[Sub ID 4541] Pre-employment program for young people who are blind or low vision impaired (Vision Australia)

Submission ID: 4541
Organisation name: Vision Australia
Contact name: Mr Scott Jacobs
State: VIC
Contact email: scott.jacobs@visionaustralia.org

Which priority group of the Try, Test and Learn Fund does your idea support?
Young parents, Young students at risk of long-term unemployment

What need or issue are you trying to address?
Unemployment rates in the blindness and low vision (BLV) community are 4-5 times higher than the national average, creating a lifetime of profound disadvantage. People who are BLV are traditionally under-represented in the labour market.

A Vision Australia survey (2012) found:
• 58% of respondents were unemployed not by choice: 4 times more likely than the general public (14%)
• One third of those employed want to work more hours
• 53% of job-seekers had given up looking because they became too disheartened

Young people who are BLV miss out on casual jobs in high school that teach the skills required for post-school employment, while students without disability gain preliminary work experience through retail or hospitality in teenage and post high school years.

Many of the barriers for people who are BLV in seeking work are not directly related to experience or competence. Mental health, specifically the experience or risk of depression, is an under acknowledged barrier to employment:
• Up to 43% of vision impaired adults experience depressive symptoms vs 16% of Australian adults
• Only 20% of Vision Australia clients reported receiving psychological support yet 63% wanted it

What is your idea?
A national Pre-employment Program (PEP) that will combine with an additional program of mental health supports (PST-PC) to equip people who are BLV with market ready skills to gain permanent employment. It will utilise an internationally accredited program, adapted for Australian conditions.

The PEP is suitable for young people who have left or completed high school preparing for employment, and young people transitioning to the workforce from further education. The PEP is a structured learning program designed specifically to address the employability needs of people who are BLV.

The PEP is designed to replicate the full-time work environment. It includes 11 modules that work to:
• Simulate a work environment
• Develop or refine soft skills
• Document capabilities and determine how to remediate any deficiencies
• Demonstrate disability-specific and learned skills
• Evaluate work-readiness

The Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) has trialled Problem-Solving Treatment for Primary Care (PST-PC) as a treatment method targeting the needs of people who are blind or have low vision. PST-PC is an:
• evidence-based psychological method for self-development of emotional resilience
• is a practical, skills-based model
• provides emphasis on empowering clients