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7 steps to make your Careers Service more accessible to blind and visually impaired students – guest post

Jessica Luke from Blind in Business recently provided us with the following guest blog post aimed at careers professionals.

Blind in Business is a charity that runs a free careers service for blind and visually impaired students. Many of the students we support have never used their university careers service. Some say they lacked the confidence to get in touch, others did not think that their university careers service could help them.blind-in-business-logo

You may do all of this already, but just in case here are 7 easy steps to encourage your blind and visually impaired students to get in touch: Continue reading

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Career Pathways Project: Supporting students and graduates in the transition to employment – guest post

Many thanks to Eileen Daly (Careers Adviser for Students with Disabilities) at the Careers Advisory Service, Trinity College, Dublin. Eileen has provided the guest post below, describing the success of The Career Pathways project partnership…

Career Pathways logo

Career Pathways

The Career Pathways project partnership provided a flexible and individually-tailored transition service for students with disabilities, accessible throughout college, to support them to prepare for transition to employment.

The project was developed by The Career Advisory Service and the Disability Service in Trinity College Dublin (funded Jan 2014 – 2016 by the Genio trust). Dublin Institute of Technology, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, and Marino Institute of Education were partners in the project. Find out more at http://www.tcd.ie/disability/career/Pathways/

Goals were set collaboratively with the student and a plan of action was agreed. A range of resources were available to students to support them to achieve their individual goals. These included: individual meetings with Occupational Therapists, Careers Advisers, Disability Officers and Assistive Technology Officers.

Students also attended monthly workshops facilitated by peer supporters and a variety of employer events as well as a three day annual boot camp. Career development resources were created via a specially designed e-portfolio system.

The process involved three stages:

  • Exploring your career
  • Building your career
  • Launching your career

Topics discussed in meetings and workshops included CV development, interview preparation, refining reasonable accommodations for the workplace, disclosure of disability at work and managing health and well-being in the workplace.

Project outcomes:

  • 126 students with disabilities used Career Pathways between January 2014 and December 2016.
  • Over 400 individual meetings took place between students and OTs / Careers Advisers.
  • 61 students accessed the ePortfolio system, developed within the project to allow students to log their work related experiences and engagement with resources.
  • 75 students attended monthly workshops and a three day careers boot camp (May 2015 & May 2016) delivered by the OTs, Careers Advisers, peers, ambassadors, and employers.
  • 14 student ambassadors have been recruited who will act as peer mentors to future students.
  • 26 Disability and Careers Service staff from four Dublin colleges have attended training workshops on supporting students with disabilities in their transition to employment.
  • 16 employers have connected with Career Pathways, with three large multi-national employers hosting events in their head offices.

 

An online resource, “Inclusive approaches to working with students with disabilities – the journey from study to employment” was developed and is available at: https://www.tcd.ie/disability/assets/pdf/Career%20Pathways%20publication.pdf

The project has concluded and we envisage the learning from the project will continue to be beneficial to students, graduates and careers and disability service professionals in the future.

Eileen Daly, Careers Adviser for Students with Disabilities, Careers Advisory Service, Trinity College Dublin, July 2016

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Carrying out a disability audit of your careers service

When I agreed to write this blog article, I hadn’t actually been involved in a disability audit of a careers service. I thought this presented a great opportunity to get involved, and decided the best way to learn was to actually carry one out!

Sounds like a lot of work… why bother?

The Equality Act (2010) places an anticipatory duty to arrange reasonable adjustments to provide inclusive access to services for disabled people. Carrying out an audit will enable a careers service to take stock of what adjustments already exist, and where it could make further reasonable adjustments in anticipation of use by a disabled student or graduate. This proactive rather than reactive approach makes a service more inclusive and efficient, and could encourage more disabled students into the service.

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Preparation

I started preparing for my audit by doing a bit of research. Firstly, I spoke to the careers team I work with, and also the University’s learning support team, to find out if anything similar had been done historically. It hadn’t. Lots had been done around supporting disabled students and graduates, but it had never really been drawn together and documented. Therefore it emerged that as well as highlighting what we needed to do to more of to support our disabled students and graduates, the audit presented a good opportunity to celebrate what we were already doing!

Next, I asked Disability Task Group colleagues if they had audited their careers service. I used a template disability audit document offered by a colleague from the University of Sheffield Careers Service, and tailored it for my organisation. After several years of using the template, my colleague now keeps an ongoing dialogue open with disability services at her institution, but I decided to go with the template for my first audit.

