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Work-Based Learning for Students with Disabilities: Tools, Strategies, and Collaborating

Research suggests that meaningful work experiences in high school is a significant predictor of employment success for adults with disabilities. Providing individualized work experiences to students requires effective collaborations and engagement of families and employers. Engagement of families and employers are consistently reported to be the biggest challenges in the transition process.  This webinar series will offer real world strategies reinforced by activities and shared tools that help attendees improve the quality of student work experiences and increase family and employer involvement.

Customized Employment is understood to be a promising practice for helping persons with significant disabilities find employment. However, the elements of Customized Employment need to be translated for use by interagency school teams (education, relevant adult service providers, community partners, family members and young adults), or else the process may be viewed as too cumbersome.   This series highlights three main keys to facilitating work experiences for students, including those with high support needs:

  1. Streamlined Discovery and Assessment
  2. Engaging and collaborating with families, and
  3. Understanding Employer Needs and Writing Effective Proposals.

Taken together, these proven strategies create a process that allows for student goal development, skill attainment, support identification, and transferable employment experiences.

About the Presenters

Dale Verstegen and Sean Roy are Research Associates at TransCen, Inc., a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving transition, employment, and community inclusion for people with disabilities. Verstegen is a nationally recognized expert in building the capacity of employment programs and providers to offer effective community-based employment services. He is also a sought after subject matter expert on engaging employers. Roy is long time family advocate, national trainer, and curriculum developer with a focus on helping systems and programs forge productive partnerships with families of youth and young adults with disabilities. He is often asked to speak at conferences and draws from the experience of having a sibling with an intellectual disability.


Webinar 1: Practical Discovery and Assessment Strategies for Interagency Transition Teams

Session Description

Improving work experiences for students with disabilities requires interagency transition teams to embrace the possibility of competitive, integrated employment for all, and for those teams to have practical tools and strategies that fit into current schedules and workloads. This session provides foundational information on Employment First and supporting students to reach their employment goals. Understanding of the “employment process” will be established and the Positive Personal Profile (PPP) will be introduced as the driver of the process. Best practices in gathering information for the PPP including family participation will be shared and clear goals outlined that allows a team to move to the job development phase.

Originally Aired: Thursday, April 30th 10:30-12:00pm MST

Watch Webinar 1

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Webinar 2: Engaging Families in the Job Development Process

Watch Webinar 2

Session Description

Facilitating individualized and successful work experiences for students takes comprehensive information about the student and partnership with the family. This session will focus on the process of identifying student interests and abilities as well as potential work experience opportunities by using a structured family interview to enhance information gathering. The result of these steps should be 1) having gathered enough student information to begin looking at employers to interview, and 2) families who are willing to consider competitive employment and offer to help finding potential sites and supporting the process. Following these steps helps to avoid poor job matches and miscommunication with families.

Originally Aired: Thursday, May 7th 10:30-12:00pm MST

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Webinar 3: Keys to the Kingdom: Engaging Employers and Writing Effective Proposals

Webinar Description

The one piece of facilitating work experiences that makes educators and employment professionals uncomfortable is speaking with employers. All too often, students are placed into work experiences based on existing relationships with businesses or by using a “place and pray” approach. This session will illustrate a new model of engaging employers that is based on existing employer networks and learning about their labor needs and goals (not jumping directly to asking for something). If we better understand an employer’s labor needs, including specifics skills sought and specific tasks required, we can better assess if a student has the skills to be successful in that environment. Ultimately, a proposal needs to be offered to employers that outlines why a given student is a good fit and how the interagency partners will support the student and employer to be successful.

Originally Aired: Thursday, May 14th 10:30-12:00pm MST

Watch Webinar 3

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Bonus Webinar: Demystifying Family Engagement:  Concepts, Strategies, and Action Steps

Watch the Bonus Webinar

Session Description

Engaging families in the transition and employment process continues to be a struggle for many educators and professionals. One reason is that “family engagement” is an ill-defined concept - and that lack of a common understanding creates barriers to action. This highly informative session will outline current concepts related to family engagement and highlight strategies that educators and professionals can use to improve family partnerships. Tools will be shared that help educators and professionals raise family expectations and assist interagency teams in mapping roles and responsibilities and identifying action steps. Effectively engaging families does not need to be a mystery. With the right tools and strategies, we can come together with families and begin working towards common goals and improved outcomes for students with disabilities.  

Originally Aired: Tuesday, May 5th 10:30-12:00pm MST

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Contact Katie Oliver 


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