employment that is career-oriented: a developmental process rather than a
static, singular outcome. Within the overall framework designed to maximize
the involvement of the consumer, the researchers provide a tripartite focus
for the EAPP: Choose/Get/Keep. For each of these modules, a number of possible
assessment strategies and their correlated planning tools are described in
detail (see Rehab BRIEF, Vol. 14, No. 2 for summaries).
** Vocational choice (Choose). The process of selecting an
appropriate vocational goal is the first hurdle the consumer
confronts. The individual requires extensive self-knowledge as
well as information about both specific and general work
requirements; further, there is a need to optimize vocational
decision-making and planning skills. Personal attributes to be
measured in this module include vocational readiness,
aptitudes, interests, vocationally relevant personality
factors, work temperaments, strengths and limitations, and
work values and needs.
** Job acquisition (Get). In order to obtain employment, the
consumer must possess work-oriented values, as well as skills
related to job finding and the employment interviewing
process. Additionally, at least minimum job performance skills
are requisite. Jobseeking skills to be assessed by the EAPP
include job application behavior and job interview behavior.
** Job retention (Keep). Job retention competencies include sound
basic work habits, behaviors, values, and attitudes. The
consumer must develop strategies to cope with personal and
environmental stresses along with the demands of interpersonal
relationships. In this module, the attributes to be measured
include basic work habits and behaviors and on-the-job coping
Farley et al. recognize that the focus of their work is on the personal
variables relating to the consumer; however, they emphasize that environmental
factors such as family, finances, labor market, and employer attitudes must
not be ignored and must be considered in an overall employability development
SIDEBAR #1: A VIEW FROM THE FIELD
Selecting the right job is crucial. Most of the people with whom I work
are realistically tuned in to their own capabilities. Because of their
limited experiences, their vocational choices usually deal with broad areas of
work or focus on a type of work setting. I work closely with each person to
hear what he or she wants in terms of employment. I've found that a group
training or discussion setting is generally ineffective for clients with
intellectual disabilities. Their comprehension and verbal skills are so poor
that key issues can easily get lost. They do much better in one-on-one
Working with individuals who have psychiatric disabilities or those with
other disabilities who have more intellectual ability can be quite different.
They are frequently less realistic and do not accept the limits imposed by
their disabilities. Group interactions work much better with these clients.
The competition in today's economy is the stiffest I've ever seen. Those
of us working with people who have developmental disabilities need to spend a
lot more time helping them to improve their social behaviors. Before work
begins, at break time, or during lunch our clients behave in ways that cause
other workers to complain, with resultant job loss. Inappropriate behaviors
can be corrected, but it takes a creative program in which the staff person
and the consumer are integrated in a social setting. The behaviors that need
to be changed are those that come up spontaneously, and they need to be dealt
with when they happen. We have very little trouble in coaching clients on the
job to have appropriate work behaviors. We need to apply the same training
concepts to social behaviors, and that can only be done effectively in a real
One of the most critical factors that I have to deal with is the
employer's attitude. Many have been oversaturated with contacts from placement
specialists and need to be reassured that there will be someone available to
provide assistance if it's needed in the future. Regardless of the kind of
disability involved, guaranteeing this kind of support is requisite for the
client's success. Many consumers can learn to recognize that something is
going wrong. Even if they can't identify the specific problem, they can then
call us for help. But if they don't initiate the contact, reassurance given to
the employer in advance can prompt him or her to make the call so that a job-
keeping intervention can be made.
Supported Employment Coordinator
New Horizons--a facility providing services to people with developmental
[END OF SIDEBAR #1]
Several studies have been done by staff at the Arkansas RRTC to evaluate
the effects of different interventions related to choosing, getting, and
In all of the following studies, the participants were vocational
rehabilitation (VR) clients involved in a program at a comprehensive
rehabilitation facility. In addition to OCS (Farley, Schriner, & Roessler,
1988) and OCS combined with KTI (Farley, Bolton, & Parkerson, 1992), the
following instruments were used and their effects measured: Personal Values
and Behavior Self-Assess- ment Instrument and Personal Adjustment Skill
Self-Assessment Instrument (values clarification training and activities)
(Means, 1987); and Systematic Behavioral Response Rehearsal (SBRR), a mental
practice procedure that includes relaxation, practice in visualization,
self-monitoring and assessment, and self-reinforcement (Farley, 1985).
In a related group of studies, the intervention used was Rational
Behavior Problem-Solving (RBPS), and the participants were (1) enrolled in
training in a comprehensive rehabilitation center (Farley, 1984), (2) enrolled
in the center except for a small percentage who were in a sheltered workshop
(reported by Farley in 1987), or (3) clients of a VR field office (Farley,
Means, Akridge, & Rice, 1986). RBPS involves four components designed to teach
skills that reduce negative on-the-job personal behaviors: (1) behavior
monitoring, (2) behavior assessment, (3) behavior goals, and (4) behavior
Positive gains were reported in all of the studies, including such
measured areas as vocational self-awareness, confidence in one's vocational
decision-making ability, career decidedness, improved outcomes as determined
by completion of facility vocational training, vocational identity, vocational
knowledge, specific vocational task performance, and reduced self-defeating
emotions and actions. Mixed results were obtained in the areas of readiness
for vocational planning, and attitudinal and behavioral domains.
As in the previous studies, all of the participants in the following
studies were VR clients enrolled in a comprehensive rehabilitation facility.
The use of the following interventions were assessed: Relaxation Training and
Interview-Skills Training (Farley & Akridge, 1987), Getting Employment Through
Interview Training (GETIT) (Farley & Himnan, 1988), and Job Application
Training (Means & Farley, 1981).
