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Employment and Employment-Related Services
Preparing for Work
For many people, work is an important and rewarding experience that provides
a sense of purpose and of contributing to society, as well as purchasing
power. Learning about work throughout childhood allows students to think,
explore, and dream about the various options available to them. At different
stages in life, students will work at different levels to help prepare
them for employment during adult life:
Even before students start school, parents can talk to them about the
jobs of the community members around them. By pointing out neighborhood
employees (e.g., "There is the fire/police station. There is the grocery
store. What kinds of people work in those places? What do they do?"), parents
can begin to impart an awareness and appreciation of work.
In elementary school, teachers can continue the work parents began (while
parents continue at home). For every curriculum area, applications can
be made to various jobs. Furthermore, students can become familiar with
different jobs during field trips and outings.
Middle/Junior High School
As students enter junior high, they often find part-time jobs after
school and on weekends. Alternatively, they could explore jobs in and around
the school to see what they might enjoy. They could work in the office
or school store, or spend time with various staff members observing. Students
should be encouraged to start thinking about work and the types of jobs
that they might want to try.
During high school, students can begin to articulate their own preferences
and choices about what they want to do after high schoolif they want to
go to college or a vocational training program, or where they might like
to work. Students should continue to work at part-time jobs after school
and on weekends. Additionally, the student may want to take part in a vocational
course or program, if available at his/her school, to earn high school
credit for jobs during school hours.
Post-High School Period
Some students remain in school beyond the age that most students graduate
(ages 19-21). During these years, if a student is not enrolling in any
post-secondary institutions, the focus should be on preparing for adult
life through real experience in the community. For employment, this may
mean that a student spends a good deal of his/her school time at actual
jobs in the community getting on-site job training from education professionals.
Job sites should be chosen based on student choice as well as the potential
to continue employment after leaving school, proximity to the individual's
home, and transportation availability. Timelines for fading school involvement
should be clearly delineated in the ITP.
Skills that students should have developed by the time they leave school
include: resume writing, interviewing, how to dress for work/interviews,
physical stamina, promptness, problem solving, personal hygiene, following
directions or demonstrations, accepting criticism, completing tasks independently
and cooperatively, developing social relationships, and understanding how
job accommodations can assist them.
In-School Work Experience
A great opportunity to take advantage of all kinds of experiences and work
situations can happen while students are still in school. This might include:
Vocational Exploration-- brief exposure to a variety of work settings
to assist with decisions about future career directions or occupations
Functional Vocational Assessment-- to determine individual training
objectives for a student in a specific work environment
Vocational Training-- to place student in various employment settings
for extended work experience
Thousands of different jobs exist in countless locations. The student's
challenge is to find a job where both the needs of the employer and the
skills of the employee match. Several options are available to individuals
with disabilities. Some are the same as those for individuals without disabilities
while others have been designed especially to support individuals with
disabilities in integrated work settings. Some options are:
Of course, because most options exist within Inclusive Work Situations
and because these are the options that all individuals (not just those
with disabilities) have, students should ideally to work toward that goal.
Unfortunately, a discrepancy often exists between what services should
be available (because they have been shown to be effective and to raise
the quality of life for individuals) and what services actually are offered.
If current employment needs are going to be met, individuals may need to
go beyond existing services. Creating new services tailored to the needs
of the individual may take a lot of hard work on the part of an individual
and his/her family and school, but it will pay off in the end.
Inclusive Work Situations
Inclusive work situations describe employment options that are generally
the same or similar to the options of others in the community. Getting
involved in inclusive work settings can sometimes require more effort in
the beginning, but the payback may be well worth the extra time, effort,
and resources. For information about funding inclusive employment please
refer to Appendix IV: Funding Sources for Community-Based Supported
Just Regular Old Employment
"Just regular old employment" is work where the employee is hired and
supervised directly by an employer. Workers earn a salary or wages for
work completed. The following steps are typical for those individuals who
just want to "go out and get a job."
Develop a resume. A resume, listing skills and experiences will need to
be sent/given to prospective employers.
