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employment immersion

LightHouse Staffer, Sabrina Bolus, Shares Her Employment Immersion Experience

LightHouse Staffer, Sabrina Bolus, Shares Her Employment Immersion Experience

Sabrina Bolus, a black woman, wears an olive-green shirt under a dark gray sweaterLast year, LightHouse welcomed a new member to our Community Services Department, Sabrina Bolus. Sabrina took on the role of Adult Programs Coordinator and hit the ground running! Many of our students know Sabrina as the creator and hostess of weekly programs like Gratitude VIBES, Vision: Peer-Led Support Group and Toastmasters, as well as monthly virtual book clubs and writers workshops—but did you know Sabrina started out as a LightHouse student herself? Read all about Sabrina’s first-hand experience in the Employment Immersion program. (And don’t forget to join her incredible programs! You can see a full list of LightHouse offerings on our online calendar.)
“I came to the LightHouse through the Department of Rehabilitation and joined the Employment Immersion Program when I was ready to transition from work as a Chaplain and group facilitator. While I was confident in my skills, I was unsure about where and how to best utilize them. The Immersion program’s Elevator Pitch process, mentorship connections, and community support from my cohort all played a pivotal role in helping me land the wonderful position I have today.
“The Elevator Pitch was a concept that was quickly introduced to me, and I soon realized its importance in sparking interest in potential employers. With guidance from [currently and former Employment Immersion staff members] Ed Wong, Kate Williams and Marc Grossman, I was able to look within and discover what was truly important to me. I rewrote my pitch multiple times, and it became a journey of professional self-discovery, helping me better understand who I am and what I do.
“The mentorship connections provided by the program were invaluable. I had the opportunity to meet with great mentors who provided insights into different areas of my professional skills and personality. They helped me gain confidence in interviewing. One mentor was starting his own business as a Coach, and his guidance was instrumental in helping me uncover key soft skills that I had previously overlooked in my resume.
“The community support from my cohort was also incredibly valuable. The weekly group meetings were something I looked forward to, as I was surrounded by people with similar experiences who genuinely wanted to support each other in all aspects of living independently with my changing vision. This camaraderie and shared experience have continued to inform my work at the LightHouse, and I am grateful for the connections I made through the program.
“There were two things I initially hesitated to do, but they ended up being incredibly helpful: LinkedIn and networking. The program encouraged me to create a strong LinkedIn profile and actively network, which I initially found challenging, but it opened doors and opportunities that I hadn’t anticipated.
“I am thrilled to share that I recently celebrated my first anniversary at the LightHouse in March 2023, and I am grateful for the support and guidance I received through the Employment Immersion Program. I highly recommend this program to anyone looking to navigate the job market who is blind or visually impaired and seeking practical tools, mentorship, and a supportive community, to achieve their employment goals. It has been a life-changing experience for me, and I am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead in my career. Thank you, LightHouse!”
You can find more information about the LightHouse Employment Immersion Program on our website.

Special day, special guests: LightHouse’s Employment Immersion team joins 30% & Growing

Special day, special guests: LightHouse’s Employment Immersion team joins 30% & Growing

By Serena Olsen

We’re a few months into this new COVID-19 employment landscape and each one of us in the 30% & Growing crew brings a different experience to the table. We’ve shared everything from the challenge of recognizing instability in our livelihood that necessitated an out of state move to successful second round interviews and placement in seemingly impossible times. How has the employment game changed for the blind and low vision community in these unusual and challenging times? We’re going to gather some insight from our very own in-house experts on this very subject in July—the LightHouse Employment Immersion team will be our very special guest, so if you’re a veteran 30%er, an in-transition 30%er, or an aspiring 30%er to be, please join us for this very special edition of 30% & Growing to get your finger on the pulse of what’s new in employment for the blind and low vision community.

