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Teaching strategies that take into consideration the student's preferred manner of learning will lead to positive outcomes

Access to quality vocational education.  Is this a privilege? But since it addresses many of society's inequalities by enabling access into labour markets, perhaps it's more of a human right.

Over the past decade, the labour market has been going through a great deal of structural change and as a result, people with intellectual disabilities are now finding themselves even further marginalised than before.

Ensuring that these people have real access to vocational training has many benefits. It sustains the needs of the labour market, benefiting our overall economy and increasing our GDP. Moreover, it makes for a better society, with financial independence, a sense of purpose and enhanced quality of life for more citizens.

To ensure students with intellectual disabilities have access to vocational education, it's necessary that teachers have the expertise and knowledge about the learning characteristics of these students. They are not a homogenous group and have the same needs and aspirations as everybody else in the community. Students have better outcomes when provided with suitable instructional programs and teaching strategies that engage as well as challenge them. The teaching should be systematic and differentiated. This is best achieved when the vocational teacher works alongside the specialized disability teacher.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities have their own personality, areas of ability as well as areas of difficulty. Many students require more time to process information and may have difficulty with abstract concepts. Therefore, frequent revision and over-learning strategies are good techniques that should be used. Also linking an abstract concept with a realistic tangible example that the student can relate to will allow the student a better chance of remembering the concept. Tasks should be broken down and demonstrated to the student who then should be given the opportunity to complete it many times until he or she has mastered the activity. Teaching strategies that take into consideration the student's preferred manner of learning will lead to positive outcomes.

The teaching support should be provided without being intrusive and drawing attention to the student. It's also important to bear in mind that levels of assistance do need to be faded as the student begins to demonstrate independence and competence. Our aim is to assist students to become ready for employment. If students are not given the opportunity to develop these skills they'll find it difficult to obtain and sustain a job in the labour market.

To enable people with intellectual disabilities to navigate the pathways required to enter the labour market it's important for all stakeholders to work in partnerships that foster an atmosphere of collaboration. The stakeholders here include the student, the vocational education and training provider and disability employment service and disability specialist staff.

In my 25 years working within training and disability employment, as well as being a TAFE teacher, I've witnessed firsthand many times how effective partnerships do lead to improved completion rates, employment rates and improved quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities.