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 Funded by the United States Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

Summer Work Experience Plus: Effectiveness of Adding a Guided Job Search Component to a Traditional Summer Work Experience on Future Employment Outcomes for Youth


The purpose of this project is to add a guided job-search component to an existing summer work experience program conducted by a vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency with youth in their local community, with the goal of improving job-search attitudes, behaviors, and outcomes for participating youth.

Research Questions

  1. Will participation in the guided job-search intervention result in increased job-search knowledge, job-search behavior, job-search self-efficacy, and perceived control over job outcomes for youth?
  2. Will any positive effects of participation in the guided job-search intervention on job-search knowledge, job-search behavior, job-search self-efficacy, and perceived control over job outcomes be maintained over time?
  3. Will guided job-search intervention participants have a greater number of (a) jobs applied for, (b) contacts with network to ask about jobs, (c) job interviews participated in, and (d) jobs obtained that are not VR or school sponsored compared to their peers who did not participate?
  4. Will guided job-search intervention participants be more likely to obtain employment after they complete their education?
  5. Are there differences in the effectiveness of the guided job-search intervention based on youth characteristics?

Study Summary

Many studies have found that high school work experience is predictive of obtaining employment later in life for youth with disabilities, including youth with B/VI. Unfortunately, youth with B/VI are less likely to obtain work experience while in high school and are less likely to be employed after leaving high school compared to the general youth population and youth with other types of disabilities. Perhaps because youth often do not obtain early paid work experiences, many VR and private agencies currently facilitate short work experiences for these youth. Our research indicates that these sponsored work experiences are not associated with later employment for this population and that it is more beneficial for youth to find jobs on their own.

This intervention efficacy project expands an existing summer work experience program administered by the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) by adding an innovative, research-based, guided job-search intervention. This five-day intervention includes both group sessions and individual activities. The curriculum is based on two existing job-search programs that have extensive evidence supporting their effectiveness. NRTC researchers expanded this curriculum to include additional content for youth with B/VI in areas such as nonverbal communication, disclosing a visual impairment to an employer, and identifying accommodations for jobs. The intervention was implemented by the ADRS, and the NRTC provided the curriculum, materials, one day of in-person training for the trainers, and support. A quasi-experimental, repeated-measures design will be used to evaluate the job-search intervention. A comparison group participated in the existing six-week summer work experience program, while an intervention group received the guided job-search intervention prior to participating in the regular program. Participants in both groups will complete a pretest and three posttests, which measure job-search knowledge, job-search behaviors, self-efficacy, perceived control over job-search outcomes, and job attainment. The project was implemented with youth who signed up for the summer work experience program during the summers of 2016 and 2017.

Expected Outcomes and Benefits

This project will provide insight into effective curricula and programs VR agencies can use to improve job-search attitudes, behaviors, and outcomes for youth with B/VI.

Project Outputs

Cmar, J. L., & McDonnall, M. C. (2018). Effectiveness of a job search training program for youth with visual impairments. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/2165143418792238.

Principal Researcher

Jennifer Cmar,