Conducting Discovery & Creating Discovery Documents
The WIOA definition of customized employment requires that an individualized determination be made of the individual’s strengths, needs, and interests for the employment seeker with a significant disability and that such employment meets the needs of the individual as well as the business needs of the employer. The role of this qualitative process is to determine who the employment seeker is by understanding their strengths (potential contributions to employers), their needs (the features that need to be in place for success), and their interests (providing a direction to the type of work that the individual wants to do).
Since Discovery is designed to replace traditional comparative assessments, a replacement for the assessment report provided to the employment seeker, employment agency, and VR counselor is also needed. How this report is developed as well as the depth of the report are both important considerations. The report should be primarily descriptive rather than evaluative, detailing the asset-based features of the individual. The report should also guide the plan for customizing a job description for the employment seeker. Additionally, the report should demonstrate depth to sufficiently capture the individual’s strengths, needs, and interests as well as challenging aspects of the person’s life that may impact employment.
The Essential Elements of Discovery and the Documents of Discovery
A. Determination of the individual’s strengths, needs, and interests should be the result of a qualitative approach of Discovery. If all employment seekers are to be considered for employment, CE services should focus on the determination of the best aspects of the employment seeker and avoid using traditional, comparative assessments that inevitably focus on deficits and challenges.
B. The Discovery process used should include the recognized strategies of qualitative research, such as interview, observation, participation with the employment seeker, and records review. Since qualitative procedures have not traditionally been used to understand the employment seeker, CE practitioners need to develop the skills necessary for quality facilitation of a qualitative strategy.
C. Discovery facilitation should strive to view the employment seeker descriptively rather than evaluatively. Traditionally, human service staff and VR counselors have been trained and socialized to view employment seekers evaluatively, comparing them to others and to standard expectations. Discovery proceeds from a descriptive perspective that focuses on detailing what occurs rather than how staff feel about what has occurred. Notetaking is an aspect of the professional standard of qualitative research. Facilitators should seek to capture all Discovery interactions using descriptive notes that remove the evaluative perspective. The facilitator’s notes should be offered to both the employment seeker and the funder. Notes should be based on direct observation and nonspeculative information from primary sources, including family and others who know the individual well. Additionally, notes should be shared with additional stakeholders identified by the employment seeker, such as family, friends, school, and residential providers.
D. Discovery should include interviewing the employment seeker, the family/ natural supporters, and friends.
Interviewing is a fundamental aspect of qualitative research and facilitators should strive to ask prepared questions in a way that feels conversational.
E. Discovery should include observations of and participation with the employment seeker in typical aspects of their lives. Observations of typical life activities—in situations where the individual is at their best—offer facilitators rich information and can assist the facilitators to identify skills and determine factors that need to be in place to help ensure successful employment.
F. Discovery should include an “optimistically” focused review of records pertaining to the employment seeker. While most permanent records are evaluative and deficit focused, a review of existing information provides a comprehensive perspective of the individual and provides detail that might not be found during Discovery interactions. Facilitators should be careful to keep a positive perspective when reviewing this information. It is helpful to wait until the end of Discovery to begin record review.
G. Sufficient time is an essential component of quality Discovery. Facilitators and funders should strive to balance the need to spend more time to better get to know the individual with the need to keep the customized employment process moving forward. Current evidence-based data indicate that the average timeframe for Discovery is 35 hours over five to seven weeks.
The Essential Elements of Discovery Documents
A. Discovery findings should be detailed in a comprehensive, narrative document that provides sufficient information to assist the employment seeker to plan for customized employment. This document should be narrative, descriptive, optimistic, non evaluative, and non-comparative. The Discovery document should be of sufficient length to fully describe the individual and to provide information for planning. These characteristics of style uniquely define the Discovery document in relation to traditional assessment reports that are too often comparative, deficit-focused, quantitative, and brief. Discovery provides the evidence for the recommendations for career development and needed services and supports.
B. The Discovery document should identify the individual and their living situation, family, friends, and current life status. The Discovery document should contain sufficient demographic information to assist employment staff to understand details about the individual, family, living situation, and location in the community.
C. The Discovery document should describe the individual’s life experiences, including past employment, education, life activities, skills, and other relevant features. The Discovery document should provide a comprehensive description of the domains of life that will affect or be affected by employment. This information should be provided in narrative form, avoiding charts, tables, numerical data, and other comparative and evaluative perspectives. Care should be taken to focus on the individual and avoid the opinions of the facilitator, professional staff, family members, and others.
D. The Discovery document should provide preparation for the employment plan to customize an employment options. The Discovery document should summarize information gathered in a way that identifies the strengths, needs, and interests of the employment seeker so it can inform those designing the plan for customizing a job with the individual.
E. The Discovery document should be “owned” and approved by the employment seeker. This element helps ensure that this is a confidential document—like an authorized biography rather than an unauthorized exposé written by workforce development staff. The fact that some employment seekers may have complex and challenging lives should not subject them to embarrassment and loss of confidentiality because of Discovery and the resulting documentation. Facilitators should demonstrate discretion in an effort to support dignity. These challenges can be documented in a way that only those needing the information for purposes of negotiating employment can have access. Dissemination and use of this document is subject to the approval of the employment seeker.
F. The descriptive notes developed during Discovery and the Discovery document, upon approval by the funder, should be considered as evidence that Discovery has taken place for purposes of receiving payment from VR or other funding sources.
G. Minimal standards for the activities that compose Discovery, the format and detail of descriptive notes to be taken, and the depth of the Discovery document should be set by funders, such as VR and other funders. Although there may be variety in the manner in which Discovery and the accompanying document can effectively be developed, a set of minimal expectations or technical standards should be set by funders and should be referenced in contracts that authorize services.
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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