January 30, 2012
An overview of the services, supports and interventions that contribute to successful employment outcomes for people who have a disability.
It is important to note that the ‘path to employment’ is unique for each individual who has a disability and in no way should be considered linear. Not all people who have a disability will require all interventions that are described below, nor will they necessarily require these interventions in the order that they are listed.
It should also be noted that Employment Service Agencies must also look at employers and the business community as ‘customers’ of their services and supports.
The outcome of the ‘path to employment’ for people who have a disability is a successful match between a motivated job seeker and the needs of an employer that takes into consideration disability related factors that affect job options, job search strategies, negotiating the job, accommodations, support needs, job retention and career development.
1. Assessment: varies from very formal to informal. Sometimes the type of assessment will vary depending on the service options that the agency provides and/or the individual being assessed – the nature and type of disability, the agency’s familiarity with the individual and so on.
a/ Formal – Psycho-social, prescribed skills testing i.e. cognitive skills, motor skills, dexterity, job specific skills, etc.
b/ Informal – Often a more organic or intuitive means to learning about the individual’s skills, abilities and interests. Often this is done in conjunction with number 2 below – Employment Preparation.
c/ Review of client history – work experience, education, training, volunteer experience, personal plans and goals, etc.
d/ Workplace Assessments – Assessing a candidates potential to do a specific job or interest in a particular employment sector.
The outcome of the assessment will:
- Confirm that the job seeker is motivated to work;
- Identify factors that may influence the job seeker’s ability to search for and maintain work e.g. transportation limitations, attendant care needs, specific accommodation requirements, impact on current benefits etc.
- Create an inventory the job seeker’s education, skills, experience, interests and social networks which are relevant to vocational exploration;
- Assess the job seeker’s capacity and tolerances for vocational training (formal or informal); and
- Determine the type of work to pursue or, if work is the best option for the client at this point in time.
The assessment phase establishes the job seeker’s work related attributes, confirms the job seeker is motivated to work and ensures the job seeker understands the implications of seeking, acquiring and maintaining work.
2. Employment Preparation: varies from ‘curriculum based’ programs to individual interventions by an employment counselor and/or formal training. These programs often help assess career goals and the supports and interventions the individual will require.
a/ Individual interventions – highly dependent on the individual client and how they present to the agency e.g. is their resume current, do they have relevant experience, do they have a realistic career goal, can a career path be mapped out and to what degree is the individual self-directed
b/ Curriculum based services – Many organizations provide a curriculum based job readiness program that will assist with resume development, interview skills, and employment life skills. Often this program is also used as a form of assessment – does the person show up regularly and on time, do they demonstrate reliability; have the ability to follow direction and informal skills? Do they have the right attitude? Are there barriers and challenges previously not understood? Can an appropriate job or career goal be identified, etc.?
c/ Training – is there specific occupational or career training required. In most cases the individual will be referred to the appropriate training program but often will need assistance to find the right training institute, go through the application and enrollment processes, organize financial support (if needed) and so on.
d/ Disability Specific Accessibility and Accommodation Planning and Preparation
Counseling related to the job seeker’s specific disability and implications in the workplace
Assisting the job seeker in assessing and determining what accommodations are needed in order to successfully maintain employment (e.g. – mode of transportation, communication access in the workplace, need for Personal Support Worker, etc.)
Prepare job seeker for possible workplace accessibility and attitudinal barriers they may face in the workplace, and how to problem solve these challenges.
Assist the job seeker in coordinating and setting up a natural support system; determining who can be involved in the circle of care; etc.
Counseling related to issues of disclosure, implications, Human Rights etc.
At the completion of the employment preparation phase job seeker will:
- Explore job options and preferences based on information gathered during assessment phase relative to the labour market within the community;
- Have acquired specific job and/or career skills related to a specific trade or profession;
- Address disability related factors that may impact work related performance;
- Develop job finding and job retention skills and behaviours;
- Develop knowledge and skills related to vocational options; and
- Gain job related experience.
- Be ready to pursue an appropriate and suitable job/career.
The employment preparation phase readies the job seeker to meet the needs of the employer by helping them become job ready.
1. Employer engagement: Job developers need to educate employers and sell them on hiring people who have a disability.
a/ Educating Employers – employers need to understand the benefits that their business will derive from hiring people who have a disability. They also need to be educated about the viability of people who have a disability in the workplace.
b/ Disability expertise – agencies are often seen by employers as the ‘experts’ in disability and interact in a consulting capacity. This can range from providing accommodations information and assistance to training for supervisors and managers, to problem solving when issues arise.
c/ Pre-screening candidates – often employers look to the agency to pre-screen and select appropriate candidates for the job. Sometimes this can be to assess a small group of candidates to be interviewed and sometimes this can be to send a single candidate and by-pass the interview process altogether. In this respect the employer relates to the agency in the same way they relate to other private placement firms or temp agencies. To ensure a successful match this places a heavy burden on the agency to investigate and fully understand the employer’s workplace, work culture, specific job requirements, etc.
