(See Transcript Below)
State Services for the Blind, (SSB) presented an Opportunities Fair for Blind and Low Vision high school students and parents. The Opportunities Fair allowed students to talk to business leaders and organizations about who they were and what are their expectations. Students went from table to table one on one with directors and admins and learning about the opportunities they offer. Parents met up with other parents and shared experiences and strategies for successful outcomes. The students met others from the metropolitan area and shared their experiences and successes. Panels of parents of Blind children,
successfully employed people with vision loss and another panel consisting of transition age students who are working jobs and doing internships spoke to the entire group of participants
Blind Abilities was there talking to the students, counselors transition team from SSB and met with the business associates. Join Jeff Thompson of Blind Abilities and take a tour of the Opportunities Fair.
If you are interested in more opportunities and want to find out more about transitioning from high school to college and to the workplace, you can contact Sheila Koenig at 651-539-2361.
You can find out more about the Transition program on the web.
Female Voice: If you’re looking for employment right now get out there, looking for a job is a full-time job.
Male Voice: What I’m seeing is there’s a lot of camaraderie here and there’s just a lot of resources and it’s just nice to make connections with folks who know what they’re doing and and help them realize their dreams.
Female Voice: So, it’s called Capti, and you can get like any PDF’s that you can’t see.
Male Voice: Well I am a senior right now and I wanted to look into jobs, I never really had any work experience. It’s kind of nice to see that I can find the job.
Female Voice: Experience experience experience, volunteer, it shows responsibility, it shows that you can commit to something and follow through. Know within yourself that your dreams are possible, that you can reach them. Don’t let others limited expectations hold you back.
Jeff Thompson: Welcome to Blind Abilities, Iím Jeff Thompson. State Services for the Blind’s transition team held an opportunities fair at a local community center giving transition age students an opportunity to meet with the Job Corps employers and talk with others about the tips and tricks that they’ll need as they transition from high school to college to the work place. The students were also able to collaborate with each other and share ideas, apps, and other tools for success. There are panels of different demographics sharing ideas and success stories that they had. Parents talking about their successes along the journey, talking about what it takes, what they’ve overcome, what experience can you share about being gainfully employed, and what it’s like to be a teenager transitioning that has a part-time job. And mostly the students had an opportunity to talk to the employers, the workforce, and meet and talk and ask questions about what it is, what they need to do to prepare for the workforce. All this was at the opportunities fair.
Sheila Koenig: When I describe my job to people I usually tell them that I help to either develop the programs or connect students with the programs and services that will help them be successful after high school, whether they go to college or directly into work and we’re all about helping them to get the skills to be successful while they’re still in high school.
Jeff Thompson: You’re listening to Transition Coordinator Sheila Koenig. She along with her transition team put together the opportunities fair to bring all the entities together employers, students, parents, so they all can share in the information and add a few more tools into their toolbox for success.
Sheila Koenig: That’s actually one piece of advice that I think is so important for students is to learn a variety of tools and techniques so that you can determine what’s going to work for you in any given situation.
Jeff Thompson: And the transition team was out in full force at the opportunities fair.
Male Voice: I am SSB’s work opportunities navigator, I work with transition 14 to 21, helping them identify what they like to do, explore potential careers and connect them to resources, activities, and work opportunities, and help make that happen.
Mark Groves: Hi, I’m Mark Groves, I’m Voc Rehab Counselor with State Services for the Blind. I really like working with the transition students because they’re, there’s just so many possibilities that are open for them and they’ve got a lot of energy and a million ideas and so what I, what I like to do is partner with them, collaborate with them, I’ve got about five or six young people on my caseload and so I thought I would pick them up and drive them here and leave nothing to chance so they could experience the fair today and just have fun without any worries. What I’m seeing is there’s a lot of camaraderie here and there’s just a lot of resources and it’s just nice to make connections with folks who know what they’re doing and help them realize their dreams.
Deasha Van Alstine: I am Deasha Van Alstine with State Services for the Blind’s Workforce Development unit. When job seekers come in we look at what they have done, what skills they have, what interests they have, what they know, and then we come up with all kinds of different career paths, and we can try to figure out which is going to be the most appropriate for that individual and give them choices. If you’re looking for employment right now, get out there, looking for a job is a full-time job, you have to be filling out applications, you have to be asking for help, you have to be updating your resume every time, you have to be doing things that set yourself above the rest of the job seekers. Be invested in it. If you’re not looking for a job right now you’re looking for a direction, talk to a lot of people, ask for labor market information, visit with your employment specialist that works with your State Services for the Blind counselor. Get as much information as you can and ask lots of questions. Experience, experience, experience, volunteer, it shows a responsibility, it shows that you can commit to something and follow through, do stuff around the house, get a part-time job even if it means it’s something that you might feel is below you, get as much experience in the world as you can, be independent.
Jeff Thompson: And we’re talking with a greeter, Rachel Eggert. She’s deaf/blind and we’re going to interview her about her job at U.S. Bank. How are you doing?
Rachel Eggert: Oh, I’m doing wonderful, thank you.
Jeff Thompson: What kind of job do you do at U.S. Bank?
