The BITSE Project
“Barriers which Inhibit the Transition from School to Employment”
As a Resource Centre that addresses the vocational training aspect of education we aim to prepare our students with employability skills to enter the workforce. Unfortunately there is overwhelming evidence that persons with disabilities who are in transition from school to employment are either prevented, or at least inhibited, from accessing employment and/or sustaining themselves in the workplace.
Keeping this in mind our Resource Centre has had the opportunity to participate in the BITSE project. BITSE is a Leonardo da Vinci partnership research project that seeks to identify the barriers that prevent persons with disabilities to find employment after school.
The BITSE Partnership is comprised of schools, service provider organisations, VET professionals, social partners, umbrella organisations, third level institutions and National Federations of Employers. It consists of fourteen organizations representing ten EU member states Partner countries participating include Ireland, Austria, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Greece and Malta.
The project aims to:
• To identify, list, contrast and compare barriers which impact on the transition from school to employment for persons with disabilities
• To develop a best practice toolkit for identifying and overcoming barriers in partner countries
• To produce a set of recommendations to raise awareness amongst authorities and all relevant stakeholders
• To improve the transition process and outcomes from school to employment for persons with disabilities.
Nine action meetings will take place where the progress and direction of the project have been discussed. Seven action meetings have taken place in Thessaloninki, Malta, Linz, Zagreb, Varna, DenHague, Paris respectively as of December 2013. Meetings in Rome and Brussles will be held in March and June of 2014 respectively.
In November three members of staff had the opportunity to take part in the seventh BITSE action meeting which took place in Paris, France. During this meeting recommendations of how to overcome barriers were discussed by the participating organisations. Recommendations regarding various aspects were discussed. These include how to improve attitudes and awareness, accessibility, resources and educational training among others. When finalised, these recommendations will be used as a template by employers, service providers, trainers and learners in order to improve the transition process from a school environment to open employment.
A visit was organised to the Centre de la Gabrielle which is a school for individuals with disability from the age of 6 up to the age of 20. This school is geared towards vocational education and houses various projects. Two such projects are the “Couleurs et création” and the “Foyer Art et Vie” which offer students the chance to develop their creative skills through producing art in several mediums. Other projects include various sheltered workshops. These workshops consist of a fully operational restaurant, bakery and dry cleaning facilities which employ mostly individuals with various disabilities. The success of these workshops is an inspiration to our centre, where we aim to develop our students employabilty skills so that they may be able to work in similar environments.
In the words of Michael Barrett (Chairman) “We are all part of the problem therefore we must also be part of the solution. We need programs for raising awareness, we need to work in cooperation with governments and the institutions, but we should not only wait for them to do all the work. Lets all take one small step in changing our approach to disability, this I am confident will be one giant leap for the improvement of the lives of persons with disabilities!”.