For July only, 30% is happening a little later, so join your 30% & Growing crew on the fourth Thursday, July 23 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. For Zoom access info, RSVP to Adult Program Coordinator Serena Olsen at SOlsen@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7316. Then grab a bite to eat and your favorite beverage and join the virtual networking party.

March’s Employment Immersion Workshop Emphasizes Building Confidence for Job Readiness

March’s Employment Immersion Workshop Emphasizes Building Confidence for Job Readiness

“We don’t care if you’re young, old, totally blind, low vision, have a college degree or no college degree,” says Employment Program Manager Kate Williams. “It doesn’t matter as long as you have a real desire to go to work. We furnish our Employment Immersion students with the tools to make sure that happens, by building their confidence and giving them the techniques to conduct a successful job search.”

Everyone in the blindness community knows the statistics: At least 60 — possibly even as many as 70 percent — of legally blind people remain unemployed. That’s why back in 2011 we established a program to give blind job seekers the practical skills they need to get the jobs they want.

Since then, our Employment Immersion program alumni have reached more than $2.8m in annual salaries and achieved an exemplary 43% placement average for alumni, which far exceeds the national average in job placement of people who are blind or visually impaired (the statewide average is 14%). Our programming is constantly evolving to meet changes in technology and the job market.

On March 13, we’ll kick off our all new Employment Immersion Job Preparation Workshop at the LightHouse headquarters, which runs until April 7 and meets every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The workshop’s robust and proven curriculum emphasizes confidence building to ensure job readiness — and features our tried and true lineup of classes that walk students through every step of the job application process.

In the blindness community, we know that one size does not fit all, and this is reflected in the curriculum of this four-week workshop. With a combination of short lectures, interactive activities, expert speakers and candid, honest discussions, each blind or low vision student has an opportunity to explore their interests, aptitudes, and think outside the box about which part of the job market holds the highest promise for their talents and ambitions.

Step-by-step training includes:

  • Using personality indicators like Meyers Briggs and Gallup StrengthFinder to identify core strengths as a springboard to build a career
  • Resume and cover letter building
  • Job search techniques, networking and the hidden job market
  • The application process
  • Blindness disclosure and requesting accommodations
  • Interview preparation including self presentation and body language
  • Free professional and online portrait photographs courtesy of LightHouse for the Blind
  • How to approach an interview and role playing
  • Job retention

Williams, who is a Purpose Prize Winner and nationally recognized job coach by the Wall Street Journal, is the driving force behind these achievements. She knows what it takes to get blind jobseekers into positions that suit them and keep them there — and the payoff doesn’t end on payday.

“We spend a great deal of time on encouraging our attendees to connect,” says Williams. “My motto is ‘People hire people.’ We help students make connections during the job search and interview process that are genuine and show their own authenticity. We’re fostering relationship building — which is a lifelong skill.”

With an increase in referrals as LightHouse steps in as the key provider of services in the East Bay, our Employment Immersion Program is growing and evolving to meet higher standards and increasing volume of blind jobseekers. We’re proud to bring on our new dedicated trainer Angela Denise Davis, who will add new levels of depth and expertise to our classes. This year alone we saw our alumni land jobs in major tech startups, media companies, athletic brands and more. The sky’s the limit, once the skills are there.

Keep chipping away at those employment statistics and sign up for the Employment Job Preparation Workshop this spring. The workshop is open to people who are blind or have low vision, from any background, seeking any job. To sign up, contact Employment Immersion Program Manager Kate Williams at kwilliams@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7324, or Employment Immersion Trainer Angela Davis at adavis@lighthouse-sf.org.


A New Milestone: LightHouse’s Employment Immersion Alumni Hit $2.5M Salary Mark

A New Milestone: LightHouse’s Employment Immersion Alumni Hit $2.5M Salary Mark

Photo: Kate Williams stands on the sweeping ramp inside the Ed Roberts Campus where LightHouse has its Berkeley office.

