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Employment Strategies

Effective practices and strategies that lead to competitive, integrated employment for individuals with disabilities

Circle graph showing the differences and simularies between job seekers and their environment.

The strategy (ies) implemented is dependent on the individual, their support needs, interests, preferences and goals.

The future of community inclusion requires support for concepts like supported and customized employment. Thousands of individuals with significant disabilities find these strategies as successful ways to gain meaningful work, real wages, and a means to contribute to the workplace.

Supported Employment

Individualized supported employment is founded on the belief that people with even the most significant disabilities are able to be employed by community businesses where they can make similar wages, work side-by-side with co-workers without disabilities, and experience all of the same benefits as other employees of the workplace. Supports are initiated at the start of employment and continue for an extended period of time to support the individual’s successful integration within the workplace.

Job coaching is a large part of supported employment. Job coaches support people with disabilities learn and perform their work duties. Job coaches work with individuals one-on-one. In addition to helping people acquire skills related to performing specific job tasks, job coaches focus on developing individuals’ interpersonal skills necessary in the workplace.

Supported Employment is regularly implemented to foster success following traditional job placement, customized employment, and individualized placement and support (IPS).



Customized Employment

Customized employment uses the practice of Discovery with job seekers, and Informational Interviews with local businesses to uncover an individual’s strengths, interests, task contributions, and ideal conditions of employment to create meaningful work and a customized fit. Rather than looking to work opportunities driven solely by the labor market, customized employment approaches seek to create employment scenarios that fulfill the needs of the employee with disabilities and the employer.

Key components of CE:

• Discovery to create  vocational profile documents

• Individualized job search planning

• Negotiated customized job description based on employer needs and job seeker     skills


Often the customized work doesn’t rely on existing job descriptions, but is created through such practices as job carving, job creation, the development of a business-within-a-business, resource ownership, or a self-employment opportunity.

Job carving occurs when the duties of a job are analyzed, and specific tasks within those existing positions are unbundled to create a new position. Jobs may be formed either by modifying one existing job or by blending tasks from multiple jobs to form new positions. In whatever manner the process is completed, job carving is a means of focusing on persons’ abilities, skills, and talents that can contribute to a potential employer’s bottom line.

Job creation occurs when an employer’s unmet needs are matched with the skills of a specific job seeker. Creating new jobs based on an employer’s unmet needs—which are in turn connected to a job seeker’s ideal conditions of employment—provides a win-win customization for both parties


Individual Placement and Supports (IPS)

Considered an evidence-based practice, IPS is a fidelity-based model of supported employment that assists individuals with severe, persistent mental illness obtain and maintain competitive employment. A key component of IPS is integrating employment services in with the consumer’s mental health treatment team.

The eight principles of IPS:

1. Open to anyone who wants to work

2. Focus on competitive employment

3. Rapid job search

4. Systematic job development

5. Client preferences guide decisions

6. Individualized long-term supports

7. IPS integrated with treatment team

8. Benefits counseling included



Self-Employment and micro-enterprises are two business alternatives representing appealing alternatives for many job seekers with disabilities. As viable Customized Employment choices for individuals with disabilities, self-employment and micro-enterprises involves business planning, designing support strategies, and promoting successful business ventures. These employment choices give job seekers and their supporters a number of possibilities for developing flexible and innovative strategies regarding work.


Resource Ownership

Resource ownership supports employment opportunities through the acquisition of tools and equipment beneficial to the employee and the employer. Job seekers may own equipment, machinery, or other items, which are needed by employers, adding to their employers’ businesses and profitability. Through proposals and agreements, individuals bring their resources to workplaces as part of their employment and conditions of hire. Employers get the double benefit of having productive employees and new resources to improve their businesses.

A business-within-a-business results when a job seeker has specific talents, skills, and tangible resources to develop a profitable micro-business launched and located within another business. To an existing employer, hosting a business-within-a-business provides opportunities to increase the customer base of the host business through additional services or products.

Benefit Counseling

Benefit Counseling, also known as Work Incentive Planning & Assistance (WIPA) projects, assists individuals in understanding how income from employment may affect their federal and state benefits, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplement Security Income (SSI).

Additional Resources

Strategies Used by Employment Services Providers in the Job Development Process (2011) developed by TransCen, Inc. Click here


Bringing Employment First to Scale: Achieving Best Practice in Employment Supports: Defining Measures of Effectiveness (2016) developed by ThinkWork!, a RRTC on Advancing Employment for Individuals with ID/DD. Click here


Essential Elements Click here

Recommendations for Customized Employment Practices Click here

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