Connecting Youth with IEPs to Meaningful Community-Based Competitive Employment Opportunities
Looking closely at Wisconsin data regarding competitive employment, there have been significant improvements in the number of youth with IEPs who are more prepared for the journey to competitive employment. Competitive employment, as defined by Indicator 14 State Performance Plan, includes 90 days of cumulative or consecutive work paid at minimum wage or greater, and an average of 20 hours per week or more in a setting with others who are non-disabled; this includes military, supported employment, self-employment or a family business if the criteria of competitive employment are met. Wisconsin places a heavy emphasis on creating opportunities for meaningful employment that are community-based. Preparing youth with disabilities for sustainable, good paying jobs that involve them working side-by-side with non-disabled peers is best practice.
State Level Data Highlights
2014 - 2018 Wisconsin Statewide Employment Data from Indicator 14
Indicator 14 helps us describe the further education and competitive employment experiences of youth with disabilities as they transition from high school to adult life. To obtain this information, Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) collect and report post school outcomes data from their former students with disabilities who have been out of high school for one calendar year. To learn more about WI Indicator 14, visit https://dpi.wi.gov/sped/about/state-performance-plan/indicators/14-post-high-school.
Figure 1 provides a summary report of the year the survey was completed, total number of youth in the survey, meeting criteria, competitively employed and the increase to competitive employment by year.
A review of the last five years of Indicator 14 data shows Wisconsin LEAs are making great efforts to increase the number of youth with disabilities that are competitively employed within the year of exiting high school. Between 2016 and 2018, there was a jump of almost 4.2% in the number of youth who responded to the survey and reported they have been competitively employed. The sample size of youth has almost tripled between 2014 and 2018, indicating more school districts are engaging in the Indicator 14 survey and providing more data to show a higher number of youth are competitively employed.
Wisconsin PROMISE Outcomes for Youth Receiving SSI
Wisconsin Promise was a project for 2000 participating Wisconsin families with 14 to 16 year old youth who receive Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI). The goal was to support youth receiving SSI and their families in achieving their education and career goals. One of those primary focus areas for this project was connecting the youth to competitive employment opportunities. Since this was a demonstration grant project, there was a control group and experimental (target) group. Early data indicates positive results regarding engagement, employment, and earnings outcomes. Wisconsin PROMISE youth employment rates went from 1% in 2013 to 67% in 2018, 10 percentage points higher than observed with the control group.
Youth receiving PROMISE services in the target group showed extraordinary improvement from the control group. The services with the most impact included connecting with DVR and obtaining PRE Employment Transition Services. The impact became even greater when the youth identified a member from the school and their care/service team that had a significant connection to them.
PROMISE treatment youth completed a variety of DVR and PROMISE services including 713 PROMISE youth receiving employment services, 594 met with a PROMISE family advocate, 576 met with a financial coach, 535 met with a work incentive benefits specialist, 532 completed work-related social skills training, 476 completed self-advocacy modules, and 351 completed health promotion fact sheets.
When interagency collaboration happens, there is a much greater chance of success when it comes to employment outcomes. This was very noticeable from the work that the WI PROMISE Grant was able to complete. It is important as educators, families, and students to connect with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) to obtain vocational services. To find the DVR Liaison in your school district, visit https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dvr/pdf_files/school_liaisons.pdf.
Success with Project SEARCH
Congratulations goes out to Aaron Matthews, a 2018-19 Project SEARCH Alumni. Aaron has recently landed a position with the University of Wisconsin-Platteville: Dining Services in the Pioneer Crossing after interning through Project SEARCH at this worksite. Aaron's internships during Project SEARCH were in Facilities Management-Custodial Services, Dining Services, and the Markee Operations team. Aaron fell in love with the day to day operations of dining services and to be honest, they fell in love with Aaron. He is a welcomed addition to the UW Platteville campus and has support from many different groups of people at the University.