Look at the "help wanted" section of your local newspaper (or the newspaper
of the town where you want a job) and follow the instructions in the advertisement
(usually a phone number to call for more information or an address to send
a resume to will be listed). Frequently a cover letter, in addition to
a resume, is requestedso it's helpful to have a draft version on hand.
Find a "head hunter." Look in the yellow pages under "Employment Agencies."
These are typically agencies that work with individuals on finding a job
that is suitable to the individual's experience. Some of these agencies
specialize in specific kinds of jobs (e.g., high-technology jobs, secretarial
jobs). Remember to be persistent as the head hunter typically works for
the company who then pays him/her a fee when the position is filled.
Enlist the assistance of a career counselor. Career counselors often work
in high schools, colleges, and human service agencies and can assist with
resume preparation, job preference assessments, interview skills, and cover
Check out human service agencies. These agencies often receive mailings
that they post regarding jobs, specifically from businesses trying to recruit
someone from the population the agency serves. Independent Living Centers
are especially helpful in assisting with job searches.
Make an appointment at the Department of Employment and Training (DET).
The DET has a computer system that can do job searches according to geographic
area and job title. An individual completes the search and then meets with
a counselor to discuss qualifications and help make a job match.
Utilize the power of networking. Talk with everyone you know and let them
know you are looking for a job. Give as many details as you can (e.g.,
what type of job, why you would be good at the job, where you want the
job to be located).
Go door to door. Visit places where you are interested in working. Find
out information about the place ahead of time so you can ask any questions
you might have when you get there. Sometimes a phone call prior to arriving
Try to get an informational interview. When you visit a place where you
are interested in working, try to arrange an appointment with someone with
whom you would be working. Ask that person questions about the types of
jobs at the organization (even if there are none available at the time)
and any other questions you have prepared about the work and/or company.
This preliminary step is an invaluable tool in developing ideas about what
you want to do for work.
Support for Employment
Support for employment can be offered for any job one desires. In the
past, people often selected jobs based on the type of support available
at a specific location. New ways of looking at employment, as well as national
civil rights legislation, now make it easier for individuals with disabilities
to get the support they need at the job of their choosing. The amount and
type of support provided varies according to the needs of the individual
in any specific job and may consist any or all of the following:
Although these are different types of supports, they are not exclusive
of one another. For example, an individual may need a specific type of
desk on which to work (job accommodation), some assistance from co-workers
in getting materials (natural support), and some initial instruction based
on a careful task analysis (external support).
External supports are often provided, in the form of Supported Employment
or Supported Work, from outside agencies (e.g., state agencies). Supported
Employment is defined as competitive, paid work in a community-based work
setting in which the employee receives ongoing support from an employment
training specialist, job coach, or vocational instructor. Supported Work
refers to the same type of job, but in a situation where the employee will
not need long-term support. In both situations, the type and amount of
support an individual receives varies according to the needs of the individual.
Although some individuals may need ongoing support, the ideal is to
be able to phase out the external supports (those of the employment vendor
or school) or utilize them only as necessary (e.g., each time an individual
begins a new job, if necessary). If ongoing supports are necessary, they
may include having a job coach or job developer who may initially assist
an individual to get a job, learn what is expected at the job, and access
any necessary accommodations. External supports should always begin with
the idea that eventually they will cease. Even when ongoing supports are
warranted, the goal should be to develop the most natural ways to provide
Natural supports exist in many workplaces, usually in the form of supportive
supervisors and co-workers or supportive practices and procedures. They
may occur as implied (naturally!) or they may need a bit of planning to
get started. Generally the employment training specialist (ETS) will examine
the culture of the workplace to identify existing supports and specific
people responsible for providing those supports. For example, a supervisor
who provides training to new employees could also provide initial training
to an employee with a disability. Or, if an individual needs to be reminded
when it is time to move on to the next task, another employee, also changing
tasks at the same time, might be able to remind him/her. With natural supports,
the role of the ETS becomes one of facilitator rather than trainer or supervisor.