The broad headings recommended by the template were:

  • Access to the service: covering the statement of service, physical environment, publicity material, signage, adjustments e.g. hearing loop, work with other departments e.g. disability service, staff training, student feedback and monitoring
  • Information: covering alternative formats, disability relevant information in careers service materials, inclusive materials, disability friendly employer information, knowledge of appropriate support agencies
  • Student appointments: covering flexibility of appointment time, format and venue, knowledge of, and access to, interpreting services
  • Careers events: covering accessibility of premises, materials in accessible formats with information relevant to disabled people (attendees and exhibitors)

Carrying out the audit

Bringing together relevant people from your service, ideally the disability service and having student representation, will allow you to cover all areas being audited. I worked with a careers adviser, information officer, and employability manager to complete my audit, and asked a member of the student Disability Society to provide some feedback. The audit raised healthy and honest discussion, and as I had anticipated, provided the opportunity for people to say “Yes! We’re doing that!” and for it to be recorded. We also identified several actions we needed to complete – many of which would simply require the asking of a question. For example, we knew that a sign language interpreter could be organised, but none of us knew the process for doing so. Finding this out will allow us to provide a much more confident and efficient service should the request be made. Agreeing actions and timescales for completion is essential, as is setting a date to review progress. I aim to introduce the audit follow up to the team meeting agenda with a review of progress at the end of May.

Improving services for all students

Working with the adage ‘improving services for one group of students improves services for all students’, this was a worthwhile and holistic activity. It need not take a huge amount of time, and does not necessarily lead to a lot more work. What it does, is remind you what you are doing well as a service, and highlight how you can provide an even better service to your disabled students and graduates.

If you would like more advice on conducting a disability audit of your service, then get in touch with the AGCAS Disability Task Group.

Clare Worrall-Hill, AGCAS Disability Task Group, Careers Adviser, Liverpool Hope University

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Training Day – Friday 10th April

AGCAS Disability Task Group is running a training event at Liverpool Hope University on Friday 10th April which focuses on ‘Guiding Disabled Students through the Recruitment and Selection Process’.

Although originally offered through the NW Regional Training Programme, as there are still a few places available, this is now open to Careers Service staff from across the UK. Topics covered during the day will include researching how disability positive an employer is; disclosing a disability; positive self-marketing and reasonable adjustments at each stage of the application and selection process and in the workplace.

The day will include input from members of the task group, the HR Manager from Liverpool Hope University, the National Autistic Society and Remploy.

Bookings will close on Wednesday 1st April and to reserve a place please contact Clare Worrall-Hill worralc@hope.ac.uk

Hilary Whorrall, AGCAS DTG.

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Supporting disabled students’ transitions from Higher Education into employment: What works?

In November 2014 the Equality Challenge Unit published a report on helping disabled students during that all important transition between H.E. and employment. The report ‘Supporting disabled students’ transitions from Higher Education into employment: What works?’ follows an investigation into the provision of support focused on disabled students across H.E. Institutions. This research was gathered from a range of sources including university careers services, disability organisations, and of course disabled students. The outcome is an interesting and valuable report which proactive careers services looking to improve their provision for disabled students could really extremely useful.

The report initially taps into what careers services should hopefully always aim to be well versed, in such as employers’ duty to make reasonable adjustments, or the availability of funding for workplace support, along with links to a range of useful resources. Building on this however it contains real value in sharing ideas and good practices that careers services across the UK have employed successfully. These could be used ideas and inspiration for all able services. For example, in the section on Providing accessible information, advice and guidance to disabled students and graduates there are descriptions of a great range of initiatives which include,

  • Brunel University – along with providing leaflets and documents on important issues for the students on the likes of disclosure, the Placement and Careers Service have written a ‘Good practice guide for employers on providing work placements to disabled students’. Useful to assist employers interested in their students becoming diversity focused.
  • Staffordshire University – the Careers Centre run a series of talks designed for disabled students which has been put together following consultation with the university’s Student Enabling Centre and the Disabled Students’ Engagement Group, who decided which talks would be of most use. A programme created in collaboration with those who will use it.

These, and many more noted initiatives can be very useful in arming students with information and opportunities to meet diversity positive employers, however the report has some information on other initiatives aimed at assisting with the transition into H.E. in the first place. E.g.

  • Manchester Met have developed a peer-mentoring service, where new students prior to starting their course are offered a peer mentor; a disabled student already attending the institution. This aims to reduce student drop for new students out during the transition into H.E., along with helping present students use and develop employability schemes through being a mentor.

There are of course limitations with this report’s ideas. What it does do is contain a lot of information, inspirational ideas and initiatives, which along with summarised overall recommendations could really make a difference to assisting the transition between H.E. and employment. What it does not take into account is that institutions and services are constrained with resources, funding, institutional politics which can really limit what they can realistically aspire to achieve.

Having said that the report gives some useful information and insight into existing good practice on within H.E. careers services and, for those services who are willing and able, can be used as a handbook of strategies and ideas to really add to provision for disabled students, and hopefully with their transition from H.E. to the workplace.

You can download this report at the following link.
http://www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/supporting-disabled-students-transitions-higher-education-employment/

Mark Allen, AGCAS Disability Task Group, Imperial College London

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