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Exploring the post school career/training and employment trajectories of students with special educational needs.

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Youth with disabilities have a high rate of unemployment, are under employed or earn less than youth without disabilities. They encounter many barriers when seeking employment and this makes them half as likely as their typically developing peers to gain employment. Poor preparation for the world of work, low level of education combined with a lack of skills provides justification to employers to discriminate against this group of young people. In view of the poor employment rate of youth with disabilities as well as the lack of attention given to their employment needs, this study was conceived. The purpose of this study was to explore the post school career/training and employment trajectories of students with special educational needs. A qualitative interpretive phenomenological approach to the study was adopted. Purposive and convenience sampling techniques were employed to select participants for this study. Students with special educational needs who exited a special school for the intellectually impaired were recruited and data was obtained from them using semi-structured interviews. The outcome of the data analyses revealed that some participants engaged in private training programmes in order to secure jobs whilst others searched for long periods to obtain jobs. Some of them held several short-term jobs, became entrepreneurs or attended sheltered workshops. The opportunities for work for special needs youth were limited and often of a generic nature and that which did not involve sophisticated engagements. Whilst their adjustment to the world of work was mostly favourable and they enjoyed family and workplace support, they experienced many challenges during their search for work. Based on the findings of this study, recommendations were proposed to respective persons, processes, policies and structures in an attempt to improve the post school employment and training outcomes for students with special educational needs. Some of the recommendations alluded to were: improving educational outcomes, the development of teachers, curriculum modification (to prioritize high-quality general education system with cognitive and vocational skills), developing transition programmes in preparation for the world of work, the provision of career guidance services, improved higher education and creating employment for the youth.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.