The ETS facilitates supportive practice, which includes assisting an individual
to develop and maintain relationships with co-workers, for example, arranging
to switch an employee's lunch hour so he/she can eat at the same time as
|Values in Employment Services
Community-based, integrated work
Meaningful work (work that someone else would get paid to do)
Individual choice and decision making
Right to take risks and learn through experience
Flexible supports, not programs
Careers, not just a job
The ability to be successful in a job often hinges on the physical environment
or set-up of the job. According to the ADA, an individual with a disability
has the right to request reasonable accommodation for employment. Types
of job accommodation may include:
The following charts outline some of the basic supported employment options.
Job Restructuring -- changing the job so an individual does it differently
or performs only the essential parts (e.g., adjustments to work procedures
or to the order in which tasks are performed)
Assistive Devices -- objects that assist in doing the job or completing
a task with greater ease or independence (e.g., an electric stapler, a
magnifying lens, or a TTY)
Training -- printed instructions, visual prompts, verbal cues or other
teaching methods that assist in learning or relearning job duties (e.g.,
Personal Assistant -- an individual who assists with job duties, routines,
or work-related aspects of a job (e.g., an interpreter to assist with communication,
a secretary to type dictated letters)
Building Modification -- an alteration to the physical environment that
allows safe and equal access (e.g., a ramp, wide aisles, or raised letters
on elevator buttons)
Job Reassignment -- temporary or permanent task transfers among co-workers
so each individual is responsible for the parts of a job he/she is able
to complete (e.g., two administrative assistants where one is solely responsible
for answering the phone, and the other for written correspondence)
Supported Employment Options
Individual Placement Approach
Program Design Considerations
Employment Training Specialist (ETS) develops the community-based job,
then places, trains, and supports a worker in a community job
Individualized training and follow-along services are provided as necessary
Amount and intensity of assistance varies according to the individual and
fades over time
Worker is on employer's payroll that usually includes pay and benefits
comparable to what nondisabled co-workers receive
Services include job development, vocational assessment, on-site training,
advocacy, and follow-along supports
Potential for competitive wages/benefits
Potential for social integration
Responsive to needs of employers
Opportunity to develop and utilize natural supports should be well defined
Individualized supports meet needs of worker and employer
Flexible response to varied needs of wide range of individuals
Access to any job in the community
Initially very labor-intensive for agency staff
Mobile Work Crews
Group of workers placed in a business in a "host" company
Training and supervision provided by ETS
Expect that long-term supports will be provided permanently by ETS
Contract established between company and service provider
Wages paid to workers from service provider, usually based on rate of production
Program Design Considerations
Approximately three to six+ workers with crew supervisor (ETS) work at
job sites in community
Perform contract work such as landscaping, janitorial work, maintenance,
Travel to work sites, typically by van
Wages paid by employment vendor, usually based on rate of production
Ability to place more individuals quickly into jobs in the community
Capacity to provide permanent supports when needed
Long-term commitment to provide primary supervision makes it difficult
to individualize and fade supports
Development of natural supports and social integration is difficult
Typically offers low wages and few fringe benefits
Though initially less staff-intensive, it can be less cost-effective in
the long run since long-term commitment of ETS is required
Typically offers limited range of job choices
Small Business/Affirmative Industry Approach
Program Design Considerations
Employment vendor develops business enterprise and assumes responsibility
for capital investment and ongoing operation
Typically employs both workers with and without disabilities
Can develop creative business options based on interests of consumers
Is advantageous in rural areas where job options may be limited
Can serve well people who require intensive supports
Potential to redesign jobs and find creative ways to include all people
Typically low wages and few benefits
Limited opportunities for community participation and social integration
Potential for conflict between business operations and rehabilitation goals
Starting and managing a business is often very time-intensive
Two out of every three new businesses fail, often due to lack of financial
resources, and most businesses lose money during the first three years
Segregated Work Situations
Just as there are options for individuals with disabilities to become
part of the mainstream of the work force and community life, options have
been developed solely for individuals with disabilities in separate, segregated
work facilities. These options fall into three general categories:
Sheltered workshops are separate facilities where individuals with disabilities
perform various kinds of "bench work," such as mass mailings, packaging,
and assembly tasks. Pay is usually based on the amount of piecework done
(i.e., on the number of products correctly completed) and depends on the
availability of subcontracts with other companies.
