Challenges and Successes in Implementing Customized Employment Strategies

System Issues

  • Difficulty fitting CE strategies into existing traditional vocational rehabilitation system, especially customization, negotiating with employers, creating new positions that are a win-win for employers financially and a good match for participant.
  • Systems are often dependent on willingness of gatekeeper to collaborate.
  • Placing a participant in a job because it is available rather than a good match based on skills, environment and needed supports.
  • Delays in accessing VR eligibility and funding for MSD especially for individuals with ASD.
  • Schools can align their age appropriate transition assessment with Discovery by completing many of the Discovery activities and observations over several years of transition planning.
  • Schools, agencies and Social Security can collaborate to plan and sponsor SS Work Incentive and Benefit Determination sessions for staff and parents.


  • Need for ongoing natural supports in micro enterprises.
  • School based sites don’t have a full time staff person or teacher devoted to Discovery. At school sites intervention specialists did this while teaching and supporting students. At DD site, full time Discovery staff made a difference in outcomes.
  • Some team members at all sites were able to use Braided funding - IWI, We Go to Work for Resource Ownership, VR/VRP3, Waivers, DD Job Coaching and employment services.
  • DD service reimbursement rates for group employment services are higher than the rate for individualized employment services such as CE.
  • Working with one student/youth at a time for an extended period in a system that is paid for serving as many consumers as possible in the shortest time frame.

Time and Money

  • Lack of training for job development staff on CE strategies such as informational interviews and job negotiation including highlighting benefits for employers.
  • Job Development staff need to be included in Discovery assessments so they have a thorough knowledge of participant’s skills and needed supports. Their inclusion in Discovery will also insure a seamless transition to job development planning.
  • Staff may lack knowledge about how to support and guide participants who could be successfully self employed or work in a business within a business.


  • 95% of time participants had no prior paid work experience and complex needs, cognitive, physical and visual.


  • Transition Fairs are good opportunities for parents to see range of options available in the community and to start understanding how to navigate the adult service system. All three sites sponsored transition fairs in the second year, some for the first time. One site formed a Transition Advisory Council, the other sites had one.
  • Consistently sharing success stories with parents raised their expectations about community based employment.
  • Raised the self esteem and expectations of transition youth who had never worked.
  • So far 33 transition youth with complex needs obtained community based work experience/employment. Previous work experience is an evidence based practice for successful transition.