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  1. 1. Career Placement Project: A CareerReadiness Program for CommunityCollege Students With DisabilitiesSUSAN CROY NORTONKAY F. FIELDThis study examines the effect of a Career Placement Project using enhancedcareer services specifically designed for community college students with dis-abilities. The 4 areas of services provided by the project were career explora-tion, job readiness, job-seeking skills, and job shadowing. A pretest-posttestdesign using a participant group and a control group measured change in ca-reer readiness. Based on the data, it seems that the Career Placement Projectwas effective in increasing the career preparedness of participating studentswith disabilities.Passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 emd Public Law 94-142,The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, opened the doorsof Americas universities to individuals with disabilities (McLoughlin, 1982). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) expands the Re-habilitation Act of 1973 £Lnd forbids discrimination in employment(Wilson, 1992). As a result of these new opportunities, colleges haveseen an ever increasing enrollment of students with disabilities ontheir campuses. Community colleges are seeing an especially dramatic increase inthe number of students with disabilities who enroll. Two-year col-leges have been the fastest growing postsecondaiy institutions en-rolling students with special needs (Bamett, 1990). Their openadmission policies and the special support services they offer havemade them attractive to a large number of students with disabilitiesas well as to other at-risk groups. Community colleges have a re-sponsibility that goes beyond helping students with disabilities re-ceive services and perform academically. They have a responsibilityto assist them in developing their own independence. This is espe-Susan Croy Norton is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling andHuman Development at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro. Kay F, Fieldis the director of employment and career services at North Iowa Area CommunityCoUege, Mason City, Iowa. Correspondence regarding this article should be sent toSusan Croy Norton, 133 Butterfield Hall, Edinboro University of PennsulvaniaEdinboro, PA 16444.40 JOURNALOFEMPLOYMENTCOUNSELING/MARCH1998/VOL35
  2. 2. dally crucial since the passage of the ADA. More opportunities areopening up for qualified individuals with disabilities. However, thesegraduates will need the ability and skills to self-advocate in order toobtain Jobs and receive the accommodations they require (Brown &Brooks, 1990). Graduates with disabilities have traditionally required a signifi-cjmtly longer time to locate employment, and the unemploymentrate of graduates with disabilities is higher than the rate of gradu-ates without disabilities (Frank, Kartst, & Boles, 1989; Thompson &Hutto, 1992). This is partly because people with disabilities havenot had employment opportunities equal to those of people withoutdisabilities (Frank et al., 1989). Lack of knowledge and skills in howto sell themselves in an interview, discomfort with self-advocatingfor accommodations, and the inability to perceive what behaviorsare necessary for Job retention are also factors. To be responsive to the needs of this growing population, commu-nity colleges should offer assistance in preparing students to beself-advocates and in the successful transition from school to work.One form of assistance is offering enhanced career services specifi-cally designed for students with disabilities. A Career Placement Project was developed by a rural communitycollege in the Midwest to assist students with disabilities in prepar-ing for successful careers. The four areas of placement services iden-tified for inclusion in the project were (a) career exploration, (b) Jobreadiness, (c) Job-seeking skills, and (d) Job shadowing. The pur-pose of this study was to determine the effect of the Career Place-ment Project on preparation for successful transition to the world ofwork.METHODDuring the 3-year period of the study, 295 eligible students withdisabilities were identified and referred to the Career PlacementProject. Students were invited by personal letter to participate inthe project. Twenty-five students chose to participate. Students withdisabilities were offered services in the four areas of (a) career ex-ploration, (b) Job readiness, (c) Job-seeking skills, and (d) Job shad-owing. Specific activities included individual career counseling,computerized career exploration, a 10-session Job readiness semi-nar, a 15-session Job-seeking skills class. Job shadowing, and coop-erative education opportunities. A pretest-posttest design was used to measure change during theproject. A 16-question instrument was developed to refiect the ap-plication of skills in the four areas of placement services provided.JOURNALOFEMPLOYMENTCOUNSELINQ/MARCH1998/VOL.35 41
  3. 3. The individual items were true-or-false questions. Items were scoredas correct or incorrect according to whether or not the responsesindicated those behaviors or skills needed for successful placement.For example, for the item "I have prepared a resume that I am com- fortable with in my job search." true was a correct response andfrilse was an incorrect response. The pretest was administered to the participants at the beginning of their involvement in the program. The identical test was adminis- tered as a posttest at the end of the school year. A control group of nonparticipating students with disabilities was administered the same pretest and posttest using the same timeline as the one for the participant group. Students were matched by age. sex. race, disability, and college major. Possible scores ranged from 0 to 16. Over a 3-year period. 25 students participated in the Career Place- ment Project. Twenty-three of the participants completed both the program pretests and the posttests. Eighteen of the 25 students in the control group completed both the pretest and the posttest. Mean scores were determined for the program participant and control groups on the pretests Euid posttests. and scores were com- pared for significant differences between the two groups. The find- ings are presented in Table 1 by individual year pretest and posttest mean scores as well as by 3-year aggregate pretest and posttest mean scores. In addition, graduation rate and employment status after graduation are discussed for both groups in the next section. TABLE 1 Career Placement Project Program Results Participant Group Control GroupProject n Af fi M P1992-1993 Pretest 6 5.333 5 10.000 0.008 Posttest 4 13.250 5 12.800 0.8221993-1994 Pretest 14 6.000 8 7.875 0.238 Posttest 14 10.571 8 10.373 0.8741994-1995 Pretest 5 9.800 5 9.800 1.000 Posttest 5 10.000 5 8.800 0.737Aggregate Pretest 25 6.600 18 9.167 0.029 Posttest 23 10.913 18 10.611 0.79442 JOURNALOFEMPLOYMENT COUNSELING/MARCH 1998/VOL 35