Results of the studies showed positive findings in the following areas:
reduced anxiety and better overall performance in simulated job interviews and
improvement in completion of job application forms.
VR clients participating in programs at a comprehensive rehabilitation
facility were trained in relationship skills. It was hypothesized that
inappropriate behaviors and inadequate social skills interfere with all
aspects of the career development process and are particularly critical in job
retention. The effectiveness of Relationship Skills for Career Enhancement
(RSCE) in producing successful job retention behavior was assessed in a number
of studies. RSCE involves four components: (1) relaxation training, (2)
understanding others, (3) assertion training, and (4) managing conflicts.
Studies by Farley et al. (1986, 1986, 1987) showed positive results as
measured by improved simulated job interview performance and improved
interpersonal style in on-the-job simulation situations with supervisor and
coworkers. Mixed results were reported regarding improvements in assertive
Another study measured the effectiveness of RSCE compared to another
intervention, GET-IT (Farley & Himnan, 1987), across a number of variables
associated with Choose/Get/Keep. RSCE is a tool that combines both skill
deficit and inhibition models of social skills training and emphasizes the
generalization of skills across a variety of settings, while GET-IT is a
skills deficit, edu- cational program. While positive results were obtained by
participants in both groups compared to a control group, the RSCE group
outperformed the other in three out of six measures (training tenure,
simulated on-the-job performance, and satisfaction with services received). In
the three job-interview performance measures-interpersonal style, interview
content, and overall interviewing competence-there were no significant
differences between the two groups.
SIDEBAR #2: INNOVATIVE PLACEMENT PROGRAM: A Collaborative Effort
The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research has funded
the evaluation of a job placement program designed to link research and
practice. Created by the Research and Training Institute of the National
Center for Disability Services, the Innovative Placement Program is a service
delivery system model that uses ongoing collaboration between researchers and
practicitioners to enhance job placement services for people with disabilities
(Vandergoot and Wenszel). Research is an integral part of the process of
modifying the model's components and the database systems that will provide
source material for additional studies.
** Services and technology. A wide variety of tools are available
to evaluate and help people obtain jobs. Employability and
work readiness profiles are compiled at different stages in
the rehabilitation process and used by the client and the case
manager. At the conclusion of the evaluation process, a
placement plan, in which the counselor has been actively
involved, is created. It identifies milestones and target
dates and designates individual responsibilities. Planning
includes emphasis on community-based training and
rehabilitation engineering for individuals with physical
disabilities that interfere with work activities. Jobseeking
and job adjustment skills are taught in a job-finding club.
Follow-along services to employers and workers are required
for a minimum of six months following placement.
** Staff. The case manager has overall responsibility for the
program's service delivery and coordinates activities with
special placement personnel who work with community
representatives to develop maximum employment opportunities.
The consumer also shares responsibility for placement.
** Administration. There is a clearly stated policy stressing the
priority of successful job placement. A computer-based
information system is used that minimizes staff case-recording
efforts but facilities tracking of service delivery and
research data. Researchers and service staff meet regularly to
plan program modifications.
** External linkages. Involvement with employers is considered
critical, and they are included on the program's advisory
board along with other community contacts.
The Innovative Placement Program uses research findings in a pragmatic
way to enhance the employability of people with disabilities. Over a
three-year period, local VR offices will refer approximately 80 hard-to-place
individuals to the project.
END OF SIDEBAR #2
RSCE was also the basis for a study (Farley, 1987) in which one of two
groups of participants received training in self-management procedures in
addition to attending the RSCE class. The additional training consisted of
workbook-based activities in which the participants used the following
techniques: (1) persistent practice, (2) self-monitoring, (3) self-assessment,
and (4) self-reinforcement. The sample completing the study was small (15),
but the group receiving the additional services performed better at a 3-month
followup. Positive results were obtained in terms of communicating
understanding to coworkers and in assertive behavior in a simulated
The Arkansas RRTC researchers presented their positive findings with a
caveat regarding generalizing the conclusions because of the limited sample
sizes. Numbers of participants in each study were small, ranging from 2 to 75.
In all but two studies, participants were facility-linked. In two-thirds of
the subject groups, the majority had disabilities of a psychological nature
and were reported to function at a low-average intellectual level. In several
of the studies, a further admonition was given concerning the use of simulated
job interviews and employment environments. Further, no longitudinal studies
were reported that measure actual job-getting or job-keeping outcomes and
compare them to the predicted ones.
Despite these limitations, all of the studies reported sig- nificant
areas of improved functioning related to choosing, getting, and keeping
employment. The findings suggest that tools and strategies are available to
assist the rehabilitationist and the consumer in the career development
The EAPP is one strategy in which a variety of psychological and
educational tools can be used in a structured way to help people with
disabilities in the career development process. Many interventions that have
been studied appear to have significant positive impact on individuals with
respect to enhancing employability. The EAPP would be optimized by including
factors that the researchers label as external to provide reality-testing.
Passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act is a mandate to employers
to provide an open doorway to workers who have disabilities. The role of the
rehabilitation field practitioner is to ensure that the consumer is provided
with services to enter that doorway equipped to compete effectively in the
interview process, to keep the job, and to develop a lifetime career.
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a career development intervention for persons with
disabilities. Journal of Rational-Emotive Therapy, 5(1),
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maintenance of selected career enhancing social skills: A
pilot study. Journal of Rehabilitation, pp. 48-5 1.
Farley, R.C. (1985, Winter). The use of mental practice to improve
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Farley, R.C. (1984, December). Training in rational-behavior
problem solving and employability enhancement of
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