Everyone in the blindness community knows the ominous statistics: At least 60 – possibly even as many as 70 percent – of legally blind people remain unemployed. That’s why back in 2011 we made a commitment to blind jobseekers to establish a program that gave them the practical skills they needed to get the jobs they wanted.

Today, we’re proud to announce that the alumni of our program reached over $2.5M in salaries – $2,513,630 to be exact – and the number is growing every week. That is $2.5M in value added to our economy; $2.5M of worker time for people who didn’t know if they had what it took to compete in the job market; $2.5M that doesn’t even factor in the amount those individuals would have otherwise collected from social security and state financial aid.

Kate Williams, our Employment Immersion Program Manager, Purpose Prize Winner, and job coach nationally recognized by the Wall Street Journal, is the driving force behind these achievements. In the last six months alone, Kate and her team have helped sixteen blind and low vision jobseekers find new employment. That is sixteen people who six months ago, had to rely solely on assistance from others.

We can’t take all the credit, though. The LightHouse students who have been through our program have received rigorous and enthusiastic support from family, friends, private donors, foundations, grants and the CA State Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) which sends many students through our classes. At the end of the day, though, it’s about letting our students stand on their own two feet and enjoy a little bit of financial security. As one student told Kate last week: “It was just nice to be able to actually buy someone else dinner, for once.”

Here’s to more dinners together, and more success stories in 2016.

The Employment Immersion Program is for people who are blind or have low vision, from any background, seeking any job.

The next Employment Immersion session will begin on January 10, 2017:

Where: The LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, 94103
When: January 10 through February 9, 2017
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

To learn more, contact Employment Immersion Coordinator Wanda Pearson at wpearson@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7359.

Employment Immersion is hiring a new job development professional. If you have the skills to help blind and low vision jobseekers thrive, apply here.

Employment Immersion Programs

2021 Curriculum – CA DOR VirtualEmployment Program

Providing Tools and Resources to Live a Secure and Fulfilled Life

“Employers don’t like problems, they like solutions. We allow people to develop their own solutions; we give them the options, and coach them into finding their own solutions.”

– Kate Williams, Director, Employment Services

After gaining skills in mobility, technology, and daily life, the final metric of success for a working-age individual who is blind or who has low vision may be ensuring a solid paycheck at the end of the month. Although monetary gain is important, we have learned that it is frequently not the most compelling reason individuals want to secure employment!  

Rather, they cite the desire to acquire a sense of “belonging” and “contributing” as the motivating factors, closely followed by a desire to gain confidence, self-esteem and self-reliance. Unlike many employment programs, we pay close attention to these factors and integrate that awareness into each facet of our program.  Our approach to supporting blind and visually impaired individuals on their path to securing employment is customized to each person we work with. As job seekers, we may share similar challenges on our journey; however, our stories and needs are vastly different. This premise is reflected in the design of our award-winning Employment Immersion Program.  

Our Unique Approach to Employment Immersion

Our team is dedicated to providing a thorough assessment of the needs of each individual as they enter the program. Employment Specialists guide students through complex topics such as creating a dynamic resume, writing compelling cover letters, preparing for interviews, disclosing their disability and requesting accommodations. Students work individually to master these skills while they build a network of connections and develop transferable skills.

The Employment Immersion Team augments these one-on-one learning experiences with group activities including highly specialized workshops, expert guest speakers, meetings with employers and mock interviews with local companies. We work tirelessly with our students during their job search. We meet as a team on a weekly basis to review their status and work collaboratively to assist students in discovering job opportunities in today’s competitive job market.

This thoughtful and supportive model has resulted in a consistent placement rate exceeding forty percent. We welcome your inquiries! Our primary goal is to support job seekers realize their value in the workplace.

Learn more about our staff: read their biographies.

If you’re interested in learning more about our Employment Immersion programs, or would like to sign up, please contact Ed Wong  at 415-694-7659 or at eiteam@lighthouse-sf.org.