October 18, 2013

by: Renee Canfield

All in a Day’s Work – The Role of a Job Coach

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and UCP has been spending a lot of time this month on social media and in our face-to-face conversations talking about employing individuals with disabilities. But truly, those of us at UCP of Greater Cleveland spend a lot of time all year long speaking to the benefits of employing qualified individuals with disabilities. Creating meaningful employment opportunities for our clients is central to our mission and its three key tenets:  independence, productivity, and inclusion in the community.  In our society, employment and the ability to bring home a paycheck are a building block to independence.

One of the questions our agency frequently gets asked when out in the public presenting information on our Community Employment Program is inevitably, “What is a Job Coach? What do they really do?”

I recently asked one of our Project SEARCH Job Coaches to tell me about her typical day.  Project SEARCH is a transition program within Community Employment at UCP which allows young adults with disabilities to do internships during their final year of high school.   The first thing she stated was, “There really is no such thing as a typical day!  We are constantly evaluating the tasks for the day, facing new challenges and helping the student interns work through the challenges!” Then she proceeded to tell me about a full day of tasks, starting with teaching one of the clients how to count monetary change, using a couple of different methods until they found one that worked for the client.  Then she worked with a client on becoming familiar with their job in the hospitals’ stock room.  They practiced finding materials, learning how to count the different types of items boxed differently and how to successfully fill an “order” from another department in the hospital.  After lunch she met with one of the department managers who hosts one of the Project SEARCH interns and discussed how the internship was going, how the student intern was doing and problem solved with the employer.  They agreed on new goals for the intern regarding social skills and greeting customers.  The job coach finished off her day assisting one of the interns with job search on the internet and refining their resume.

So as you can see, UCP Job Coaches are multi-talented and provide a variety of different types of supports for individuals with disabilities in a new job.  Generally speaking, a job coach is a person who provides specialized on-site training to employees with disabilities. Typically they will help an employee learn to perform his/her job accurately, efficiently and safely. In many cases, the job coach may also help the employee acclimate to their work environment. Typical job coach duties include:

• Assessing and assisting a person with a disability to develop a list of interests and potential skills
• Performing job analyses at work sites in order to match people with optimal positions
• Providing one-on-one training on a job site
• Providing job retention services to employers and people with disabilities

The job coach’s degree of involvement with an employee decreases over time as the employee masters the requirements of the position.

To learn more about the Community Employment Program at UCP, please contact Sharon Meixner at smeixner@ucpcleveland.org or at 216-791-8363 ext. 1261.

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