Guest Blogger: An AZ APSE Board Member
Customized Employment (CE), what is that? CE is when someone with a disability has a hard time finding a job the traditional way. This would be for someone who wants a job in the community, making at least minimum wage, but cannot do it on their own. Maybe they have tried other ways of finding work but have not been successful. CE uses an approach to job searching that is person-centered and strengths-based. Job seekers with significant disabilities and their supporters have been using this strategy successfully for years.
CE has a required set of steps that make it special. The first and most important step is called Discovery. Unlike a regular job search, when someone finds a position using CE it was created just for them. And to create the perfect job, the support team needs to get to know the job seeker. During Discovery the support team will all work together to create a list of possible options. They do not need to concentrate on job descriptions because they will be creating their own. But the team wants to consider areas of interest, skills, and on the job support needs. Discovery can be done in a group or one-on-one. The LEAD Center has even created free tools to help. All of this important information will be gathered to make the Job Search Plan, which is the next step.
The Job Search Plan can be updated as the team learns more about the job seeker. This is a group process so team members will all still be helping. For example, some may be reaching out to potential employers while others navigate funding sources. The job seeker will need to create a resume or portfolio that shares their skills and abilities. This will not look like a traditional resume, but there must be a way for potential employers to understand how you can contribute. Some people may make a short video or PowerPoint that shows what they can do. Others may use a visual resume with pictures of themselves. CE is individualized, so no two Job Search Plans are alike.
After there is a plan, CE uses another unique strategy: Negotiation. This means the job developer will help potential employers realize how the job seeker’s strengths meet their needs. Usually, they will start with interviewing potential employers, touring businesses, and finding out what they need. Networking and relationship building are very important to the success of CE. When a business is found that matches the skills of the job seeker, a proposal can be created. Then the job developer, job seeker, and employer begin Negotiation. If everything comes together, the stakeholders will create a job description including support details and terms of employment.
The last step in the CE process is Post-Employment Support. Since this was a customized process, maintaining close contact after hiring is important. There may be a need for renegotiations or additional job training. This is when the job developer can teach co-workers how to provide natural supports to the new employee. And when they can model self-advocacy strategies to build the employee’s independence. Creating a regular meeting schedule to address any future concerns is one way the paid supports can encourage ongoing success.
The Department of Labor has a website page where you can find out more information about CE. If you think CE is your best option for finding a job, make sure to tell those helping you. And remember, with CE anyone can work!