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What Leads to Success in Getting a Job? The CNIB Employment Success Facilitators Study

Editor's Note: Dr. Alexander Shaw is Senior Researcher at CNIB and Dr. Deborah Gold is CNIB's Associate Director of Research. The following is adapted from the executive summary of CNIB's employment study. Visit: www.cnib.ca/en/research/past-projects/Default.aspx

Research evidence indicates that approximately 70% of the blind and partially sighted population in Canada is without work. This statistic creates great concern about employment opportunities for people living with vision loss. However, like many statistics, this figure draws attention to barriers to employment and often overlooked is the fact that there are many persons who are blind or partially sighted with full-time jobs, often in high-ranking positions.

What enables these people to be successful in employment? What skills or resources do these people have that others do not? These are the main questions that were considered in this project.

Funded by CNIB (formerly known as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) and the Social Development Partnerships Program of Human Resources and Social Development Canada, the Employment Success Facilitators study was conducted in order to both learn more about factors related to success in employment and to develop a tool that could be used to assess a person's preparedness for the world of work.

The study had two phases. In Phase 1, we developed a comprehensive list of factors related to employment success based on an extensive literature review, focus groups across Canada with consumers, employers and rehabilitation workers, and a survey of successfully employed people who are blind or partially sighted.

In Phase II of the study, we focused on the development of the tool (using the list of employment success factors identified in the first phase) and a statistical examination of the relationships between various factors and successful employment outcomes, which allowed us to group factors together into scales.

What is Employment Success?

Discussions with focus group participants and an examination of the literature in the field of employment revealed that success in employment can be defined in many ways. On the one hand, given the high number of people who are blind and partially sighted who have simply given up looking for work, being in the labour market can be considered a level of success. Those looking for work were considered successful if they received a job interview or a job offer. On another level, success was defined as being employed.

What did we learn in our Focus Groups?

Focus group participants were asked to report on the factors that they believed enabled them to gain employment. Some attributed their success in finding work to the good fortune of coming across an employer who was knowledgeable about vision loss and/or willing to accommodate them, while others thought that their personal efforts to educate an employer had paid off. Participants felt that an extensive work history was extremely helpful and education was also viewed as very important; however, focus group participants were varied in their opinions about whether success was a result of attendance at regular or special schools, or both.

Participants also felt that attitude, level of motivation, self-esteem, and willingness and ability to self-advocate were linked to employment success. They said that it helped greatly to be highly skilled in a number of areas, pointing to communication, life, networking and technological skills. A person's work-related strategy was also felt to be important--in particular, working harder than sighted peers, planning ahead, and being creative in the job search.

Finally, legislative support and public attitudes were environmental factors that participants felt had either negatively or positively affected their employment opportunities.

Based on the literature review and focus group findings, a comprehensive list of employment success factors was developed. But while knowing what leads to success in employment is important, it is perhaps even more critical to have an understanding of how a person compares to others in various domains, and whether he/she is competitive. The employment success tool was designed with this in mind, and with the intention of identifying areas where vocational counselling could be focused or where a person could improve personal chances for employment success.

The tool consists of a list of statements to which participants respond on a five-point scale from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree." (e.g., "I am skilled in the use of an email application"; "There are people in my life who would be willing to help me financially in a job search.")

The tool has 12 scales (groups of items)--seven relevant to everyone, regardless of relationship to the labour market; four specific to those who have looked for work in the past five years (whether or not they have been employed); and one relevant only to those who are currently employed. There is also a demographic section (such as gender, age, location, work status and vision level).

What did we learn about employment success based on the tool?

Success was associated with proficiency in technology, availability of social or instrumental support, communication skills, a person's work history, upbringing, proficiency in a second language, and awareness of one' s entitlements as a person with a disability. Success was also linked to pursuing a proactive job search strategy, having networking skills/ability, being willing to educate a prospective employer, and seeking positions that are a good match with one's qualifications. Success on the job (defined as satisfaction with work and perceived opportunities for advancement) was related to support from employers and co-workers and the availability of accessible, job-related materials.

