Customized Employment – Representation

Employment Development Representation

The definition of CE within WIOA requires that an employment specialist or job developer (representative), chosen by the employment seeker, be provided to assist with making the employer contacts and negotiations necessary to customize a job. WIOA also indicates this can occur through self-representation although this typically occurs more on an exceptional basis. Even though job development representation has been a traditional aspect of employment funded through VR for decades, Congress chose to include it as a defining aspect of CE. Since CE represents a departure from “business as usual” regarding how employment seekers become employed, the role of the employment specialist is multi layered and critical for success. Employment specialists have the task of getting to know employment seekers well enough to understand their interests, to present their strengths, and to negotiate their needs to potential employers. Representatives must be able to effectively communicate the concept of CE to potential employers and to assist in the determination of how the employer might best benefit from the contributions of the employment seeker through an analysis of the workplace. Employment specialists must be skilled in the techniques of negotiation as well as understanding basic techniques of making employer contacts.

Essential Elements of Job Development Representation for CE

A. The primary customer of the job developer or employment specialist in CE is always the employment seeker.

B. Employment specialists and the employment seeker, with support as necessary, should determine the individual’s essential and ideal features of employment, any non-negotiables, and their willingness to negotiate those ideal features with potential employers. To prepare for subsequent negotiations, employment specialists should list the employment seeker’s ideal features of a customized job that fits with their strengths, needs, and interests. Employment specialists should also help identify the employment seeker’s essential features needed in any job to be developed and any areas of potential compromise, such as workdays, pay, and hours.

C. Employment specialists should prepare and practice an initial presentation designed to explain the concept of CE and present the employment seeker to potential employers. Since relating CE to potential employers involves new and different information regarding the hiring process, employment specialists should fully prepare their presentation and practice it with others, especially with individuals who might be able to reflect an employer’s perspective.

D. Employment specialists should use all connections possibly associated with the employment seeker, the agency, and with the employment seeker’s personal/ professional relationships to schedule appointments with potential employers. As with all employer contacts, connections, including the use of referrals, enhance the likelihood that employment specialists will get a chance to make a presentation and that potential employers will offer increased consideration of the ideas discussed. Employment specialists should seek assistance during the plan for customizing employment from those attending and follow up with any contacts provided.

E. Employment specialists should avoid job openings and the typical personnel process when approaching potential employers. CE does not rely on or use traditional job openings, so employment specialists should clearly relate to their employer contacts that they wish to make a presentation rather than to assist their employment seeker to fill a job opening.

F. Employment specialists should develop strategies for assisting employers to identify specific areas in which the business might benefit, including unmet needs, in relation to the employment seeker’s strengths, needs, and interests. Given that businesses often meet needs by hiring for openings for staff positions, it is not intuitive for employers to look at their operations from the perspective of identifying ways to meet unmet needs and to address areas of specific benefit. While there are a number of strategies employment specialists might use—such as needs-benefits analyses, informational interviews, and in-depth tours—employment specialists should develop and implement an organized strategy for assisting employers to identify specific areas of benefit.

G. Employment specialists should emphasize an informational relationship with potential employers rather than using a traditional persuasion approach. CE involves matching the employment seeker with an employer that values the specific benefits of the individual. It is often the case that one party or the other will not find the fit to be beneficial. For that reason, it is important for employment specialists for CE not engage in persuasive, pressure-based sales tactics. Instead, employment specialists should provide clear information in their interactions with employers to facilitate the collaborative identification of mutually beneficial opportunities.

H. Employment specialists should develop a customized job description with an employer (with input from the employment seeker). All job descriptions are made up of work tasks and responsibilities. With CE, employment specialists should negotiate a set of work tasks, as well as other work expectations and features that uniquely fit the employment seeker, not relying on existing job descriptions.

I. Employment specialists should ask for permission from the employment seeker to disclose personal factors that may comprise the need for flexibility, consideration, or accommodation by employers. Experience has shown that one of the reasons that employers are willing to consider customizing a job for an individual with a disability is that they understand why the employment seeker is not going through the typical personnel practices of the business. This understanding often requires a form of “positive disclosure” that provides the employer with information regarding the employment seeker’s complexities and the work impact of their disability. This requires employment specialists to obtain explicit permission for this disclosure.

J. Employment specialists should negotiate a support plan with employers that offers the new employee access to all the naturally existing features of the workplace and, at the same time, offers the assistance of supported employment job coaches. This element connects CE with SE in a way that  attempts to maximize the natural features of a workplace in relation to the ongoing supports offered by SE

Written by the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC) and the Youth Technical Assistance Center (Y-TAC)  in partnership with Griffin-Hammis Associates, TransCen, Inc., Marc Gold & Associates, and Virginia Commonwealth University- Original Source: Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration

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