Vocational skills are job-related skills and concepts. One of the primary goals of special education is to prepare students with disabilities for life after secondary education. Vocational skills include any skills that facilitate the successful transition to meaningful employment. Vocational competencies include skills required to find, apply for and retain employment.
At the elementary and middle school levels, students with disabilities should be introduced to prevocational or job readiness skills. Students should be taught the importance of being on time and completing assigned tasks. Teachers should focus on teaching students to follow directions and ask for help when necessary. All students with special needs should learn to tell time and count money.
Social and Communication Skills
Appropriate social skills are vital for individuals with disabilities. Students must be able to communicate clearly with their employers and coworkers. They also must be able to get along with their coworkers. Social skills instruction must begin in early childhood and continue through high school. Students must also be able to make phone calls to potential employers or to call in when they will miss work. .
Students with disabilities should understand basic safety procedures and routines. These skills can be critical for job site safety. One of the goals of special education is to teach students to apply concepts to multiple situations. Students should be taught fire safety, first aid, how to avoid falls and accidents and how to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. Teachers should role-play various situations with their students. Students must understand that when calling 9-1-1, they must speak clearly and slowly. Students should be instructed as to what types of situations would be considered an emergency and which situations would not.
For a student with severe cognitive delays, special education teachers may need to teach skills that are specific to the job he will be performing. This may require the teacher to create a task analysis for instruction. Task analysis involves breaking a task into smaller parts for instructional purposes. The teacher then instructs the student using a forward or backward chaining process. Forward chaining is teaching the sub-steps one at a time in order from beginning to end. Backward chaining is teaching the sub-steps in reverse order.
By high school, students with disabilities need instruction in career education skills. They need to learn how to look for a job online or in a newspaper. Students should practice how to fill out a job application. Teachers should focus on helping students collect the needed documentation for work, such as birth certificates, picture identification and social security cards. Students must learn to write resumes and cover letters. Teachers should also role-play job interviews with their students. This should help students to be more comfortable during the interview process.