|The Readiness Approach to Employment
The readiness approach typically places people with disabilities in
segregated settings until they are "ready" to move into more integrated
settings. Over the years, it has been shown that the waiting periods for
moving from one program type to another are very long, that admission into
any of the programs is based on availability of slots and not the skills
of the individual, and that the number of people who actually progress
out of this situation is very small.
Day Activity Centers
Day activity centers are separate facilities where people with disabilities
spend the day on a combination of work-related and non-work-related activities.
Training in daily living skills and practice of vocational skills in a
simulated work environment are usually offered (e.g., packaging/unpacking,
sorting, assembly/disassembly, cleaning, cooking). Payment for completed
work depends on the availability of subcontracted jobs and is based on
a piecework rate, similar to a sheltered workshop.
Day Habilitation Centers
Day habilitation centers, or "Day Habs," are funded through federal
Medicaid moneysan arrangement that does not allow people to perform paid
vocational tasks. While some Day Habs offer worklike activities, these
programs typically focus on therapies and skill training relating to daily
living (e.g., hygiene, cooking, shopping, grooming) and recreation/leisure
(e.g., arts and crafts, reading magazines).
U.S. Department of Labor Guidelines for School to Work Programs
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the basic federal minimum wage
law that applies to certain types of business enterprises and individual
employees who are engaged in some way in the production or movement of
goods in interstate commerce. The FLSA applies where there is an employment
relationship, one in which the employer receives the benefit for the work
you perform. Where FLSA applies and there is an employment relationship,
minimum wage and overtime must be paid. Child labor laws must be followed
and certain records kept. Check what the current minimum wage is and acertain
that overtime is paid after 40 hours a week.
Subminimum wage certificates can be obtained by employers for: 1) full-time
students in retail, agriculture, and institutions of higher education,
and 2) workers whose disabilities impair their job performance. School-work
experience programs that pay wages can also apply for subminimum certificates.
FLSA does not apply to students who are trainees. Whether trainees/students
are employees of an employer under FLSA will depend upon all of the circumstances
surrounding their activities on the premises of the employer. If all six
of the following criteria apply, the trainees/students are not employees
under the definition of FLSA:
Be extremely cautious labeling people as "volunteers." Check any unpaid
proposal with the Department of Labor. For more information on FLSA, subminimum
wage certificates, school-related work programs, community-based vocational
education programs, and school-to-work transition programs, contact: Margaret
MacDonald at the Department of Labor, Boston office, at (617) 565-2095.
The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities
of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational
The training is for the benefit of the trainees/students.
The trainees/students do not displace regular employees but work under
their close observation.
The employer who provides the training derives no immediate advantage from
the activities of the trainees/students, and on occasion the employer's
operations may be impeded.
The trainees/students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion
of the training period.
The employer and the trainees/students understand that the trainees/students
are not entitled to wages for training time.
Have You Thought About This?
What are the student's interests?
What kind of work/activities does the student enjoy?
What are the student's skills?
How much money does the student need to earn in order to support his/ her
Where does the student want to work?
Where is the work located in relation to transportation/residence?
Does the student need further education or training?
How many hours a day is the student willing to work?
What does the job pay?
Does the job have benefits? (e.g., insurance, vacation, tuition reimbursement)
Will having a job affect social security benefits?
Will the job provide flexibility for any ongoing medical needs?
How flexible are the job hours?
Does the job suit the student's work style (e.g., noisy, quiet, casual,
Will the job provide enough challenge?
Is there room for advancement at the job?
What kind of supervision/mentoring is needed?
Does the job offer any staff development opportunities?
What are the job's physical requirements?
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