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In Slovenia, as in other EU countries and worldwide, the transition of young people with special needs from school to the labour market presents a challenge compared to their non-disabled peers. They are at very high risk of suffering long-term unemployment, which can result in a decline in their basic skills, professional knowledge or working habits among others and negatively impact their quality of life.
Situation analyses usually reveal that the school-to-work transition for this target group should be addressed at an early stage, providing the required support in school and supporting these individuals until they find stability in the new workplace.
Through the project, I received help in choosing a career as well an appropriate school for it. The information obtained will help me decide on a profession I can work in despite my disability.
— 9th-grade school student
The need to address this complex challenge brought together the Association of Vocational Rehabilitation Providers of the Republic of Slovenia and 13 other project partners to create The Youth Transition Project. Supported by the European Social Fund and the Slovenian Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, it started in January 2018 and ended in August 2022. It served 2,077 young people with special needs under 29 from all over Slovenia. These were young people with intellectual disabilities, visual, hearing or speech impairments, physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, autistic spectrum disorders, and or emotional or behavioural deficit/disorders.
Professional worker with a physically disabled student. Photo: Youth Transition Project
The project helped these young people find education and job opportunities and provided career guidance. Young people with special needs, their parents and families, professional staff, teachers, employers and a range of professional organisations in the fields of health and social care were invited to participate.
Co-operation with the professionals involved in the Youth Transition Project is of great help to us, because we know that they will take the best care of our youngsters and will come up with the best possible solutions, for their present situation and their future.
— School counsellor
The aim was to make it easier for young people with special needs to transition into the world of work. The intended benefit was to improve the social inclusion of young people with special needs, empowering their entry into the labour market to avoid long-term unemployment.
Various activities systematically enabled young people with disabilities the same opportunities for integration into the labour market as their non-disabled peers, and thus increased their social inclusion.
When joining the project, an individual transition plan (ITP) was compiled. The ITP was the key document for planning and carrying out the activities set for each individual, according to their needs. Based on the goals defined within the ITP, young people were motivated, empowered and supported in their transition to the labour market. The main activities involved helping young people learn about themselves in terms of their interests, qualities and abilities, as well as the limitations stemming from their special needs. Furthermore, we helped them find information on schools, faculties and universities and different professions, as well as the opportunities they have on the labour market as individuals with special needs. All of the above served to help them make decisions on further education and/or a professional career.
Youth Transition Project activities.
When implementing these activities, professional project workers worked hand-in-hand with their colleagues from vocational rehabilitation teams as well as with school counsellors and other professional school workers. In addition, parents and caregivers were actively included, since they play an important role in young people’s career-related decision-making. Co-operation with employers was vital: on the one hand, we sought their help in carrying out the relevant school or study practice for students with special needs; on the other, we organised visits to employers to get to know certain jobs better, participate in on-site training or work tests, and become more familiar with actual work settings. This in turn gave the employer the opportunity to get acquainted with the young person before employment, and prepared them for future recruitment in line with their needs. Very frequently, collaboration with other relevant actors, such as social-work centres, healthcare institutions and other organisations, was necessary. It became obvious that in order to serve the needs of young people moving towards to the labour market, not only multidisciplinary help but also permanent cross-sector co-operation must be employed.
More on the Forum Network: Flipping the script on inclusive employment by Vladimir Cuk, Executive Director, International Disability Alliance
Young people joining the project could be involved in project activities for 6 to 24 months, depending on their situation and ITP. We found that monitoring until stabilisation in the new environment is crucial. No matter what the exit was from the project—employment, continuing education or registration with the employment services—our youngsters were facing situations that they needed to adapt to, which usually caused new problems. Therefore, we monitored their adaptation and offered our support not only for the six months recommended by the project, but until they were stable. During the COVID-19 epidemic, longer support was common.
A young blind person with a professional worker from the project. Photo: Youth Transition Project
After almost five years of implementation, the project has become successful interface between the school and the labour market for young people with special needs. The value of our project is now recognised by many educational and other professional organisations in the field of health, social care and employment, many parents, guardians and employers, and the young people with special needs themselves. In addition, the Slovenian Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities identified the services provided through the project as vital to facilitate the transition of young people with special needs from school to the labour market. The government has also decided to change the legislation in the field of vocational rehabilitation in a way to make these project services standard.