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Transition Planning Series: Postsecondary Employment Options (Part 3 of 5)

Planning Employment Options
L. Lynch

Part 1: The Transition Plan - What is it?
Part 2: Postsecondary Education
Part 3: (This Article)
Part 4: Independent Living
Part 5: Creating the Actual Plan

Even though many "typical" students have no idea of what type of work they want to do after high school, students with disabilities do need to get an idea about what they want to do for purposes of their transition plan. Learning a little about what postsecondary job opportunities exist before taking assessments may help a student identify a new interest or job area so that a transition plan includes adequate steps, training and services to help the student meet the goal. Also, for some students, it may take a while to acquire the skills needed for a part or full-time job so careful planning and training each high school year can increase the student's earning capacity. When thinking employment, there are many options other than simply a traditional part-time or full-time job that transition team members should discuss. For example, there are options such as "segregated employment" (a self-contained workplace with other persons with disabilities), "supported employment" (usually employment that is supported by an agency such as the Department of Rehabilitation), and "self employment" (a job that allows the worker to use his or her own skills to create a product or provide a service). After exploring the below information, talk to the student to find out if there is a particular type of job he or she wants based upon their interests and then start planning backwards to make sure the student has the skills needed for the preferred postsecondary employment opportunity.

When creating an employment goal for a transition plan and related annual objectives, the following items need to be preliminarily researched and/or assessed, and generally discussed:

1. The types of things the student likes to do and the kinds of environments can the student work in;
2. The career fields that let the student do these things or work in the preferred setting;
3. The types of jobs in these fields that the student can realistically do on a part-time or full-time paid or volunteer basis;
4. Any formal training and experience needed during the high school period to help the student get the job (e.g. interview skills, creation of a resume, how to complete a job application, the skills needed to do the job, etc.); and
5. The functional skills needed at home to keep the job (e.g. waking on time, dressing appropriately, personal hygiene, packing a lunch, transportation to the job, etc.).

Below are some tips and resources to help with the creation of postsecondary employment goals and identification of services.

1. Identify what the student likes to do, can do and needs to learn to do.
As discussed in Part 1 of this series, "age appropriate assessments" should be performed before a transition plan is proposed to learn about the student's personality type, inventory of interests and skills, and career fields that the student may be the best suited for in terms of the student's interests, personality and skills. Assessments are often done at high school through the Workability 1 Program funded by the California Department of Education for students with IEPs, or through third party programs such as the Naviance Online Program, JobTIPS, Career Cruising, ASVAB Career Exploration or other programs. Click here for a sample checklist of what should be done to assess student's employment skills.

Examples of other transition assessments for schools relating to employment (but see list at end of article for free sources):

What is Workability? Workability 1 is "an essential component of transition services developed and supported by the CDE (California Dept. of Ed.)." Ca. Ed. Code § 56470(a). Workability programs are required to provide instruction and experiences to students with IEPs that reinforce core curriculum concepts and skills leading to gainful employment." § 56470(b). The Workability program is a 4 tiered “learn to earn” program designed to prepare students with disabilities for entry into the labor market.

Who is Workability for? Workability 1 is the "tier" for high school students that is supposed to provide "comprehensive pre-employment skills training, employment placement and follow-up for high school students in special education who are making the transition from school to work, independent living and post secondary education or training" while students proceed with their special education in high school. Ca. Dept. of Ed. "Workability 1: A California Transition Program - Students Learn to Earn. Workability 1 is for all high school students (age 16 - 21) with an IEP. Source: FAQ sheet on Workability issued by the San Diego Unified School District.

What if the student has not received Workability services but has an IEP? If the student has an IEP and is not receiving workability services, parents should submit a written request to the student's case manager or counselor asking for Workability services and support. Also, parents should ask for a copy of the annual schedule used by the high school Workability representative to see the different topics taught per month so that if a student with an IEP has mistakenly not received services, the student can learn about what has been missed and request make-up sessions and/or copies of the materials used for the missed sessions.

What does Workability Include? Workability shall include: (1) recruitment, (2) assessment, (3) counseling, (4) pre-employment skills training, (5) vocational skills training, (6) student wages for "try-out" employment, (7) placement in unsubsidized employment, (8) other assistance with transition to a quality adult life, and (9) use of an interdisciplinary advisory committee to enhance project goals. Ca. Ed. Code § 56471(d). Students with IEPs qualify for workability services during high school to help them learn about activities they like, their own personal qualities and career options related to their interests and qualities. The Workability program seeks employers in the business community who will give students with special needs work opportunities.

The specific services provided by each tier are listed in the CDE’s “Array of Services Definitions" found online. Examples of services that that can be provided through Workability 1 include:

  • self and formal assessments,
  • interest inventories,
  • personality surveys,
  • values assessments,
  • career development assessments,
  • computerized information matching of interests with jobs,
  • career counseling,
  • curriculum integration of work readiness skills,
  • vocational/career tech classes, and
  • independent living/functional skills.

For a comprehensive table of Workability 1 High School services, please click on the "Array of Services" (Doc; posted 12-May-20) found under the "Array of Services" section on the California Department of Education Workability l webpage.

Workability Tiers: Familiarity with the different tiers can help students know what workability services are available during different phases of their educational or other pursuits.

  • Workability I (an in school program designed to increase employability of special education students and provide career and/or vocational education training and specialized education work experiences);
  • Workability II provides specialized vocation assistance to out-of-school youth and adults with disabilities;
  • Workability III helps people with disabilities who are both community college students and DOR clients who desire and need employment; and
  • Workability IV assists persons with disabilities who are both university students and DOR clients in transition form school to work.

2. Start early building a resumé.
To increase a student's chances of getting a job, start as early as possible having the student volunteer, enroll or work in programs or activities to show that the student can learn new skills, follow directions, show up on time, and handle responsibility. Involvement in programs and activities is not only important to help build a resume, but may also highlight areas in which the student needs more training (e.g. social or communication skills) so that supports and services during high school can be timely delivered. (As part of the employment assessment, employers should be contacted to get evaluations to provide input. Sample worksite evaluation forms: "Worksite Evaluation Form" by G. York, and "Employee Evaluation Form" (from the Iowa Department of Education sources/North Center Regional Resource Center).

Some ideas may include:
a. School Activities: Talk to the student's case manager to determine whether there are any jobs in the structured school environment the student can try (e.g. tutoring after school, working as an office assistant as an elective, work in the cafeteria or sports events).
b. Volunteer Activities: Consider having the student volunteer with an organization that provides supervision and which offers volunteer opportunities in areas the student likes (e.g. if the student likes animals - volunteer at an animal shelter, if the student likes baseball have the student volunteer at a high school baseball game, if the student likes moving heavy items, volunteer to help move boxes in the cafeteria, etc.).
c. Camp Programs: Enroll the student in training camps such as babysitting or camp counselor training such as the YMCA's leaders in training program.
d. Part-time employment at a local "Workability" partner or other employer as this may lead to full-time employment later.

3. Practice daily routines needed to help with independence.
In addition to working on the development of skills to get a job, the student needs to work on skills to keep a job (e.g. waking up and getting dressed in time, personal hygiene, social skills, getting to work on time, etc.). Make a list of what needs to be done every morning to get ready for a job and, where needed, use assistive technology to remind the student of what needs to be done and when (e.g. calendar or reminder apps with reminder alerts). A sample checklist might be:

  • Set the alarm the night before;
  • Set out appropriate clothes the night before;
  • Wake up to the alarm;
  • Brush teeth;
  • Deodorant;
  • Get dressed;
  • Pack lunch;
  • Take medications;
  • Be ready by the car to go to school by a predetermined time.

Following a checklist with reminders from parents is a good start but the goal should be for the student to ultimately follow and complete the checklist on his or her own (with assistive technology to help as needed).

4. Develop a plan for the student to learn self-advocacy skills each year.
There are many laws in place to support students in the workplace but often students need to self-advocate to ensure they have a fair playing field at work. Discussions should be held with the IEP team to discuss how the student will be trained to self advocate in an effective manner. Students should learn select key parts of the applicable laws each year and role play "violations" so that when they leave high school, they are well equipped to protect and handle themselves in the workplace. For example, students need to learn whether employers can ask if they have a disability or need accommodations during an interview, and how to handle such questions if they are asked, what to do if they are asked to do something that is not normally part of their job, how to request accommodations and more.

