Virtual Job Coach
Technology can improve the quality of life and productivity for all. Many quality-of-life tools for people with developmental disabilities (DD) are generic and widely used by consumers who don’t have disabilities. With adaptations and marketing, a technology designed for non-disability uses might assist people with DD. Though financial benefit exists for companies to ensure technology also appeals to people with DD, they often aren’t considered a target market and their needs aren’t fully considered. To stay competitive, companies may change their development and collaboration processes so products are designed and marketed for people with DD and the general public. Funding is intended to demonstrate and publicize how technology can help more people with DD and to support organizations and businesses explore how collaboration between technology companies and people with DD might increase the level of creativity involved in the design and marketing of technology.
Develop a virtual job coach application with 30 visually rich instructional modules that address job searches, applying for jobs, and workforce skills processes and strategies. A moderated online community and mobile application will help users with specific questions and concerns about becoming employed and succeeding in the workplace.
Strategic Education Solutions (SES) developed a web-based “Virtual Job Coach” application to provide adults with cognitive disabilities and their caregivers a comprehensive, accessible and low-cost instructional resource that supports users through career planning, job search and employment. The application delivers visually rich instructional modules that address job search, job application and workforce skills and strategies for adults with autism spectrum disorders. SES developed the content and worked with its technology partner to develop the delivery system for a comprehensive career planning and job search curriculum.
The content was pilot tested with six groups of users representing a significant variety in demographics and use models (fully independent, fully guided, and blended). SES worked to expand the reach of the Virtual Job Coach through a variety of outreach activities, including targeted mailings, development of a newsletter/blog, social media, and conference presentation/exhibition. The result is a fully functional, stable and research-validated curriculum.
- In all pilots, employment rates improved. Increases of 13%, 30% and 42% were seen from pre-pilot employment to post-pilot employment.
- The most dramatic change was in user self-confidence, both overall and work-related. In some cases, increases in self-confidence were 48% after using the Virtual Job Coach for just a few months.
- All Year 1 pilot testers who were unemployed but not looking for work were either employed or actively seeking employment after they completed the Virtual Job Coach.
- All pilot testers reported a significant reduction in their perceptions of how difficult they felt various job search tasks were from pre-pilot to post-pilot.
- Many job search behaviors tracked throughout the pilot increased pre-pilot to post-pilot, including how often pilot testers were completing job applications, sending out resumes and having interviews.
- Pilot coordinators reported feeling better prepared to assist their clients in various job search tasks pre-pilot to post-pilot.