This is the first of a series of interviews in which we speak to people about the work they do. Mark Gilbert tells us about being a job coach.
What’s a job coach?
It’s someone who supports a client to get a job and keep it.
Primarily my role tends to be supporting young people with learning disabilities or mental health issues.
This means helping them to navigate the process of preparing for an interview, supporting them to: acquire a job, navigate induction and help do the role, addressing technical and social skills they might need.
We work together to solve problems, break down barriers and increase independence.
How did you come to be a job coach?
After leaving uni, I got a job as a special needs assistant in several schools and it stemmed from there. I’ve always been drawn to helping people move forward in their lives. I like to enable people to fulfil their potential.
What skills are required to be a good one?
Patience, problem-solving abilities, the ability to communicate with a range of people well and to understand the right level of support to offer.
People with learning disabilities can be over-supported by those that love and care for them. There is a risk that, over time, this can erode their independence. In order to grow, you need to be challenged, in a sensitive way. This will help to build confidence and independence.
What are the challenges?
Our culture undervalues and misunderstands people with learning disabilities and many people can be fearful of things they don’t understand.
So challenges include:
- Building confidence in someone that is likely to have been bullied
- Engaging with employers and convincing them that a person with a learning disability could be an asset to the business
- Convincing some parents that they might need to let go a little and allow their son or daughter to become more independent
Who employs you?
I currently work for Won’t Ever Be Ltd, a small organisation that helps people with learning disabilities find and retain work.
What are the main challenges facing people with learning disabilities in the job market?
There isn’t enough funding to get the support they need to become contributing members of society.
They are often undervalued and underestimated.
In general, employers do not have the awareness or experience to make adjustments to the work place that might be needed for someone with a learning disability. These adjustments often cost very little or even no money.
What can help overcome those?
More funding for more resources so that positive and appropriately challenging interventions and support can be delivered.
Education for society, including positive stories, inspirational role models and better representation in the media.
More opportunities for work experiences. More support and information for parents of people with learning disabilities.
Do you enjoy it?
Yes, I love it! There aren’t many jobs that are as varied, interesting, challenging and rewarding.
To contact Mark about job coaching, drop him an email firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview by Emma Chaplin