Seamless transition can be defined as a sequential delivery of specific preparatory and coordinated services that begin early in high school and continue beyond school exit. Well-designed and consistently delivered services, focused on integrated employment, can lead to improved competitive employment outcomes.
Critical components of those services include intentional activities to assess and build career interests, preferences and skills. Work experiences and paid employment needs to be central to the intervention. Services should include job development with employers and opportunities for youth to be exposed to a number of different work experiences that lead to individualized, integrated jobs of their choice.
Services also should include academic instruction and targeted curricula that prepare youth with the competencies needed to be successful in 21st Century jobs, including vocational and technical training. Activities at each grade level should promote a natural progression with the goal of the young adult being employed after high school and/or enrolled in post-secondary education.Read less >
A coherent transition service model, which includes research-supported interventions, allows for a more clearly defined pathway to employment. Work experiences and employment during secondary school years, family expectations and involvement, and direct connections with post-school supports are the key services that lead to a seamless transition for youth with disabilities (Luecking & Luecking, 2013).
Transition services that included real work experiences, in local businesses, central to the intervention were found to have higher rates of youth transition into integrated, paid employment (Gold, Fabian, & Luecking 2013; Getzel, Rachel, Lau, 2013; Luecking & Luecking, 2013). This commitment to employment in turn must include earlier and ongoing collaboration among schools, Vocational Rehabilitation, and other adult service agencies in order to meet the employment outcome.Read less >
In order for seamless transition services to build the capacity within the local service delivery systems to better prepare youth with disabilities for competitive, integrated employment, significant time should be spent: 1) defining a systematic flow of services; 2) identifying and connecting with the key partners; and 3) determining the roles and responsibilities of each key partner. Services need to be coordinated and begin early in high school and continue through post-school follow up supports.
In developing a flow of services the following components must be included.
Discovery & Person Centered Planning:
Early services to youth should include identifying the strengths, needs, interests and preferences of youth. This is commonly referred to as Discovery. Discovery happens before work experiences and employment begins. This discovery process, which was designed to foster empowerment and self-direction, helps youth identify his or her goals in such areas as education, employment, and independent living. The information gained during discovery is documented on the Positive Personal Profile (Tilson, 2000; Luecking & Tilson, 2009). Based upon the profile, the youth and staff develop an individualized plan for employment, which specifies the youth’s employment goals and the steps and services required to reach them. Strides should be made to include youth’s parents and other family members in the process to gain their support to achieve the integrated employment goal in the plan.
Self-determination instruction should also be included early and throughout the intervention. This instruction allows youth to acquire the self-knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about their transition from school to work. Self-determination involves many attitudes and abilities including: self-awareness, assertiveness, creativity, self-advocacy and problem solving. Developing self-determination skills allows the youth to take control of his or her own life, set goals, evaluate options and then work to achieve those goals.
Early connection to VR
Active connection with vocational rehabilitation must be part of the intervention. The recent reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA), mandates that VR begin transitioning planning with students and youth with disabilities through pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) beginning at age 14. Provisions in WIOA recognize that transition is a continuum and it is important to provide employment related transition services to students and youth as early as possible. WIOA not only encourages early vocational rehabilitation (VR) connections, but also requires VR to spend 15% of their service funds toward providing pre-employment transition services to students and youth with disabilities. Both of these activities have been shown to influence improved employment outcomes (Honeycutt, Bardos, & McLeod, 2014).
Providing VR services to youth with disabilities well before school exit lays the foundation for more successful VR case closures and consequently more successful transitions for youth with disabilities. Specifically, the provisions for Pre-ETS include work-based learning experiences, an intervention that has been identified by research as the strongest predictor of adult employment for students with disabilities (Wehman, et al., 2014; Carter, et al., 2012; Test, et al., 2009). These stipulations, as well as the collaboration between VR and schools encouraged by WIOA, have the potential to open new and broader adoption of practices that lead to successful transition from school to adult integrated employment for students and youth with disabilities.
Seamless transition depends upon functional linkages among schools, vocational rehabilitation and an array of adult services and community agencies. The purpose of linking systems is to coordinate the delivery of services, share information, solve problems, and continue to build a stronger structure to improve employment outcomes for youth. Local educational systems need to identify those key adult service agencies that can provide the critical services to help youth enter into work. The intent is to bring these partners together as a team to foster their collective expertise and combined resources to improve the quality of transition planning and integrated employment outcomes. Clear roles and responsibilities need to be defined for each professional on the cross-functional team to reduce gaps in service delivery, minimize duplication of services, and decrease unnecessary expenses.