Aaron has always enjoyed Hospitality and Tourism as a career cluster and his passion for this only grew when he enrolled in the Project SEARCH program. One of his mentors at the campus, Kelly Jo Hatfield - Student Center Operations Coordinator, had this to say about Aaron,
“Aaron is the type of person who sees something that needs to get done, so he jumps to complete it. He enjoys relationships and friendly conversations and it is these conversations that have allowed our campus community to feel a connection to him. What I love the most about Aaron’s journey through the program and now having him employed by Dining Services is Aaron is working in the campus community in an environment where he feels like he belongs. He is a part of the team and we are happy to have him here!”
Creating Lasting Community and Business Partnerships
How do we create partnerships? There are three best practices around building employee partnerships that can have a dramatic impact on the outcomes of youth with IEP’s: Amazing Race to Employment, Business Tours, and Community Conversations Events.
A great event that can create excitement and enthusiasm for a school, students and businesses is an Amazing Race to Employment. This event exposes students with and without disabilities to local businesses where they might seek employment, while also exposing as many businesses as possible to students who want to work. You can make the Amazing Race to Employment a fun activity by creating a game-like atmosphere, where small groups of students are competing with one another to approach the most employers and gather the most business cards and job applications. The Amazing race to Employment is fun, competitive and businesses really enjoy making the connections with youth who are ready to learn about entering the workforce.
The second identified best practice is Business Tours. A Business Tour gives youth an opportunity to see the business in action and make observations of the day to day actions that take place in all facets of the business. There are 4 crucial concepts to setting up a business tour to have an impact on student learning. They include:
- Research the company and find a contact person(s) to set up the tour.
- Schedule the time/date/transportation and create an agenda for the day.
- Prepare the students by going over questions to be asked, discuss proper dress for the day and rules and norms to follow when at the business.
- Create follow up activities with the students. Ideas for follow up may include feedback forms, reflection questions, create presentations or other visuals to summarize the event and most importantly, write thank you notes to show interest in the business.
The third best practice event to consider is a Community Conversation which puts a focus on community-based integrated employment for youth with disabilities. Community Conversations are a great way to learn more about what potential employment opportunities exist within your community and the surrounding areas. This event is a great way to bring a diverse set of community members together and create partnerships that can potentially lead to competitive employment for students with IEPs. Collectively brainstorming strategies and exploring resources that can be used to address the challenge of providing opportunities for employment for youth with IEPs will provide solutions to move employment opportunities forward. In short, Community Conversations provide a fun and creative way to find local solutions and new partners to address issues that matter most in a community. This event creates energy and enthusiasm for a topic in the community which lead to good outcomes.
With any planned event, it is important to follow up with your guests, businesses, students, families and anyone else involved in the event. By providing follow up, it shows there is a vested interest in them and what they have to offer. This type of communication often leads to job shadows, work experiences and potential employment opportunities for the students we work with.
Below are some great resources and tools to help you plan a community event that creates business and school partnerships to ultimately lead to competitive employment.
Community Employment Connections Series Videos - Amazing Race to Employment, Business Tours and Community Conversations. https://www.witig.org/professional-development.html
Amazing Race to Employment Planning Guide
Launching Inclusive Efforts Through Community Conversations - https://ucedd.waisman.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/74/2017/05/LaunchingInclusiveEfforts.pdf
Community Conversation Planning Sheet
NTACT - A Guide to Developing Collaborative School-Community Business Partnerships
Wisconsin PROMISE Data - Hartman, E., Schlegelmilch, A., Roskowski, M., Anderson, C., & Tansey, T. (2019). Early findings from the Wisconsin PROMISE project: Implications
for policy and practice. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 51, 167-81.
Fabian, E., & Luecking, R. (2015). Does interagency collaboration improve rehabilitation outcomes for transitioning youth? Center on Transition to Employment for Youth with Disabilities, TransCen, Inc, Rockville, MD. Research Brief, 1, 15.
Workforce Innovations & Opportunities Act (WIOA). Integrated Community Employment - https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/sped/pdf/tran-wioa-faq.pdf
Wisconsin Indicator 14 2014 – 2018 Outcomes Data. www.Indicator14wi.org