Welcome to the Job Insights introductory podcast with Serina Gilbert and Jef Thompson. We focus on Employment, Careers, enhancing opportunities and bringing you the latest innovations from across the Vocational Rehabilitation field to ensure your choices lead you down the career pathway that you want and succeed in gainful employment.
From getting started with services, to assessments, Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) to gaining the skills to succeed and tools for success, Job Insights will be giving you tips and tricks to help your journey to employment and break down the barriers along the way.
In this introductory episode we will learn about Serina Gilbert and her job as a Transition Counselor and get her perspective as a person with vision loss and navigating Voc. rehab. With her experience living with vision loss and working to get clients onto a career pathway, Serina knows what works and wants to share to help you find the career that you want and help you succeed in landing that job.
Jeff Thompson teaches woodworking to Blind students, is a board member on Minnesota’s State Rehab Council and has been an advocate for the blind for over 20 years.
Check out this introductory podcasts and send us your feedback and topic suggestions by email.
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Job Insights is part of the Blind Abilities network.
Full Transcript Below
Serina: In college you have to be your own advocate, you have to schedule your testing, and schedule your accommodations if you need to have books and things like that read aloud.
It’s not going to come to you like it did in high school.
Jeff: Job Insights, a podcast to help you carve out your career pathway and enhance the opportunities for gainful employment.
Serina: How do I tell people that I have a visual impairment, do I ignore it at the interview or do I bring it up.
Jeff: Learn about resources for training, education, and employment opportunities.
Serina: People who maybe never heard of this system and they are 54, and what do I do now?
Jeff: We will hear from people seeking careers, employment, from professionals in the educational field, teachers, and innovators in this ever changing world of technology to help you navigate the employment world and give you job insights, and enhance the opportunities to choose the career you want.
Serina: I don’t always jump straight to discrimination.
Sometimes when you go into an interview thinking that all they are going to see is my disability, they’re not going to see my skills and abilities, well that’s a self fulfilling prophecy, you’re going to give off that type of an attitude.
Jeff: For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter at BlindAbilities, and download our free Blind Abilities app from the app store, and now available on Android from the Google Play store, that’s two words, Blind Abilities.
Serina: It’s not always about the disability, it could be legit that somebody else had some better skills, but it also could be the way that you are portraying yourself and maybe not selling those skills because everyone has to remember that if you got to the interview, it means that you are qualified.
Jeff: And now please welcome Serina Gilbert and Jeff Thompson with Job Insights.
Welcome to Blind Abilities, I am Jeff Thompson, and we are going to bring to you a new podcast called Job Insights.
Serina and I have been working on this idea, brainstorming and creating podcasts, and so here is our introductory one, and right now, I am going to introduce you to Serina Gilbert.
Serina Gilbert, how you doing?
Serina: I’m doing great, how are you Jeff?
Jeff: I am doing great, thank you.
So Serina, can you tell the listeners a little bit about what you do?
Serina: I am a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor here in Colorado.
I mainly work with youth ages 15 to 24 that are interested in learning or exploring work, and getting on to a career pathway.
Jeff: Ahh, transition age students.
Jeff: What got you interested in being a Vocational rehab counselor?
Serina: Well, when I was gosh, 18 or 19, I was actually a client with the division of Vocational Rehabilitation here in Colorado and as a result of being a client, I learned more about the services and how counselors work with people of all ages and disabilities to help them with employment, and I decided that that’s the pathway that I wanted to take.
Jeff: Hmm, so did they help you out in finding that pathway?
Serina: They did, they helped me with learning about the field, which was pretty easy for them because they did it, and they also helped fund my education and training to be able to be qualified to enter into that type of job.
Jeff: So what was it like telling your counselor that you want her or his job?
Serina: I want to be just like you [laughter] actually I think they were pretty flattered! [laughter]
Jeff: Well that’s cool.
You were in high school when you got connected with transition services?
Serina: I actually wasn’t, I graduated high school in 2001 and back then, at least not in Colorado, they did not work with young adults starting as young as 15 or 16.
I didn’t even learn about that until, I think it was my freshman of sophomore year in college.
Jeff: Oh wow, how did you contact your Vocational Rehab center?
Or what do you call it in Colorado?
Serina: We call it Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Serina: DVR, sounds fancy right?
Jeff: There you go.
Serina: But I believe it was actually a low vision specialist that referred me there.
I take that back, my ophthalmologist referred me the first time, and the second time my low vision specialist referred me.
Jeff: Your ophthalmologist?
Jeff: Oh wow, kudos for them.
That’s a tough area to crack.
Jeff: Okay, so you contact them, did you go in for an evaluation, assessment, or intake, or did you have to qualify?
Serina: So actually I had to apply twice.
The first time I was determined eligible, the very first step was kind of filling out some paperwork and being interviewed by the counselor.
But the services I specifically needed at the time were based on financial need, so specifically education and training, and equipment and things like that.
