In 2017, Dr. Smith received a grant from the Kessler Foundation (1003-1958-SEG-FY2016) to deliver the virtual job interview tools to 1000 high school students receiving special education services to help them find employment. In addition to evaluating employment outcomes, this project evaluated the costs needed to bring the virtual interview tools to schools and the optimal strategies teachers use to implement the virtual interview tools to students across urban, rural, and suburban schools.
In Illinois, we partnered with the State of Illinois’ Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) to find school partners for this project. Specifically, DRS oversees the Illinois Secondary Transitional Experience Program (STEP). This program supports federally mandated transition services for approximately 10,000 students with disabilities from nearly 600 schools. In Michigan, we partnered with Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Michigan Career and Technical Institute, Van Buren Intermediate School District, Van Buren County Schools, Project SEARCH sites, and Michigan Virtual Charter Academy. In Florida, we partnered with a network of Project SEARCH sites as well as Martin County Schools, Pinellas County Schools, and Stetson University.
The virtual job interview tools include both the original version designed for adults with serious mental illness called Virtual Reality Job Interview Training (VR-JIT) and the new version called Virtual Interview Training for Transition Age Youth (VIT-TAY) designed to support youth with autism or other disabilities as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as well as justice-involved youth.
In summary, this project supported the implementation of virtual reality job interview training and virtual interview training for transition age youth at more than 100 schools to serve more than 800 students receiving secondary or postsecondary transition services. Please check back soon as we continue to update and share our results! For now, here are linked preliminary findings for our work with Students and Teachers as well as with the Chicago Public School’s Office of Diverse Learners and Support Services, and Project SEARCH.
We are looking for partnering school districts for future statewide evaluations.
April 22, 2020