Vocational Training: Learning New Work Skills and Flexibility
Teens and young adults with disabilities who attend Camp Ramah New England have extensive opportunities to develop their vocational skills, as part of the Tikvah Program. These trainees learn the “soft skills” that are critically important to job readiness and work success (such as learning about job options, practicing interviewing skills, and developing a strong work ethic). Many also learn specific vocational skills at their work sites around camp that they can use in their future employment outside of camp.
Participants in Tochnit Avodah (Voc Ed) and Voc Ed Ma’avar (the transition program that bridges Amitzim and Voc Ed) spend several hours training each day, while members of Amitzim train for an hour each day. Most also attend “Voc Ed U,” a class in which they learn and practice their soft job skills. For example, they may practice their interview skills with staff members around camp.
At their work sites, our trainees are supported by our Voc Ed advisors, who are in residence; by job coaches, who assist during training hours; and by staff members from other camp departments.
This summer, the trainees learned to be flexible and adaptable, as they were exposed to new and varying work sites. Trainees are asked to state their preferences for work sites, which are as varied as the new laundry; the mercaz, where mail and lost-and-found items are sorted and distributed; and various food service tasks: prepping food, setting the tables, and preparing and delivering the camper snacks. However, because not all work sites were available every day this summer, trainees were asked to try new job placements, sometimes outside their comfort zones. The opportunity to try new job placements allowed our trainees to build new job skills through flexibility; they showed themselves to be tremendously adaptable, which is itself and important job skill. Some trainees even found new vocational interests through their exposure to unfamiliar work sites.
Nora A., who has trained for several years in the Voc Ed Bakery, tried the food prep placement for the first time this summer. She had a “great experience” working with her friends at this site and “learned new skills,” including preparing the silverware and making trays of danishes (a Shabbat favorite), pretzel sticks, and cookies for the campers.
Some trainees had the opportunity to build new skills at our newest work site: our brand new in-camp laundry. With two new commercial washers and two new commercial dryers – as well as ample space for folding, sorting, packing, and storing the laundry – our Voc Eders got to work! The trainees washed the bed linens and towels that had been used by our international staff and others. They learned the basic functionality and settings of the machines and the appropriate sanitary practices for working in the laundry. After washing and drying the bed linens, they learned to fold them (including the always challenging fitted sheets) and then sort and pack them for return to the housekeeping department. Visual guides helped to aid in the folding steps. Josh, one of the trainees, likes to be organized. He was pleased to learn how to fold laundry “even neater,” a skill that he will use when he folds his own laundry in college.
Our trainees are once again making important contributions to our camp community and working hard to build their skills. At the same time, they are also learning to be more independent – and having lots of fun!
The establishment of our new in-camp laundry was made possible by a grant from the Green Family Foundation.