At that time I was still considered a dependent of my parents so they were looking at their income, but then the second time when I applied, I was receiving supplemental security insurance, so then they did not have to look at my parents income, and I was able to obtain the services that I needed without looking at my parents financial status.
Jeff: So with the goal in mind that you wanted to become a VR counselor, how did your college outlook look?
Serina: Well I started out wanting to be in Human Resources, and I started out in the business program and I did well until I got to statistics, and that class was absolutely horrible Jeff, like the worst class I ever took and then I changed my major to communications after that, and then decided I wanted to go back to school to get my Master’s once I was done with that Bacholer’s degree.
Jeff: Mmm, what are the special requirements to become a VR counselor?
Is there any classes that you have to take that puts that focus right into there?
Serina: Every state is a smidgen bit different, but typically you need a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling or Psychology, or related field, maybe social work, and if you do not have the Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, you also have to supplement that with some experience working with individuals with disabilities.
Some of the classes they have take are Counseling Theories, group counseling, case management, career development, basic classes that help you understand disabilities and how they impact you vocationally and how that might impact the pathway that an individual might be able to take.
Jeff: mm-hmm, so you have been a counselor for 7 years?
Serina: Gosh, yeah I have.
Jeff: So you witness the entire change into the workforce innovations and opportunities act?
Serina: Everything kind of changed, and that was when i kind of shifted my position as well to being more of a counselor that focused on transitioning youth and it completely changed how we had to approach services.
It used to be, before, let’s try to get you your basic job to get you self sustaining, to help you with living independently, we weren’t looking a whole lot at working with 15, 16, 17 year olds, it was more so, when you’re about ready to graduate, come see me so that we can connect you before you graduate, but we weren’t doing any of those pre-employment types of services that they are having us do now.
Like job exploration counseling or work based learning experiences or counseling on post secondary ed opportunities, things like that.
I’m starting to see I am making a really big difference in the young adults that I am working with.
A lot of them are starting to see, oh, maybe I really don’t want to go to nursing school for that long, maybe I will start out as a CNA, or what do you mean I can’t get a job as a video game designer, ya know, that is really competitive, I didn’t realize that.
And it is starting to help them before they even get out of school to start thinking a little bit more critically about where they want to be.
Jeff: So why is now a good time to be a Pre-employemnt Transition Student?
Serina: All of the Vocational Rehabilitation agencies are actually mandated to spend at least 15 percent of their general fund on pre-employment transition services which means that we are all looking for ways to connect with students with disabilities to help you really explore where you want to be, where you want to go, and help you get a really solid plan in action before you even walk across the stage in May or June, wherever you may be.
Jeff: And then be able to implement that plan without skipping a beat.
Jeff: Because I remember 10, 15 years ago when I was teaching at Blind Incorporated, I was a woodworking teacher.
I noticed a change over the years that students were starting to come in that had like used JAWS since they were 5 years old, so they are walking in with all these skills of Braille and computers, technology, but they never made a sandwich.
Jeff: So times have changed now and especially with this, that they are aiming for competitive employment, they want long term employment, so they are looking for more career based, instead of job specific.
More of a career field for them.
Serina: Yes, exactly.
We’re looking to get young adults with disabilities on what we call a career pathway.
So let’s say that that young adult does explore and say, I do want to be a nurse.
Well, we’ll help you get your CNA, help you look into nursing school, help you get some internships, see where that takes you so that you are at least on that pathway, and get you the accommodations and things like that that you need to be successful.
Jeff: And that’s a change lately isn’t it?
Serina: Definitely, it was a big change for our agency.
Jeff: So instead of people just getting a job, then they need another job, they just come for you to get a job, here they’re gonna build a career so they basically can be in a field that the opportunities are much broader.
Serina: Exactly, and you had brought up earlier some of the independent living skills and I think that that’s great that you brought that up because you’re right, one thing that we have noticed locally is they have great great skills with assistive technology, and cane skills and things like that, but put them in a college dorm and they’re living in a pigsty, or they can’t get from the college dorm to DVR.
So that’s where us coming in a little bit sooner especially over the summer when they have those gaps in service from their teachers for the visually impaired, that can really help sharpen those skills before they get into that college dorm or that college setting where they’re completely on their own and I was trying to figure out the college thing let alone the living alone thing.
Jeff: Because having all the skills for doing the computer and doing all the technical stuff, kids love technology so it’s, it’s no doubt that they’re gonna get it and if they have Braille, more power to them, if they’ve already been reading books you know, it’s, it’s just amazing how fast they pick up on that stuff and yet how sometimes they’re in a situation where the parents don’t allow them to do much beyond them, self serving them.
