In recent years, an international consensus has emerged about the crisis in the transition to adulthood. "Finishing education should be an exciting moment in the lives of young people," claims a 2014 report from the European Foundation. However, "this transition is now fraught with insecurity, as getting a first job is a major challenge."
For many young adults with disabilities, this challenge is even greater. According to MJB's national survey of young adults in 2012, only 46% of young adults in their mid-20s with disabilities participate, compared with 65% of young adults in general. Those not working reported that the primary barriers were the lack of preparation for integration into the labor force, the lack of guidance and assistance in placement, and the lack of vocational training.
In recent years, important initiatives have emerged to help young adults with disabilities overcome these barriers. An important focus of the work of MJB’s Center for Research on Disabilities has been to support these initiatives. These include:
• Preparing High School Students to Enter the Labor Force. Young people with disabilities completing special education at age 21 often have limited expectations of getting a “real” job or lack a sense of what that job might be. A joint program of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Affairs aims to change that reality. The program exposes young people ages 16-21 with disabilities to a variety of work options, helps develop skills, and gives them initial work experience. All of these reinforce their belief in their ability to enter and succeed in the labor force. MJB is conducting a multi-year evaluation of this national pilot program.
• Stable Employment for Young Adults with Learning Disabilities. Finding and maintaining suitable employment can be a challenge for many young people with learning difficulties and ADHD. Beginning in 2013, Israel's Social Security Administration undertook a pilot program to provide to provide assessments of vocational interests and abilities, training in coping with learning disabilities and ADHD at the workplace, and personal guidance to promote entering employment and longer-term job stability. Based on MJB’s evaluation, the Ministry of Social Affairs has adopted the program and is implementing it more broadly.
• Vocational Training Programs within Special Education. In Israel, as in many European countries, there is a renewed interest in vocational training programs for young people. To promote such programs in Israel for young people with disabilities, MJB prepared a comprehensive review of such programs within special education tracks in high schools in the United States and Europe. The review focused on identifying best practices. The findings are being used to assist in efforts to expand such opportunities in Israel.
• "Path to Independence" Personal Mentoring and Guidance for Young Adults with Disabilities. Young adults ages 21-35 with disabilities who are not studying, employed, or involved in or other organized activities tend to be detached and isolated from adult life. Since 2012, JDC-Israel Unlimited and the Kivunim NGO have piloted an innovative mentoring program to help these young adults pursue educational and employment opportunities, increase their social engagement, and take an active role in improving their lives. Each participant is assigned a mentor who helps them define goals and take steps towards achieving them. Based on MJB's evaluation, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Health are now expanding this program.