JF&CS News Fall 2013

Path in the woodsKnowing how to speak with your supervisor, ask questions, and follow directions are so-called "soft skills" that can make a difference when finding and keeping a job in today's competitive market. One of the newest JF&CS programs, Pathways to Employment, helps adults with disabilities acquire the skills they need to be successful in the workplace.

"We know through our experience and research that employers are looking for soft skills. They're looking at the person – can they work well with others, be flexible, communicate effectively with their co-workers, manage their time," said Sue Stellick, Director, Day Programs. "Friendliness can make the difference when choosing between two job candidates."

With the financial support of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Pathways to Employment offers interactive classroom training, practice in the community, journaling, and feedback to groups of adults with disabilities who would like to enter the workplace. The program offers help at a time when the number of people with disabilities is higher than ever and workforce needs have changed dramatically.

"People with disabilities are less likely to find work now because jobs have changed. Many more skills are needed to maintain a job than 25 years ago," said Betsy Closs, Director, Services for People with Disabilities. "There's a need to be able to multitask and switch gears, to do different things on different days."

Each week, two groups of adults meet to learn one of 48 specific skills JF&CS staff has identified as crucial to finding and keeping a job. The program teaches effective communication, professionalism, work ethic, teamwork, collaboration, and critical thinking. Participants learn to observe their tone of voice, body language, and social cues. They then travel to a work site where they volunteer and practice the skills they have just learned. Later on, they reflect on their performance in journals and receive feedback. The JF&CS program is unique in its length (up to 24 months), its emphasis on interactive training and role-playing, and on skill building in integrated settings in the community.

"While a typically developed person might pick up on social cues and mold their work behaviors accordingly, for our participants it's not intrinsically learned," said Sue. "We break these complex actions into teachable components."

The program is getting high marks from participants, who are very excited by their ability to give back and their mastery of these skills. One client said, "By learning all the tools that I've learned from here, like helping out co-workers and getting specific information from my supervisor, it will help me get in a job." Two others noted, "I improved on talking to people in the community. I got better by watching someone else do it first and then trying it myself," and "I have improved greatly at how to maintain a professional attitude and be a leader at work."

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.