Rachel Eggert: My role is Guest Experience Representative at U.S. Bank, I’m actually like an Usher.
Jeff Thompson: Is there any alternative techniques that you use to perform your job?
Rachel Eggert: I do use my white cane to get around, and I also use a whiteboard for communication so we would write back and forth like if a deaf person or somebody knows sign language and they come up to me then we can
communicate but if they don’t know sign than I need to use the white boy.
Jeff Thompson: Great, when you were applying for this job did you have assistance doing it, or is it something that you took on yourself to seek out a job and gain employment?
Rachel Eggert: I did it independently. I did it all myself, because I did need new experience, a new job experience, because I did work at the State Capitol for several years and then I thought you know what, I should get out there and do something else. So, I got online, filled out an application, and I needed to actually print out the application and fill it in by hand, and then they had called me for a screening which I passed, and after the screening I was asked to go to the job fair for a job interview for that position. I did need a sign language interpreter which they did not provide but the person I met with new a little sign language, so we did our best, and then from that I was hired and then we had to do all the paperwork which was the background check and everything else that goes along with it and I’ve been working there ever since.
Male Voice: If you have an app that you would like to talk about, feel free to jump in and say something about your favorite app. It doesn’t have to be….
Jeff Thompson: The parents all gathered and talked to the transition team and the counselors while the students gathered around and held their app Smackdown.
Male Voice: Hassan, how about you start us off with the app that you want to talk about.
Hassan: All right I’m here to tell you about outlook for IOS and Android.
Jeff Thompson: A moment where they would share apps amongst each others, some of the apps they mentioned were Outlook for IOS, Voice Dream Reader, Capti, C A P T I, Assist Eyes Wallet, Prayogo, an optical character recognition and object recognition app free.
Female Voice: This is Eyes Wallet, it’s fully voiceover accessible, it also has some features, if you have some vision that you can…..
Female Voice: So, it’s called Capti, you can get like any PDF’s that you can’t see or…..
Laurie Thompson: Hi, I’m Laurie Thompson, and I sat on a panel for the Opportunities Fair for State Services for the Blind, and the panel that I sat on was for blind employees and on this panel was Bobby Bentz, and Michael Oday. The panel before me was the parents of blind children, the panel after me was the transitional students that had part-time jobs or had had internships. Some of the advice that I gave the students when it came to talking with employers was to be confident and to explain themselves and how they can use their technology to complete the responsibilities of the jobs that they were seeking out. Be explicit in the explanations and be confident and persistent when looking for work.
Jeff Thompson: What did you think of the Opportunities Fair?
Male Voice: Wow, it was so wonderful, yeah, talking to different people that I never met before and the wonderful job they do for the blind community.
Jeff Thompson: A lot of networking?
Male Voice: Yep, I did.
Jeff Thompson: Make connections?
Male Voice: Yeah, I did, and Iím trying to find more now……
(Mixed voices and laughter.)
Jeff Thompson: You’re on the prowl to find more connections.
Male Voice: Yeah, I’m still on a mission.
Jeff Thompson: Well great, thanks for coming,
Male Voice: Aha.
Jeff Thompson: How you doing?
Male Voice: I’m doing all right.
Jeff Thompson: So, you go to high school?
Male Voice: Yes, I go to Champlain Park High School in Brooklyn Park.
Jeff Thompson: And what brings you to the Opportunities Fair?
Male Voice: Well I am a senior right now, and I wanted to look into jobs, I’ve never really had any work experience, it’s kind of nice to see that I can find the job. I’m slowly but surely as I speak to you now, I have a couple of bits of information that will actually help me.
Jeff Thompson: I’m with Scott Eggen and he’s a member of the Business Enterprise Program here in Minnesota. How are you doing Scott?
Scott Eggen: I’m doing very well.
Jeff Thompson: So, Scott you’ve been in this program for quite some time, right?
Scott Eggen: Yes, I’ve been in for, been in the BEP program for 30 years.
Jeff Thompson: So, someone can make a career in the business enterprise program?
Scott Eggen: You truly can, if you’ve got certain aptitude for it you’re going to do well, it’s a good program and and I’ve known a lot of people that have made a good living at it.
Jeff Thompson: Being at the Opportunities Fair, what’s that like?
Scott Eggen: It’s been fun to see the youth come in and get a chance to visit with all the exhibitors here and learn about the different opportunities. I was telling someone this morning if I had this chance when I was an 18-year-old, this would have been fantastic.
Jeff Thompson: Such an opportunity?
Scott Eggen: Well, students here would have a great opportunity. I’ve been doing this for 30 some years and it’s been very good for me, they would have a chance to explore our vending world and find out how it works and now to make some money at it.
