Empowering Blind Graduates with Soft Skills

The Jakarta Post, page 23

The increasing number of visually impaired people pursuing a higher education raises hope that they can earn a better income than their lower educated counterparts. In 2005, there were only 250 college graduates. Today, the number has increased 30 percent.

However, college degrees alone will not be enough to compete in the real world. Activists at the Indonesian Union for the Blind (Pertuni) realize that although visually impaired graduates possess some competence in relevant disciplines, there is a need to equip them with the necessary soft skills to get hired. Early this month, the organization held pre-employment soft skills training at Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java.

During the training session, Pertuni general chairperson Aria Indrawarti said they have a lot of opportunities to compete, and sightlessness should not prevent them from contributing to society. She said the training was expected to boost the confidence of the courage to sell their abilities when applying for jobs or develop their own businesses. They would be motivated to see the bright side – and not be bothered by their limitations but rather display their talents with greater self-confidence. Training sessions range from learning to be independent, debates and group discussions, as well as simulations and games.

In one game, the participants were asked to choose various balls and eggs, representing incomes to be gained and risks to be faced. Aria said about the message behind the game is they should be able to fill their proper positions without forcing themselves.

In another game called Alcatraz, participants were required to step into squares as instructed by trainer. It was meant to encourage them to go ahead in spite of failure while at the same time maintaining their positive mindset and making the failure a lesson for survival. Debates and discussion were also held to promote self-confidence and understand the circumstances during interviews.

The participants were trained by an instructor with low vision, Alabanyo Brebahama, who is psychology lecturer at Yarsi University, Jakarta. Aria said Alabanyo, who also holds a Master’s degree in psychology from the University of Indonesia (UI), was appointed the trainer to give motivation and serve as a role model for the participants.

Such training was previously held in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bandung, West Java. After Malang, it will be organized in Surabaya, East Java by targeting 100 students. Following the four day training, they are expected to possess good intrapersonal and interpersonal skills needed in the employment world.

Aria said the pre-employment training would also arranged for blind students in Medan, North Sumatera, North Sulawesi, and Aceh, Banda Aceh. In the meantime, she had to compile university preparation training programs for senior high school students. Aria hoped the government could establish an educational system for the blind covering counseling services, psychological support and inclusion schools.

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