In DO-IT projects such as AccessComputing and AccessSTEM, project staff developed an easy-to-use document called Preparing for Success with Work-Based Learning Experiences. This "work-based learning menu" was developed to be a useful, non-threatening tool in securing employer support for work-based learning offerings to students with disabilities. During initial meetings with potential partners, the menu is reviewed and left with employers visited by DO-IT staff. By considering the menu options, employers are able to see a variety of ways they can support students with disabilities and then identify the DO-IT activities in which they are willing to be involved.
As reported by employers and observed by DO-IT staff members, one of the reasons this document is an effective employer recruiting tool is that it invites employers to initially become involved in work-based learning activities with a low level of commitment. For example, employers who agreed to meet students for a 30-minute mock interview or a half-day job shadow were more likely to provide opportunities for internships and jobs in the future; they found it helpful to first meet students with disabilities in person to hear about their skills and interests. The success of DO-IT's work-based learning program is documented in published articles, some of which can be linked from DO-IT's web page titled DO-IT: Research to Practice.
Below is an excerpt of text from the work-based learning menu distributed to potential employer partners.
PREPARING FOR SUCCESS THROUGH WORK-BASED LEARNING
Work-related experiences during school are associated with better employment outcomes for students with disabilities. We encourage you and others in your organization to collaborate with DO-IT to meet students and take advantage of one or more of the work experience options listed below.
- Informational Interview
Provide an individual with a disability the chance to engage with your staff members to find out more about your industry and organization.
- Mock Interview
Provide an individual with a disability the chance to practice their interview skills and receive feedback from your organization.
- Job Fair
Take part in a job fair for job seekers with disabilities. Host a table and talk with candidates about their experience and goals.
Offer a presentation about your industry or organization to a group of individuals with disabilities.
- Job Shadow
Invite an individual with a disability to observe one of your employees at work and hear information from that employee about the nature of their job.
Provide a paid or unpaid internship for a student with a disability seeking "real world" experiences in an academic field of interest.
Identify employees with and without disabilities in your organization who would be willing to act as mentors to a less-experienced person with a disability.
- Hire an Individual
Recruit to fill a position with the help of a DO-IT staff member to assure that the position is announced to qualified individuals with disabilities.
As well as the sample text above, the work-based learning menu includes information about who to contact and how to complete and return the menu to DO-IT staff.