Suggested resources that students and parents should review to learn about protections and common violations.

5. Prepare an "Important Documents" Binder with the student.
As students transition to adulthood, they will need certain documents such as their birth certificate, driver's license, social security card and other items. They also need to learn when and when not to share information from these items. Students may need to work on memorizing their social security number for job applications or have a copy of certain documentation for their jobs. Help a student organize their important items and keep it until they are able to safely keep this information on their own.

If employment is not a likely option for a student, the team should discuss options such as day programs with specialized activities and supports that allow the student to have social and other interactions in a structured manner to keep the student engaged and involved.

Other Employment related resources:

1. Naviance college and career readiness program: Many districts offer the Naviance K-12 program and curriculum to their high school students help them with college and career readiness. Naviance has research tools to help students assess themselves to learn more about college and career options, can help teams devise course plans to help students reach their goals, offers assistance with college applications, and provides other supports. If the student does not have a passcode to access this on-line program, discuss with the team how the student might be able to use this program.

2. Job Boards: Look at the job boards for persons with and without disabilities to learn about job options and job requirements for persons with or without a high school diploma. Good sources include: National Organization on Disability, (to learn of companies committed to working with qualified persons with disabilities),,,,

3. The Department of Rehabilitation (DOR): Contact the your local regional center or the local office of California’s DOR to learn about employment services and eligibility because these may help make the student’s pursuit of a particular type of employment more realistic. Students who qualify for services from the San Diego Regional Center need a referral to begin services. See “Community Interface Services.” Generally, if a student graduates with a diploma, he or she will transition to the DOR for employment services if deemed eligible. If a student does not graduate with a diploma, the local regional center will provide supports to transition to work through appropriate regional center providers.

The DOR runs the largest vocational rehabilitation program in the U.S. Students must meet eligibility requirements to receive services. Once a student is eligible, the DOR offers individualized job development services for persons who qualify for DOR services. Discuss the DOR services with the regional center (if applicable) and the school so that information can be obtained early in the transition planning process.

The DOR offers "community interface services” to help with career exploration, job market information, assessment of job skills, analysis of jobs, worksite modifications and accommodations, on-the-job coaching, assistance with inclusion, mobility training, worker hygiene, social skills development, self-advocacy training and more. Other programs include: Assistive Technology program, Blind Field Services, Business Enterprises Program, Client Assistance, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Section, Disability Access Services, Orientation Center, Supported Employment, Traumatic Brain Injury and Workforce development, Work Activity Programs (paid work and services in a sheltered work shop setting). Discuss the availability of job shadowing and job coaching as they are not the same.

4. California Career Resource Network: This network “provides all persons in California with career development information and resources to enable them to reach their career goals”. This valuable site includes links to the:

  • California Career Center (helps students map their futures by exploring information on a variety of careers and skill demands);
  • the California Career Zone;
  • Career Planning Center; and
  • The Real Game California (classroom based career exploration).

The California Career Center section is especially helpful and has several links specifically designed for persons with disabilities. See also “Additional Career Exploration Resources” (has a career path worksheet, options to getting college credits, Career technical education, California pathways, and more!)

5. Job Corps: Job Corps is a free education and training program that helps people learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED, and find and keep a job. Persons must be at least 16 years of age who qualify as low income.

6. The San Diego Workforce Partnership funds job training programs and offers access to the “One-Stop Career Center” network which provides special programs for youth, persons with disabilities, war veterans and military personnel. The centers hold job fairs which provide information on positions available in the area.

7. “JobTIPS” from Offers real world examples and assistance to teens and adults transitioning to the workplace (guided exercises, role-playing scenario cards, video modeling tutorials, visual prompts, printable checklists of "job tips," and more) to help students learn what to do in certain job situations. JobTIPS also offers job finding support, tips on how to keep a job, self assessment forms to help determine job settings and fields, and more. (Free student trial but most services are for pay -- around $149 for individual users per year).

8. Read “On the Job” – Stories from youth with significant disabilities about how they relied upon “natural supports” to find their jobs.

9. “Talent Knows No Limits – A California public education resource for the employment of people with disabilities.