2. Finding the job: One might well ask: “If people who have a disability were competitive in the labour market why would we need employment service agencies?” The reality, however, is that most people who have a disability who engage employment agencies are not self directed and many lack the necessary training and/or work experience that would make them truly competitive. They will need assistance to find the job.
a/ Job Development – Job development typically happens in two ways: 1. determine the client’s job/career goals and look for a suitable job; or, 2. mine for job opportunities in the business sector (the goal of Employer Engagement strategies described in 1 above) and then look to your candidate pool for a suitable fit or match.
b/ Looking for work – often, people who have a disability require assistance to look for a job, make a call for an interview or even go to an interview independently.
Job Developers often: make the call to set up an interview; and, accompany the candidate to the interview. The agency is often selling a ‘package’ which consists of the client and the agency’s support services.
c/ Job Match – matching the candidate to the job is the most critical step in the process. Ensuring the client’s skills and abilities match the requirements of the job and that there is a good ‘fit’ between the client and the business in terms of workplace culture, meeting the employer’s expectations, the employer’s willingness to accommodate the individual, etc.
During the job match phase the job seeker may:
- Have their essential skills matched with the needs of employers (traditional placement or job carving);
- Be presented to employers where there is potential to hire;
- Undertake a self-directed job search; and
- Get a job.
The outcome of the job match phase is a competitive job for the job seeker. During this phase a secondary client is developed – the employer. The outcome for the employer is a successful hire. At the same time, a satisfied employer opens the door to ‘repeat’ business and/or referrals for the agency.
1. Job Coaching – Can range from intensive training at the initial placement stage to minor accommodation assistance and to periodic interventions and retraining.
a/ On the job training – often employers rely on the agency to provide the initial job training due to situations where training may take longer than other employees or where productivity may be lower at the on-set of the job. The job coach should always be in a position to assess a phasing out of their services so as to not create a dependency on this service.
b/ Off the job issues – Many people who have a disability need assistance with other personal issues and/or skills in order to maintain their job. Some need transportation training to get to and from the job, assistance with financial reporting, housing and so on.
2. Follow Up – Usually done as routine visits and/or phone calls that diminish over time.
a/ Provides customer service to the employer to ensure on-going satisfaction, retention for the employee and possible repeat business for future candidates
b/ Provides support to the employee to ensure satisfaction with the job and the individual’s career aspirations are being met E.g. increases in hours of work and wages, new skill development and potential job mobility within the business
c/ Trouble shooting and problem solving before issues become irreconcilable, leading to increased retention
During the job retention phase the employee may:
- Be provided with on-the-job supports to develop work proficiency;
- Have ‘arms-length’ support through a systematic check-in or trouble shooting system; and
- Observe that the employer is also being supported in accommodating the employee’s needs.
The outcome of the job retention phase is the new employee performing the duties of the job to the satisfaction of the employer thereby retaining the job independently.
3. Customer Service – Good employment service providers must see employers as their ‘customer’ and, as such, pay special attention to providing effective customer service. If the employer is happy and has his/her needs met, they are more likely to retain the employee and more likely to do repeat business with the service provider. Business operators tell us: “We’re experts at doing business; we’re not experts in disability”. From this perspective, business operators often look to the service agency as specialized consultants for their employee(s) who have a disability.
a/ Trouble shooting – Employers look to the service agency for assistance when issues arise on the job – poor performance, safety, poor or inappropriate behaviour, etc.
b/ Out-placement – It has been cited that the number one reason businesses don’t hire is the fear of firing. Businesses fear bad PR, Human Rights complaints and personal discomfort with firing or laying off someone who is already seen to be at a disadvantage. Many service agencies provide out-placement assistance. That is; they help transition an employee who is not working out into a job that is a better fit.
c/ Periodic Interventions – Workplaces evolve and the scope of a particular job may change. Often the agency will be called in to re-train the employee, realign the work station, etc. In cases where a disability might be periodic, cyclical or degenerative additional workplace accommodations may be required. Sometimes supervisors and/or managers will change and this may require re-orientation to the disability and/or accommodations.
4. Career development – Many people who have a disability start out in entry level positions; part-time and at low wages, often without benefits. At the same time surveys have demonstrated that people who have a disability often do not advocate on their own behalf and quit their jobs out of frustration. People are afraid to ask for more hours, pay raises or opportunity to compete for more advanced jobs within the workplace. Employers tend to think that if nothing is said, everything must be okay. People who have a disability often need assistance and advocacy to assist them to progress within the workplace or to move forward along a career path. Sometimes this means changing jobs, as their capacity and experience improves.
1. Evaluation & Improvement Strategies – Employment service agencies need to invest time and resources in effective quality assurance measures. The agency must ensure it has a continuous quality improvement plan and process in place.
2. Employer satisfaction – The service provider must also ensure its customers are satisfied with their services. Formal employer satisfaction surveys and reviews can be implemented and often lead to repeat business as well as ensuring long-term success
3. Candidate satisfaction – The service provider should perform formal reviews & satisfaction surveys with clients. This will ensure a career path is in place, job satisfaction & long term stability.
As noted in the introduction, this path is not linear and very few candidates require the all of these services and supports. For the Employment Service Agency, however, given the range of individuals they serve and the unique needs of these individuals, it is important that the complete range of services is available as determined by the candidates seeking employment.
These are the services and supports that will lead to the greatest number of successful employment outcomes for the greatest number and range of people who have a disability.