Trades Win is a unique virtual internship experience for young blind and visually impaired adults that provides a hands-on opportunity to explore career options and develop professional skills such as project management, teamwork, communication, and networking. Participants engage in several weeks of virtual training and planning sessions to learn the skills needed and then interview visually impaired professionals who are thriving in their chosen careers. They learn technical skills such as podcast production, videography, and/or writing skills as they document the results of these interviews into podcasts, videos and contributions to a published book.
Each interview highlights a successful employee’s story, including their experience with blindness, how they perform their job, and what life lessons they have learned along the way. Learning the art of storytelling by interviewing others also helps students grow comfortable in talking about their own life experiences, which contributes to their confidence and self-advocacy skills.
Thanks to our student interns and the successful employees who have generously allowed us to document their experiences, the Polus Center has begun to catalog an ever-expanding collection of information that will provide role models and inspiration for blind and visually impaired job seekers. Employers can broaden their perspectives on what people who are blind and visually impaired can do by reading the profiles, and job seekers can read about what it took for others to enter the vocational fields they endeavor to enter.
- Provides a hands-on opportunity for interns to learn critical soft and hard skills that will propel their own careers, provides them with an opportunity to do informational interviews and develop mentoring relationships with people who are successful in their field of interest who also happen to be blind or visually impaired,
- Creates a database of success stories in the workplace, and a comprehensive resource where people can look to determine appropriate accommodations, including assistive technologies, for success in a desired career path.
- Breaks down stigma surrounding disability in given career fields by showcasing successful employees throughout the vocational spectrum, with an ultimate goal of decreasing unemployment rates for people who are blind or visually impaired. Trades Win stories from successful blind individuals can enforce for skeptical employers the benefits of tapping into this important, too often overlooked, talent pool.
- Develops a network of individuals eager to share their knowledge and successes, offering interns and readers access to role models and potential mentors. Trades Win fosters a team environment that builds communication and project management skills that they can transfer to any workplace.
Storytelling is a powerful means of communication. Finding one’s voice and empowerment through telling your own story and documenting the stories of others enables both interns working on the project and job seekers reading the interviews to approach employment with confidence.