The transition from high school to adulthood is an important, complex stage. Departure from the structured framework of school is challenging and demands personal and environmental resources. For young people with disabilities, it is even more challenging due to the additional difficulties related to their disabilities. To help navigate the change, transition programs offer youth in school preparatory programs for their integration into adulthood in such areas as leisure, education, and employment.
Creating a Future (Yotzrim Atid) is a school-to-work transition program for students with various disabilities in special education. The program was operated by the Occupational Rehabilitation Service of the Rehabilitation Division at the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services (MOLSA) in collaboration with the Special Education Division at the Ministry of Education. It was implemented in special education schools and in special education classes at regular schools. Its goal was to expose students to the job market, and foster in them a future orientation and an ability to make positive decisions about their future. The program consisted of two components: theoretical and practical. The theoretical component aimed to familiarize students with the job market, both on a personal level and in general; the practical component aimed to provide them with hands-on employment experience in the open job market. The study was conducted for MOLSA.
The study addressed the implementation of the program, examined its operation, and evaluated its impact in the short and long terms. The goal of the study was to evaluate the program and assist with its continued development.
The study combined qualitative and quantitative approaches, applying various research methods. In the first stage of the study, site visits were made to program schools and to internship workplaces where students did their practical work. The visits included individual and group interview sessions with the supervisors and interns. In the second stage, semi-structured interviews were conducted with members of the school educational staff involved in the program, with the program implementers, and with key figures at MOLSA and the Ministry of Education. In the third stage, quantitative questionnaires were distributed to the program coordinators, students, teachers, and workplace supervisors. The quantitative data were collected from the interns and from a comparison group of students with similar characteristics who did not participate in the program. For the examination of long-term results, parents completed questionnaires two years after the initial quantitative data had been collected.
Program implementation – The program was implemented by two non-profit organizations: Israel Elwyn was the primary organization, Shema – the secondary one. An implementation model was developed specifically for the program and included several components. Some of these components were not fully applied, which may have influenced the program’s impact.
Satisfaction with the program of all the stakeholders was very high: 98% of the interns’ supervisors reported very or very high satisfaction with their participation in the program; 85% voiced a desire to continue to do so, and some even expressed themselves favorably about hiring students as regular employees in the future. Of the parents, 91% reported satisfaction or great satisfaction with the program. Of the teachers, 92% believed that the experience had contributed or greatly contributed to the students’ ability to participate in the labor market and 88% of the parents felt similarly.
One of the main goals of the program was the integration of students into normative frameworks such as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), (voluntary) National Service, higher-education institutions or employment in the open market. The study found that most program participants did integrate into at least some of these frameworks after their graduation from high school although no significant differences were found between them and the comparison group. The program benefited participants by familiarizing them with the job market, allowed them to acquire professional knowledge and experience, and helped them improve their employment skills.
Another contribution to participants, which was found to be significant, was greater familiarization with the welfare system and the services it offers to young adults with disabilities.