What is Profesia Lab?
Profesia Lab is a space for meaningful cooperation between employers, community partners, schools, and HR and career advisors with a common goal: increasing the employment of people with disabilities in competitive labor market. We form a community which is trying to carry out the inclusive employment in real life. Profesia Lab created a model of internships for individuals with disabilities in the competitive labor market using evidence based know-how from Michigan State University.
Up to 90% of job loss among individuals with disabilities may be attributed to a lack of social and communication skills (Elksnin and Elksnin, 2001).
Work experience is the No. 1 requirement when applying for a job in Slovakia (Profesia.sk). People with disabilities, however, lack opportunities to gain work experience based on their skills and abilities.
Therefore, under the supervision of Michigan State University, we implemented the Assistive Soft Skills and Employment Training (ASSET) program. It is also educating all relevant stakeholders.
We launched our pilot year in January 2023 with 98 job seekers with various disabilities, 7 community partners, 12 employers and 9 ASSET facilitators. The aim was to validate the impact of the internship model.
These job seekers are members of the Help from the Heart program and students of the United Boarding School on Dúbravská road 1 and Švabinského 7 in Bratislava. They undergo six months of training focused on social and communication skills for the workplace – the ASSET program. In the month of May this involves company visits where they can try out manual, administrative, assistant and technical work. If the job seeker shows an interest in one of the companies afterwards, they can then apply for an internship.
Among the employers are companies of various sizes, as well as the local government. Internship opportunities are being offered in Bratislava, Pezinok, Nitra, Košice, Žilina, Poprad and other locations depending on the job seekers place of residence.
During the pilot year 2023, 74 job seekers completed the training and 37 of them got the opportunity to start an internship. By the end of 2023, 17 job seekers found a job after completing the internship. Internships form a unique opportunity to enter the working world and get familiar with a workplace. Many times they also help to figure out how many hours job seekers are able to perform a job or what type of work is suitable for them. Profesia Lab also helped employers to adapt their recruitment methods, fostered social and communication skills of job seekers, and provided job coaching; a service not commonly found in Slovakia.
Our aim is a long term impact of Profesia Lab in order to develop a community around inclusive employment. We build on our experience gained in Help from the Heart program – a CV database of people with disabilities, regular counselling for job seekers as well as companies, and cooperation with NGOs.
The entire process is outlined in the Guide to Profesia Lab:
More about the project:
The concept for Profesia Lab was established in October 2022 as a part of a long-term non-commercial program Help from the Heart run by the company Profesia (since January 2024 Alma Career Slovakia). We announced the call for participation at the Neurodiversity in the Workplace conference in November 2022. The pilot year commenced in 2023, and after a careful evaluation at a conference Disabilities and Inclusive Employment in december 2023, the following year of Profesia Lab started.
The project has a nationwide reach. Applicants are being prepared based on their place of residence, either in person or online. The internships predominantly take place at the employer’s premises. The year 2024 started with 113 job seekers with disabilities, 9 ASSET facilitators leading social and communication skills training both in person and online, 6 job coaches and 19 companies.
The preparatory phase runs from January to May, during which job seekers complete the ASSET program and undergo job coaching. Concurrently, employers and job coaches receive training on the workplace inclusion of individuals with disabilities. In May, we organize company visits, followed by internship offers. The evaluation of Profesia Lab 2024 will culminate during a conference in December.
Our three-year objective is to achieve accreditation for our job coaches and ASSET facilitator training programs. We are committed to ensuring professional services to job seekers with disabilities and providing support to employers. Accreditation will aid us in enhancing our processes and establishing standards.
The ultimate goal is to establish a stable system of paid internships for individuals with disabilities in Central Europe.
In partnership with Michigan State University, our aim is to validate the model of Profesia Lab and define key principles for employment of individuals with disabilities in competitive labor market. We will continue to share our findings with policymakers in Slovakia and scale this model to surrounding countries.
Profesia Lab’s services will continue to be offered free of charge. We envision the creation of a fund to support ASSET facilitators and job coaches.