  4. 4. RESULTSThe program pretest and posttest means were calculated individu-ally by the year in which services were provided. The pretest andI>osttest means of the participant groups were compared using anindependent t test. Due to the small number of subjects involved inthis study, one must use caution in draAving conclusions. Table 1 shows the results for the 1992-1993 school year, the 1993-1994 school year, the 1994-1995 school year, and the 3-year aggre-gate. There was a significant difference at the .05 level in the meanscores of the participant and control groups on the pretest scoresfor 1992-1993. There was no significant difference on the posttestscores. The participant group had a mean score increase of almost8 points between the pretest and posttest, whereas the control grouphad a mean increase of less than 3 points. In 1993-1994 there wasno significant difference between groups on either the pretest orthe posttest scores. However, the gain scores were 4.5 for the par-ticipants and only 2.5 for the control group. There was no signifi-cant difference between the two groups on the pretest or the posttestfor the 1994-1995 school year. For the 3-year aggregate results, theprogrcun pretest mean score of the control group of 9.167 was sig-nific£intly higher at the .05 level than that of the program partici-pant group mean score of 6.600. There was no significant differencein the posttest results. Gain scores were 4.3 for the participant groupand only 1.5 for the control group. Over this 3-year period, 10 students with disabilities participatingin the Career Placement Program graduatedfi-omthe community col-lege. Four of those students found employment 4 were continuing theireducation, and 2 were unable to be located. Twelve students in thecontrol group graduated during this same time. Four of this groupfound anployment, 1 was seeking employment at the time of the study,6 were continuing their education, and 1 was unable to be located.DISCUSSIONThe purpose of this study was to determine the effect of the CareerPlacement Project on preparation for successful transitions to theworld of work for community college students with disabilities. Thisproject was designed to increase career preparedness in studentswith disabilities over a 3-year period. The operational definition ofcareer preparedness used in this study is "a state of being preparedto pursue an occupation by possessing knowledge in the areas ofcareer exploration. Job readiness. Job-seeking skills, and Job shad-owing or work experience."JOURNALOFEMPLOYMENTCOUNSELING/MARCH1998/VOL35 43
  5. 5. Based on the data, it seems that the Career Placement Projectwas effective in increasing the career preparedness of students withdisabilities participating in the project. The data indicate a signifi-cant difference (.05 level) between the 3-year aggregate programpretest mean scores of the participant and the control groups. Thedata also indicate no significant difference between the 3-year ag-gregate posttest mean scores of the two groups. The participant groupscored significantly lower on the program pretests, but by the posttesttime the participant group scored as high or higher than the con-trol group. The difference between the pretest scores of the control and ex-perimental groups was unexpected. A probable cause for the dis-crepancy was selfrselection. Students who were not comfortable withtheir career readiness were more likely to choose to participate inthe progrsmi. Those students who were comfortable did not chooseto participate. This is a reminder that we cannot group all studentswith disabilities in the same class. Although many students withdisabilities have a need for this type of assistance, not all do. The g£dns of the participant group were expected. By the end ofthe program, students had caught up to their peers in career readi-ness. The placement rates of the two groups were similar. The results suggest that the Career Placement Project was a valu- able tool for the assistance of some students with disabilities. There- fore, it would behoove community colleges to offer such assistancefor those students who could benefit. It would not be advisable, how-ever, to require the course for all students with disabilities, becausesome have been able to obtain the skills in other ways.REFERENCESBamett, L. (1990). directory of disability support services in community coUeges. Washington, DC: American Association of Community Colleges.Brown, D., & Brooks, L. (1990). Introduction to career development: Origins, evolution, and current approaches. In D. Brown, L. Brooks, & Associates, Career choice and development: Applying contemporary theories to practice (2nd ed., pp. 1-12). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Frank, K., Kartst, R., & Boles, C. (1989). After graduation: The quest for em- ployment by disabled college graduates. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling. 20(4). 3-7.McLoughlln, W. (1982). Helping the physically disabled in higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel. 23. 240-246.Thompson, A. R., & Hutto, M. D. (1992). An employment counseling model for college graduates with severe disabiliUes: A timely intervention. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counselirxg. 23(3), 15-17.Wilson, D. L. (1992). New federal regulations on rights of handicapped may force coUeges to provide better access to technology. The Chronicle ofHiaher Education. 38(21), Al.44 JOURNALOF EMPLOYMENT COUNSELING/MARCH 1998/VOL 35