10. “Jobtoberfest”: Every October, the San Diego Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities hosts workshops and a job fair for people with disabilities. Workshops range from SSI,SSDI and Employment to getting the most out of medicare. Jobtoberfest is the largest job fair for people with disabilities in San Diego with over 1,500 job seekers attending.

11. The Arc of San Diego: The Arc has community employment services (ACES) to help find employment for persons with disabilities in the community. Employment can be performed in a group setting, in work crews or direct placement.

12. California Career Café: Has a virtual career center to help students charge a pathway, get experience and more!

13. “Employment First” Law (WIC § 4869(a)(1): Authorizes the State DDS to contract with regional centers to provide support and services to individuals with developmental disabilities through an individual program plan with the goal of increasing integrated employment for persons with disabilities.

14. Attend a SDRC “Job Club”: The main center of the San Diego Regional Center has a monthly training forum on the 3rd Monday of each month at 10 am to help transition age job seekers ask questions and learn more about how to improve their employment opportunities. Contact: Todd Lordson at 858-576-2812 or Paul Mansell 858-503-4438 to learn more about eligibility and times.

15. Occupational Opportunities Classes: The San Diego Community College District offers free non-credit classes on “Occupational Opportunities” to help students with disabilities establish career/education/vocational goals.

16. California Minium Wage Information: As of the writing of this article, the minimum wages for persons working in California are $8.00 but as of July 1, 2014, the wages will go up to $9.00 per hour and then effective January 1, 2016, the minimum wage will go up to $10.00 per hour.

17. Transition to Adult Living Information and Guide: The California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalSTAT) has numerous guides and information online for persons wanting more information.

18. Impact Feature Issue on Postsecondary Education and Students with Intellectual, Developmental and Other Disabilities. Issue contains numerous articles and success stories that may be of interest (University of Minnesota).

19. Goodwill Supported Employment: Goodwill offers supported employment programs for eligible persons who have been referred to it by the San Diego Regional Center or California Department of Rehabilitation (e.g. "Ticket to Work" and other services). Goodwill also offers free job leads, tips on dressing for success, interview preparation classes, free internet job search, phones for job searches, help filling out applications, assistance with resume preparation, employer presentations and more.

20. Disability Employment with the Federal Government: The federal government actively recruits persons with disabilities and students may wish to explore USA Jobs to see what types of jobs are available or to learn of local opportunities where they might volunteer as an intern after school or over the summer.

21. Resource Books for San Diego area: The helpful resource guides offer information of services and supports: the San Diego County School District and the Temecula Special Needs Resource Guide.

22. Has posters and videos to watch to help viewers explore jobs in certain career fields, includes information about salary ranges, and other job related information.

23. "Job Training/Certificate Programs": Community colleges and continuing education programs such as those offered by the San Diego Continuing Education Program offer "certificate" programs that teach specialized job skills to help students develop job skills in vocational areas such as office skills, automotive, business, child development, computers, culinary arts, electronics and soldering, fashion and textiles, graphic reproduction, HVAC, health, metal fabrication, plumbing, upholstery, welding and more. The San Diego Continuing Education Program also offers DSPS (Disability Support Programs and Services) at no cost to students aged 18 and older and includes programs through Workability III to students who are clients of the Department of Rehabilitation (and enrolled in a class in the program).

24. Directory of Occupational Titles: This site has links to the career titles used to identify jobs and links to information relating to each job title that sets forth the skills needed for each job. Vocational rehabilitation experts often uses this to look up jobs students have an interest in to determine what skills are needed.

25. Access to Independence: Programs and services include advocacy and transition services (e.g. community integration, employment, assistive technology, peer counseling, housing resources, personal assistance, information and referral). (Has offices in Escondido, San Diego and Imperial Valley).

26. Able-Disabled Advocacy: "Provides vocational skills training and educational advancement for youth and adults with disabilities to assist them in finding employment and overcoming barriers to personal and financial self-sufficiency." Programs include "Youthbuild Technology", "Youthbuild Construction," employment services for clients of the Dept. of Rehabilitation, work incentive programs and more.

27. Del Mar Fairgrounds: Locally, the Del Mar Fairgrounds frequently posts job listings and hosts a job fairs. Some job positions begin at 15 years old giving a student an early opportunity to learn a skill.

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