Female Voice: So, I’m a member of CTEP AmeriCorps CTEP stands for Community Technology Empowerment Project, and we are an AmeriCorps program based out of the Twin Cities that does work with digital literacy education so we work with different various groups including recent immigrants, English language learners, youth, and older adults maybe who haven’t worked with computers ever before, or not very much and would like to learn more about them. Focusing primarily on employment opportunities for those individuals so teaching them how to use computers in a way that’s beneficial for them in the ever-growing sort of digital marketplace that we live in right now. We are based out of St. Paul neighborhood network so if you go to www.spnn.org you can find more information about CTEP AmeriCorps through that. We have about 16 positions open for the upcoming service year, it starts in early September and goes through mid-August and yeah you can also, so you get a one thousand dollar living allowance every month during your service year and at the end of the year after successfully completing the full term you get a five-thousand-dollar Education Award which can go towards college, loans, graduate school, or just other, you know, classes if you’d like to take sort of on your own after school.
Feamle Voice: So, we are a nonprofit organization, Conservation Corps, we actually have folks working throughout Minnesota and Iowa and Missouri. I am the program director for our youth an individual placement program so I have a couple of opportunities for high school students. The first is a summer opportunity, it’s called our summer youth corps, so we hire high school students from throughout Minnesota to come work on natural resource conservation projects, that can be anything from pulling weeds, to planting trees, to working on hiking trails. We also have an after-school job for high school students in St. Paul and Minneapolis doing much of the same work but you’re not away from home for the whole summer, it’s just a couple hours after school, and all of our information is online as well so easy to find out a lot of information about our opportunities there. That is www.ConservationCorps.org.
Jeff Thompson: Talking to Jennifer Moore and she’s with a Hubert Humphrey Job Corps, how are you doing?
Jennifer Moore: Very well happy to be here.
Jeff Thompson: Can you tell our listeners what you do?
Jennifer Moore: Yes, so I’m the director of admissions for the Job Corps program, and what we are is we are a career training program for 16 to25 year oldís, we have housing on the center, we do career training, if you haven’t finished your high school diploma or GED you can finish that with us as well, we have full food services, medical staff, everything you need rolled up right into one program, we are a completely free program, we are sponsored by the Department of Labor, and it’s very similar to going to a community college to get that skilled career training. We also have placement services so we work with young people once they’re done with the program to make sure that they’ve got employment, that they’ve got the housing they need, that they’ve got the resources they need to live in independent life.
Jeff Thompson: Well that’s really great, you’re bridging that gap from, you know, not everybody is ready for that next step.
Jennifer Moore: Yeah absolutely. We even have a program on the center where students can go on and start taking college classes once they’re done with their trade, their initial trade, they can take advanced training at a community college and get that four-year degree, or they can enroll in advanced training through Job Corps. For instance, our nursing assistant students can go on to get in LPN, a licensed practical nurse degree, again and this is all free. Nursing programs are very hard to get into right now, there’s a three to five-year wait, and it’s also very expensive, anywhere from15 to 50 thousand dollars. We are a government program that does that same thing only provided to young people completely free of charge, so happy to be here and, and really excited and Job Corps is a great opportunity for young people.
Jeff Thompson: So, someone that is interested in the Job Corps, how do they get ahold of you?
Jennifer Moore: You can call our main number 612-823-4516 is our main number and there’s someone there that can answer your questions, we also have open orientation every Thursday at eight thirty in the morning and that’s at the Job Corps center on Snelling Avenue. We’re right across from the State fairgrounds and the address is fourteen eighty so any Thursday morning at eight-thirty please come and see us, you can learn more about the program, see the campus, but you can talk to us any time by calling that number as well so, we’re happy to come out to talk to groups, schools, parents, students, staff, anybody who would like to learn more about the program we’re happy to come out and talk to you too.
Jeff Thompson: Well thank you very much.
Jennifer Moore: Thank you.
Mackenzie: My name is Mackenzie, I’m with HECUA, the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs, we’re a non-profit located here in the Twin Cities, we offer experiential learning for U of M students, St. Kate’s students, St. Thomas students, Macalester students, all sorts of colleges here in the Twin Cities, we also offer study abroad programs that are really unique, something that’s great about HECUA is all of our programs focus on social justice and social change. We have several programs here in the Twin Cities so it’s a great way to get out of the classroom, join your community, get an internship in the community, and explore what’s going on around the Twin Cities. We do a lot of different recruiting, we’re at a lot of different tabling events around the Twin Cities, but we also do class visits. Our website is www.hecua.org, if you want to find out about all of our different programs we offer. We have a lot of different advisors that will help you choose the program that’s correct for you and there’s always going to be someone to help you every step of the way, so we have a lot of different programs that really cater to different levels of experience within the field, and what’s great about HECUA is you also have the internship component to so there’s always going to be someone to help you with your experiential learning. HECUA is here for you every step of the way.
Female Voice: Keep expectations high, and know that blindness, or low vision, or deaf blindness, in and of itself, is not a barrier, it really is the misconceptions of other people that can hold you back. Know within yourself that your dreams are possible, that you can reach them, don’t let others limited expectations hold you back.
Jeff Thompson: I would like to thank State Services to the Blind, the Transition Team, and all the participants, and parents, and students, and especially the vendors, the workforce that came out to make this happen, and sharing their opportunities. And if you’re curious about more opportunities such as the Career Expo or the Opportunities Fair, check out your state services and see what they can do for you. Thanks for listening.
(Multiple Voices) 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.
Jeff Thompson: For more podcasts 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for listening.