According to the 2017 statistics, only 35.5% of people with a disability were employed whereas the employment percentage of people without a disability was 76.5%. This is not only a disservice to our special needs population, but it is also a loss for our workforce and economy.
Employing a differently abled adult is beneficial for the employer as well as the employee, especially when the employee has received specialized training to carry out their work – not at all different from the population as a whole. We all must have the appropriate training in order to get the job!
Why Do People With Disabilities Struggle To Find Jobs?
There are several factors that play a role in limiting the opportunities available to disabled people, but one key reason is that they often are unable to complete their studies.
A 10-year long research study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education (the results were published in 2011) found that students with special needs are less likely to enroll in colleges. Even when they do enroll in college, only 41% successfully complete the two-year programs. Among the students who join four-year degree programs, about one-third graduate within 8 years.
While students who may have a disability often struggle in regular educational programs, research has shown that they perform quite well in vocational education programs.
How Can Vocational Training in Music Help Individuals with Special Needs?
Vocational training is custom tailored to account for the strengths and needs of students with disabilities which makes it a viable avenue to acquire marketable skills to enter the workforce.
In Tampa, the Autism Awareness Thrift Shop and Vocational Training Center provides adults with Autism with retail skills and ample opportunities to practice within the store.
In St. Petersburg, Creative Clay provides guidance and training to adult artists who have special needs in areas of marketing their art, speaking about their art, curating a gallery, and other aspects of being an artist in the workforce.
Other areas in which vocational training is made accessible to those with special needs include hotel housekeeping and kitchen work, learning the craft of being a barista, and other skills that open up doors for employment in the food, service, and retail industries.
Vocational training in music goes beyond musical skills. The field of music encompasses digital music and all the software and hardware that it entails, recording and producing, equipment maintenance and repair, instrument maintenance and repair, sales, and much more. By providing a platform for professional development through music, those individuals who are seeking employment in the field of music can receive the training they need so that they have the musical fulfillment in addition to employment.
What makes vocational training for special needs a viable option is that, such programs:
- Are customized according to their specific needs
- Classes are usually less crowded, so the teacher can give individual attention to each student and motivate them to learn and grow
- Teach skills that enable the differently abled to become a part of the workforce and be independent in their lives
- Train students to work and survive in an office or professional environment, which makes transitioning to work life easier for them
For vocational training to be more effective, it is important to assess the limitations, abilities, and interests of every special needs student.
The next step is to destigmatize individuals who are differently abled, and employ them based on their potential. Some vocational programs aid in this transition into a new job, to support the student and provide the employer with guidance. Employing an individual with special needs is not a charity, it is beneficial for the workforce and society as a whole.