Workability IV program offers students help

by Declan Desmond

In an economy where jobs are scarce, life after college is a worrisome prospect for students eager to find careers. This is especially true of students with disabilities, who face their own unique challenges not only in school but also in the workforce.

With Workability IV, a California grant program, San Diego State’s Career Services has been working since 1993 to reach out to these students and prepare them for careers in their chosen fields.  For the past four years SDSU has led the state in job placement for graduates with disabilities.

Despite these accomplishments, enrollment in the program is decreasing.

“It’s falling and that was a concern to me,” Career Services Director Dr. James Tarbox said.  Though referrals of eligible students from Student Disability Services once kept Workability IV busy, Tarbox said, participation in the service has declined in interest.

“I think that for any number of reasons that awareness has fallen off,” he added.

Tarbox cited low visibility at student orientations as a factor. “Workability IV is probably 1/18 of a huge presentation” which comes “usually at the end,” he said. He hopes to integrate the program more effectively in future presentations.

SDS internship specialist Jeanette Meliska-Romero, who helps disabled undergraduates plan careers, said that many potential clients get caught up in campus life and aren’t aware of the help available.

“They just want to focus on their school and they don’t want to think about their career until maybe they’re a second-semester senior and they’re getting ready to graduate,” she said.

One step that Career Services has taken to raise awareness of the program is teaming with the Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs, which works with first-generation American students.

“A lot of students who go through EOP are diagnosed with disabilities as well,” Meliska-Romero said. It is hoped that this partnership will increase referrals to the office.

Business administration senior Joseph Silva, who participates in the program, said that its services have enhanced his college experience and prepared him for graduation.

“I’ve gotten a lot more out of college other than going to class and passing my exams to get my degree,” he said of his time with Workability IV. Silva noted that counselors have helped him write résumés, develop interview skills, and practice speaking.

Meliska-Romero said that students who suspect they may suffer from a disability should visit SDS for testing, as they could be eligible for the program.

Workability IV currently serves more than 200 undergraduates.