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What is customized employment?

Customized employment is a model that provides more intensive support to young people with disabilities as they seek and secure employment.

Customized employment offers more intensive support to young people with disabilities as they look for and secure employment. Support ranges from a job developer working with employers to identify tasks and develop routines that align with a student’s interests, skills, and vocational goals to job coaching during orientation, training, and beyond as a student’s support needs dictate. 

Customized employment: 

Vocational goals for customized employment are individualized and the result of a self-discovery phase that will help answer to questions like: 

Support to obtain and maintain employment are key components of the customized employment path. Students are supported to identify and access opportunities that will lead to self-discovery, the foundation of their work journey.

Early work experiences are crucial in allowing the student to explore their interest areas. Knowing dislikes is as important as knowing likes, and having experiences is the only way to identify both of these, a key component of the transition plan.

Experiential learning in real work settings is critical to an informed and accurate understanding of supports needed to be successful. It’s an integral part of self-discovery and person-centered planning.  

How can we ensure this kind of self-discovery and learning is happening?

The student, family and, support team must work together to promote and facilitate access to work based learning opportunities. Here are five ways to support exploration: 

1. Experiential learning is key

When out and about in your community doing errands or having fun with your student, talk about the different kinds of positions there are in the places you visit. Check out websites of favorite locations and read job postings to learn more about the kinds of jobs that are available there and the skills needed to perform that job.  

2. Volunteer

Research volunteer opportunities in your community and find one that aligns with the student’s interests. Commit to participating in an event and eventually, shift experiences more than once to build relationships and increase skills, independence and familiarity with tasks. This is also a great way to expose students to an application process and practice the communication skills that might be needed in a job interview. 

3. Connect

Networking and community mapping is an important part of the journey. How do you connect with others in your community? Share your student’s interests and passions with family, friends and neighbors who may have connections you don’t know about. They may be able to connect you with someone who can offer a workplace tour, informational interview or volunteer opportunity.

4. Raise expectations

Having responsibilities, meeting challenges and solving problems helps build skills that are valued in every work setting. Students should develop habits and skills that increase their confidence and competence in all areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (PDF) by giving them responsibilities and access to opportunities.

5. Reflect and record

Engage the student in thinking about what they liked or didn’t like about an activity, volunteer experience or event. Write and talk about what your student did, how they participated or how they helped out. This helps develop some of the foundation skills needed to draft a resume or talk about their achievements in an interview.

Often, it takes some creative thinking and problem solving to identify jobs that relate to an individual’s unique strengths and interests. Instead of asking, “What can someone who is blind or sensory-impaired do for work?” consider asking: 

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