Serina: I am so glad that you brought that up Jeff, that’s another really important thing that I want to kind of express today too, is it’s really important for parents still out there young adults to start having that independence even if it’s doing little things around the house, like doing their own laundry, or cleaning up after themselves, or preparing a meal once a week, because those skills are gonna go even further in the workplace, because that will allow them to be less dependent on their co-workers and things like that, or even the college setting their roommates maybe, and that’s a barrier that I’ve noticed with some of the young adults that are coming in to DVR is that they are not having that independence that we would like them to have, but sometimes it’s the parents being a little bit scared of their young adult going out there in the world all by themselves, and the nice thing about being connected with vocational rehabilitation is you’ve got a support team, kind of have a safe place to fall, and that time when they’re still in high school is the perfect time for them to try something and maybe not have it go so well.
We’d rather have it happen while they’re still in high school as opposed to at their very first career pathway type position, and then not in very well for them.
Jeff: And especially being prepared when they start their first semester, it’s not a time to start learning how your technology works.
Serina: Exactly, that’s rough.
It already takes a little bit longer when you’re reading books and you have assistive technology as opposed to somebody who doesn’t have a vision impairment.
So imagine throwing on top of that learning all these new keystrokes and different ways to do things on top of the six chapters you have to read in your human studies class you know.
Jeff: Yeah, because it was really interesting you know, when I started teaching at Blind Incorporated, I started recognizing things like kids that come in with all those skills and it seems like they just cut the umbilical cord right at the door and mom’s gone you know, and they they’ve never done anything and it’s like okay where do you start.
I suggested we switch our curriculum up a little bit because they were coming in with 300 words a minute Braille, they were, technology, you know their gadgets were just go just [Jeff makes a fast gadget sound] going crazy you know, and yet like I said, the sandwich, or mobility, mobility is a big thing especially when you get to campus to get around, not to just get from one class the other but to figure out a skill set that will lend you that you could use transferable skills that you’ll be able to use that elsewhere too.
Like you said laundry, you’re on, in the dorm now what do you do, you know, do they know laundry, cooking, can they get food, can they, all that stuff comes into play.
Serina: Exactly, gosh when you’re going to college too, how do you get your accommodations?
High school is a lot different, you don’t have to tell your teachers that you need accommodations, it’s their job to know that you have an IEP or a [inaudible] plan.
In college, that is not going to happen, you have to tell every single instructor or professor that you have these accommodations, and you have to be your own advocate, you have to schedule your testing, and schedule your accommodations if you need to have books and things like that read aloud, it’s not going to come to you like it did in high school.
Jeff: And you can’t take that with you when you go to the workplace, you have to wean yourself off that system, the disability services, and you have to be your own creator of solutions, and I think a lot of people who are blind and visually impaired don’t realize, they think out of the box, they do come up with alternative techniques to accomplish stuff.
Jeff: And that’s a lot of stuff that employers are looking for, people that have that type of skill set.
Jeff: Now can we talk to all the employers out there to realize that?
But they usually see the blindness first.
So there are some obstacles, that’s where your self confidence, your self advocacy, all that stuff comes into play so when you do enter the job interview, or present yourself, or meet someone on the bus, all those little tiny things all come into play, because anybody could be a potential employer.
Serina: Exactly, it’s so funny that you mentioned all those things Jeff because those are all things that I would love to be able to cover on future podcasts to help people out with their job search and interviewing and, how do I tell people that I have a visual impairment, do I ignore it at the interview or do I bring it up?
How do I approach that?
So I think those are some really cool topics that I know we’re gonna cover in the future.
Jeff: Yes I think we’re gonna have some great topics, some great guests, and some great ideas for people to navigate their division of vocational rehab, voc rehab, state services for the blind, a lot, a lot of different names and hopefully people will realize the services that are out there.
Serina: And you might say Vocational Rehabilitation because sometimes people just don’t understand voc rehab.
I know that there’s a lot of times we’re talking about like transitioning youth and things like that because we have a lot of clients that come in with like diabetic retinopathy that are never heard of the system and they’re 54, and what do I do now?
So I want to reach those people to.
Jeff: Well Sarina, we got a lot of work to do.
We got people that are gonna be the wanting to listen to these so we got to get back to the workshop and get these made.
Serina: I suppose so.
Jeff: Serina, this is going to be great working with you on the Job Insights podcast, sharing ideas, bringing information to people who are looking for employment.
So thank you very much Serina.
Serina: Thanks for having me Jeff, I can’t wait to record the next one.
Jeff: All right, we’ll do that.
So stay tuned to Job Insights, the podcast that will help you navigate your pathway to employment, help you choose the career that’s best for you, giving you insights, confidence and skills to enhance your opportunities towards gainful employment.
To leave feedback and topic suggestions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on twitter at job insights VIP.
When we share what we see through each other’s eyes, we can then begin to bridge the Gap between the limited expectations and the realities of Blind Abilities.
For more podcast with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter at BlindAbilities, download our app from the app store, Blind Abilities, that’s two words, or send us an email at email@example.com, thanks for listening.