Work experiences and paid employment
Integral to any transition to work intervention are work experiences and paid employment well-matched with youths’ interests, skills, and abilities. The gold standard is paid employment and in an integrated setting. As such, employment professionals should arrange a variety of work-based experiences for their youth, with the ultimate goal of assisting them in obtaining paid jobs. Work experiences range from shadowing, volunteer activities, internships, and summer youth employment. Youth with little to no work experience need to be offered work experiences opportunities to gain necessary social and work-related skills for successful employment. Work experiences for in-school youth can be challenging; therefore, employment professionals need to arrange for work experience opportunities on weekends, during the summer or outside of usual school hours.
Outreach to employers and developing workplace supports are key factors that contribute to the success of any transition from school to work intervention. There are distinct steps to the job development and job acquisition process. Responsibility for employer outreach and the development of workplace supports falls primarily to the employment specialists. The ultimate role of an Employment Specialist is to facilitate the hiring process for the job seeker with employers. The best way to facilitate those processes is to provide quality information to the employer and the job seeker so they can both determine whether there is a match between employer needs and job seeker interests and skills.
The quality of the services offered to prospective employers is as important as the job seeker being represented as a job candidate. The services each organization offers employers before and after the placement sets organizations apart from the other employment agencies in the area. Some strategies to use in the job development process include the following: 1) get to know employers, (2) determine business needs, (3) emphasize services and benefits, and (4) promote services as a source of reliable workers.
Curriculum development and mapping
The curricula is an important component in preparing youth for integrated competitive employment. Curriculum mapping is a process to index the current curriculum to identify and address gaps, redundancies, and misalignments. As a result, youth have greater access and participation in courses and skill that would improve their career development and employment outcomes.
Curriculum mapping should be a collaborative process among both special and general educators as well as other community partners including vocational rehabilitation, adult service agencies, higher education, and employers. This team works to identify those learning outcomes that prepare local youth with disabilities for successful employment in integrated, competitive jobs that are aligned with college and career standards established. Once consensus is reached on the outcomes the curriculum mapping can begin. The process is intended to identify courses and activities currently in place which offer youth with disabilities the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to gain the competencies needed to be successful in employment. The mapping process also can uncover gaps in skill development and issues with vertical course alignment across grades which allows the team to determine areas of need. Once areas have been identified, teams can determine how best to build the curricula and experiences to address the career development needs. Filling these needs can be addressed in a number of ways such as redesigning a current’s class curricula, partner in providing community experiences for youth with disabilities, an addition of a class, etc.
As a result, the mapping framework and curricula provides local systems a tool to:
Youth with disability/job seeker level:
Roadblock: Families and students may not be aware of or be connected to services that are necessary to maintain integrated employment after exiting high school.
Schools are unsure what employability skills are needed for students to be successful in competitive employment.
Staff do not see the value of incorporating employability skills into curriculum.
Carter, Erik W., Diane Austin, and Audrey A. Trainor. (2012). Predictors of post school employment outcomes for young adults with severe disabilities. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 23, 50–63.
Gold, P.B., Fabian, E.S. & Luecking, R.G. (2013). Job acquisition by urban youth with disabilities transitioning from school to work. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 57, 31 –45.
Honeycutt, T., Bardon, M., & McLeod, S. (2014). Bridging the gap: A comparative assessment of vocational rehabilitation agency practices with transition-age youth. DRC Working paper. Princeton, NJ: Mathematic center for studying disability policy.
Luecking, D.M. & Luecking, R. (2013). Translating research into a seamless transition model. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, published Online 10/25/13. DOI: 10.1177/2165143413508978.
Luecking, R., & Tilson, G. (2009). Planning for work experiences. In R.G. Luecking, The Way to Work: How to Facilitate Work Experiences for Youth in Transition. Brookes Publishing Company,pp. 41-64.
Test, D., Mazzotti, V.L., Mustian, A.L., & Fowler, C.H. (2009). Evidence-based secondary transition predictors for improving postschool outcomes for students with disabilities Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 32(3), 160–181.
Wehman, P., Sima, A., Ketchum, J., West, M., Chan, F., & Luecking, R. (2014). Predictors of Successful Transition from School to Employment for Youth with Disabilities. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation. Advance online publication. doi:10:1007/s10926-014-9541-6.Read less >