Employment success was also linked to a number of demographic factors, including educational level, age of onset of vision loss, health, and level of vision, but one's opportunities for employment success are not determined solely by demographic factors. How one fares on each of the scales is also important.

What findings really stood out?

A few of the employment success factors identified in this study really stood out, either because they were related to several different employment outcomes and/or because they were revealed in different parts of the study as key factors in employment success. Education was strongly associated with employment success in terms of both labour market status and having received an interview and/or a job offer. In addition, the importance of education was emphasized in the focus groups.

Technological skills and access to technology were also strongly associated with employment success in terms of both labour market status and having received an interview and/or a job offer. These skills help people who are blind and partially sighted to both access job listings and meet job requirements.

Technology also mitigates against some of the on-the-job access issues related to vision loss. Specifically, employers may be more apt to hire a person who is blind or partially sighted if they a) are aware of the access technology that is available and, b) believe that the applicant is skilled in its use.

A person's technological skills must be evaluated in relation to the age group with which they are competing for jobs. Specifically, since today's youth are generally raised to be fairly technologically savvy, youth with vision loss will benefit from even greater proficiency with technology in order to be competitive and compensate for some of the perceived disadvantages and stigma associated with their vision impairment.

Parental expectations and attitudes (one's upbringing) were strongly associated with labour market and employment status. Participants whose parents had had high expectations that they would pull their load, be independent, and hold some kind of paid employment were more likely to be in the labour market and more likely to be employed. This finding is important because it suggests that the way in which a child is raised is likely to have long-lasting effects on future employment opportunities. In general, those raised to be more independent (despite having a disability) are more likely to develop the skills that are valued by employers. This supports a related finding in our previous work indicating that the higher the expectations of participation in activities of daily living in childhood, the more likely it is that the person will be employed in adulthood.

Participants from Quebec scored much higher than those from Ontario on several of the scales. This suggests that people who are blind or partially sighted may be better prepared in Quebec than in Ontario for the world of work. One explanation for this finding is that Quebec has more extensive employment supports for people with disabilities, including a program linked to the Quebec Manpower office SEMO (Service Externe de main-d'oeuvre), which offers counselling and referrals to subsidized employment programs, rehabilitation programs through Institut Nazareth et Louis-Braille and the Montreal Association for the Blind, and counselling and support for people with vision loss after they have been hired.

Employment supports also include job-hunting clubs designed specifically for people who are blind and partially sighted, which have counsellors who help with everything from preparing a resume to preparing for an interview. Finally, INCA (CNIB in Quebec) offers special equipment and computer training to interested parties currently involved in a job search or already working.

Conclusion

In summary, one of the main outcomes of the CNIB Employment Success study has been a 12-scale tool that can be used to assess preparedness for the world of work. It can be used by vocational counsellors and directly by consumers to identify areas where further training or access to resources would improve opportunities for employment. While the study revealed a range of factors that are linked to success in employment (and particularly in finding work), educational level and technological skills are two of the most important. But upbringing, specifically parental expectations and attitudes, are also critical. Encouraging children with vision loss to be independent and having high expectations for them can, and does, contribute to their employment success later in life.

Comments

Dear sir, my name is gulam farid. i am a blind person. i am job less. there is no one organisation for blind persons in Pakistan.please help me.please arrange a job for me in Canada. i am very thankful to you. i want to support my family. please help me

As an organization, we really only work on matters that are directly of concern to those who are resident and living in Canada. There is a Pakistan Association of the Blind that may be of help: http://pabnpk.com/contactus.htm

hi. i am from pakistan and i am partially sited and i am job less tell me what can i do to get job and what your institute can do for me ?

As an organization, we really only work on matters that are directly of concern to those who are resident and living in Canada. There is a Pakistan Association of the Blind that may be of help: http://pabnpk.com/contactus.htm

I have a idea in which the blind could be fully intergrated in a office setting.

ZZ - Disregard this link; it is used to trick spammers.