The occupational choices of ex-grade 12 learners at a special needs school between 1996-2001.
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This study reports on the occupational choices of 87 individuals with learning disabilities, who had successfully completed Grade 12 between 1996 and 2001 at a long-term remedial school, in a city suburb in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa. The sample consisting of 54 males and 33 females between the ages of 18 and 26 years was divided into two age-cohort groups. The main question that guided this investigation was: What are the factors that influenced occupational choices of adults with learning disabilities? Career development theories were used as a lens to understand the various factors that influenced their occupational choices and the systems theory was used as an overarching framework to conceptualise the occupational choices of these individuals. In attempting to capture how individuals with learning disabilities make occupational choices, a combination of two research methods were employed in a complimentary manner. Quantitative data was gathered from individuals in the sample using a telephonic questionnaire. This data was used to provide the study with baseline information to pave the way for more in-depth data gathering. The quantitative research method using face-to-face interviews was used to develop narrative career stories. Data from narrative career stories was used with the intention of understanding the factors that influenced the occupational choices from a broad social and historical context. Evidence from the data revealed that a significant number of participants were employed in the service sector in predominantly part-time, low-skill, low-wage positions such as waiters, waitresses, clerical workers, salespersons and secretaries. Gender differences were apparent with more females being employed than males. In recent years an increasing number of males from the younger age cohort were pursuing studies at colleges and technikons. Very few females aspired towards further education. The data also revealed that many individuals continued to live with their parents and were dependent on them for financial and emotional support. The study concludes with recommendations to individuals with learning disabilities, parents, education departments, employers and future researchers.