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College of Education > News and Publications > News: Jan. - March 2010 > Career Assessment Practices in the High Schools: Helping Students with Disabilities

Career Assessment Practices in the High Schools: Helping Students with Disabilities

Article about research headed by Jim Herbert on career assessment for students with disabilities

by Joe Savrock (February 2010)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – For some high school students, the transition from school to the workplace is a difficult adjustment. For students with disabilities, the transition can be particularly difficult.

Herbert_sml.jpgAfter graduating from high school, young persons with disabilities are more likely to end up being unemployed or underemployed than students without disabilities. For this reason, schools that conduct a thorough career assessment that leads to an individualized career plan can provide an especially important service for these students.

Vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors who work with other high school counselors and teachers are in a unique position to help students with disabilities achieve their full potential, says James Herbert, professor of counselor education at Penn State. If VR counselors make use of suitable career assessment strategies, students with disabilities are better able to overcome obstacles, develop career skills, and ultimately enter a rewarding career.

“Rehabilitation counselors can play an important role in helping students with disabilities understand work requirements needed to succeed on the job and make more informed decisions about realizing their career potential,” says Herbert.

trusty_sml.jpgHerbert worked with two Penn State colleagues—Jerry Trusty, professor of counselor education, and Dawn Lorenz ’09 Ph.D., a recent graduate of the Counselor Education and Supervision program—to gain a better understanding of career service practices used by counselors in Pennsylvania’s high schools.

The researchers conducted a statewide online survey of nearly 400 professionals. Survey participants included state VR counselors as well as professionals in the schools—teachers, counselors, and administrators. While most respondents believed that school services have a positive impact on career development of students with disabilities, it seems that career assessments are occurring later rather than earlier in high school.

Herbert notes that, “In our sample, only half of high school students with disabilities were receiving career assessment services by the 10th grade, which meant that students who received them later in high school had less opportunity for career exploration and perhaps less likelihood of finding satisfactory employment upon graduation. Since many students with disabilities have limited opportunities to explore and refine career decisions through community-based job tryouts, it only further places these students at greater risk for subsequent employment problems.”

Herbert also stated that, “Our research provides additional support for the importance of developing collaborative relationships among school-to-work transition professionals, students, and family members in helping students achieve their career potential.  Participation of all principal players is something that, at present, is the exception rather than the general rule of practice.”

A full description of the research report by Herbert, Lorenz, and Trusty will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation.