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Becoming a BEP Operator
The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons Business Enterprise Program (BEP) is looking for five to 10 energetic, customer-oriented blind people per year who wish to enter a career with an average income of approximately $35,000, with the possibility of earning up to $100,000 or more. Bureau staff, with the active participation of the Elected Operators Committee, have established program entrance requirements and identified the application process. Following is a brief list of steps that will lead to a successful placement of a blind person in an interesting and challenging career.
The process begins as the Bureau's vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor familiarizes himself or herself with the BEP career. A BEP career is a small business dealing in retail food, beverage, and snack items either sold directly to customers via a manual (counter sales) operation or through automated vending machines. Aptitudes for this business include mechanical, mathematics, human relations, and organizational skills. It must be clear to the applicant that a career in this field is a complex occupation requiring the combination of patience, human relations, business acumen, interest, insight and desire.
The VR counselor calls the BEP trainer. In this call, the BEP trainer collects the initial intake information on the VR customer, and explains to the counselor the prerequisites the person must possess.
The information collected from the VR counselor during this initial conversation includes the customer's name, address, phone number, social security number, whether the applicant is over 18 years of age, years the customer has been blind, the skills of blindness the customer possesses, and whether the counselor has observed the customer using these skills effectively. The trainer will also ask the counselor if this person would be a good candidate for the BEP, and whether the person is willing to relocate or would rather work for other BEP operators in the local area. If the BEP trainer and counselor determine that the customer is not ready, the evaluation process can stop at this point.
The trainer advises the VR counselor of the costs that will be incurred for the customer to participate in the vending stand training (VST). Such costs may include: appropriate business attire, note-taking materials, talking calculator and transportation, food and lodging for trainees during the VST and the on-the-job experience (OJE). The VR counselor ensures that the customer is entered onto the MAIN system in order to facilitate any payments to the customer.
The BEP trainer e-mails to the counselor a list of local operators interested in offering job-shadow experience to VR customers, and a BEP student packet. The contents of the packet include: a welcome memo from the BEP administrator describing the packet, the BEP assessment, VST entry requirements (i.e., equipment needed), BSBP Training Center guidelines, BEP training contract, VST syllabus, and information about the required business math class.
The counselor has received a copy of the BEP assessment for reference and to explain the training program requirements to the customer. Although the assessment reviews many skills, it is very important that the potential student have basic computer literacy skills to successfully complete the assessment. Also, all applicants to the VST must pass a security clearance. Any legal involvement should be reviewed at this point to determine if the applicant would be able to pass a security clearance for entry into secure federal and state facilities.
ACCEPTANCE FOR VENDING STAND TRAINING
- JOB SHADOW: If the applicant has not worked in a BEP facility, a job-shadow experience is required. Part of the application and training process requires that the applicant take responsibility for fulfilling various requirements. The potential student is responsible to contact a local operator from a list provided by the BEP trainer. This job-shadow experience should be scheduled to include the facility's full business day (from opening to close). In addition to the list of job shadows close to the customer's home, the customer will receive a student packet of information (see above).
- APPLICANT INTERVIEW: The interview appointment is a full-day interview. With the VR counselor's approval, the applicant contacts the BEP trainer to schedule the interview, which takes place from 9:00 to 3:00. The counselor may need to make special arrangements for the applicant to participate in the interview, i.e., transportation, hotel, etc. The applicant must bring a picture ID and wear comfortable walking shoes and business attire appropriate for a job interview. During the interview, the trainer looks for the applicant's interest in the Business Enterprise Program, the applicant's social and interpersonal skills, etc. The interview may be conducted with a group of potential students, or individually, depending on the level of interest and schedules. During the interview, the applicant meets a variety of BEP operators, and the operators have an opportunity to ask questions of the applicants.
- Due to heightened security requirements for working in many public buildings, security clearance is required of all trainee applicants. The information necessary for the security clearance will be provided to the applicant in advance and collected during the interview process.
- VENDING STAND TRAINING (VST) ASSESSMENT: Following a successful interview, the student is scheduled for the assessment at the BSBP Training Center by the VR counselor. In the event a low-vision or hearing evaluation is deemed necessary, the hearing or low-vision evaluation must be completed before the VST assessment commences. Generally, it takes 2-3 weeks to complete the assessment. The assessment may be conducted at a BEP-approved facility other than the BSBP Training Center, as long as the VST assessment requirements are fulfilled. The student must successfully complete all parts of the assessment before program entry.
- If the student does not meet the standard in a part of the assessment the first time, that particular segment may be repeated. It is not necessary to repeat the entire assessment. Once complete, the entire assessment, with the BSBP Training Center recommendation, must be e-mailed to the trainer within two weeks following its completion, and no less than four weeks prior to commencement of the next VST. Exceptions are not granted. Although Training Center staff make a recommendation as to the student's suitability for the VST, the final decision rests with the program administrator.
- BUSINESS MATH: Following the job shadow, interview, and assessment, the student must also successfully complete a business math course, approved by the BEP administrator, with a grade of at least 75%.
- WAITING LIST: All documentation as described in this section must be submitted to the BEP trainer at least four weeks prior to the first day of class. The student's name is then put on the waiting list for the next scheduled class. The student is responsible to keep the Business Enterprise Program apprised of any change in his or her contact information or preferred medium.