Was it worth it? : evaluating outcomes for students who undertook the Diploma in Supported Employment : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Social Policy at Massey University
This thesis evaluates self-reported outcomes from 12 students who enrolled in the Diploma in Supported Employment during the three intakes funded by the Ministry of Social Development (2001-2002). It explores how the content and delivery of the diploma have met student needs and expectations, and assisted them in their practice as supported employment practitioners. The research is conducted within the environment of disability and the vocational rehabilitation sector of New Zealand, where the focus of endeavour is assisting disabled people with their employment aspirations. The sector is predominantly funded through contribution from central government and is in the process of a paradigm shift. Research indicates that the vocational sector has traditionally operated on the individual or medical understanding of disability, which equates disability with impairment and characterises it as some unfortunate or catastrophic, chance occurrence that has befallen the individual. The emerging paradigm is that disability is socially constructed, having its roots in critical social theory. Supported employment is in keeping with the new paradigm shift and has become a major government strategy in supporting disabled people. The Diploma in Supported Employment was originally conceived as a way to provide the necessary skills to a largely untrained workforce. Its delivery was the first ever attempt at coordinated training across this sector. The Ministry of Social Development, to further their policy objectives, supported existing vocational sector staff to enrol. The thesis therefore represents a timely and pertinent evaluation of the effectiveness of the Diploma in Supported Employment and will assist future planning for work force development in the vocational sector. A qualitative methodology is employed to explore students' lived reality through six individual interviews and a focus group of an additional six past students. The analysis privileges the student voice and key factors that support the student to complete the qualification and to apply their new knowledge in their work are identified. This project has potential public policy implications and makes recommendations for future practice and research.