Employment

Young man with Down syndrome providing consulting to another man with Down syndrome.

What Do We Mean By Connecting Youth to Early Work Experiences?

Every young person with an intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) should graduate from high school having had authentic opportunities to develop and deepen their career interests, as well as to experience the world of work first hand. Every young person can develop skills and strengths that have value to employers. But those skills and strengths are difficult to develop unless students have hands-on opportunities to try out a variety of jobs throughout secondary schooling. Schools can play a critical role in helping students make connections to on- and off-campus work experiences that build student’s aspirations, capabilities, and resumes in important ways.

Why are Early Work Experiences So Important for Youth with Disabilities?

Among the most powerful predictors of integrated, community employment in early adulthood is holding a paid job while still in high school. Research indicates that students with severe disabilities who hold a school-sponsored, weekend, or summer job are about 2.5 times more likely to connect to paid community jobs after high school than students who lacked these experiences (Carter, Austin, & Trainor, 2012). Like anyone, young people with IDD benefit from exposure to real work experiences that help them make informed decisions about their future goals. Moreover, early work experiences can help students learn those all-important soft skills (e.g. teamwork, decision making, and creative thinking) that are essential for any job.

How Do You Connect Youth to Early Work Experiences?

Opportunities for early work experiences can vary widely from one school and community to the next. For example, some schools offer work-based learning and internship programs within their curriculum. Take advantage of these existing opportunities. Networking with local employers and community organizations is another great way to increase access to early work experiences. Teachers can connect their students to job shadowing opportunities, career fairs, and mentoring relationships.

Think creatively when looking for job opportunities for young people. Remember that jobs can be restructured, carved, or customized to enable young people to perform at their best. Consider the needs of the employer when restructuring the job and communicate to them the business benefits of the customization. Shifting around job duties can increase efficiency for all employees, an added bonus for the employer. Ideally, job experiences should be mutually beneficial for both the student and the employer.

Where Can I Learn More About Connecting Youth to Early Work Experiences?

The following links include guides, stories, and other resources related to increasing access to early work experience for young people with disabilities:

Your Next Star website homepage image.

Your Next Star Campaign (Massachusetts Down syndrome Congress)

Your Next Star Campaign for employers (Massachusetts Down syndrome Congress) [link] Wonderful website featuring strategies for hiring people with Down ...
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Cover image of Transition 101 module

Module—Transition 101: What We All Need to Know About Transition for Students with Significant Disabilities

Transition 101: What We All Need to Know About Transition for Students with Significant Disabilities Take course for credit. Transition ...
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What Will You Do? The Campaign for Disability Employment

What Will You Do? The Campaign for Disability Employment [link] Shares videos of people with disabilities working. Email: info@whatcanyoudocampaign.org ...
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Supported employment

Supported employment [link] This video highlights supported employment employees who found work positions created at a veterinary clinic with assistance ...
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Exploring Self-Employment Opportunities for Persons with Developmental Disabilities

Exploring Self-Employment Opportunities for Persons with Developmental Disabilities [link] The video describes the value of being self-employed for people with ...
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PACER Day Training Questionnaire

Day Training and Supported Employment Programs: Information for Parents – Questionnaire Worksheet

Day Training and Supported Employment Programs: Information for Parents – Questionnaire Worksheet [link] Helpful set of questions parents can ask ...
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Day Training and Supported Employment Programs: Information for Parents of Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Day Training and Supported Employment Programs: Information for Parents of Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities [link] Provides information to ...
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Kentucky Employment Files Video Series

Kentucky Employment Files Video Series [link] The Kentucky Employment files are developed and produced through a partnership with the Council ...
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How to Build Partnerships for Career Exploration

How to Build Partnerships for Career Exploration [link] This booklet by the Keene State College site of the Monadnock Center ...
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Internships: The On-Ramp to Employment

Internships: The On-Ramp to Employment

Internships: The On-Ramp to Employment [link] This booklet by The National Consortium on Leadership and Disability/Youth (NCLD-Youth) is a guide for ...
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Kentucky APSE (Part of APSE) and the Bluegrass Coalition for Workforce Diversity

Kentucky APSE (Part of APSE) and the Bluegrass Coalition for Workforce Diversity

Kentucky APSE (Part of APSE) [link] and the Bluegrass Coalition for Workforce Diversity Organization that helps people with disabilities get jobs and be independent ...
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Office of Vocational Rehab

Office of Vocational Rehab

Office of Vocational Rehab [link] State program that gives funding, job coaches, and support to people with disabilities so they ...
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Kentucky Supported Employment Training Project

Kentucky Supported Employment Training Project

Kentucky Supported Employment Training Project [link] Program that helps people with disabilities find jobs that they like to do and ...
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Community-Based Work Transition Program

Community-Based Work Transition Program [link] Helps students get skills and training to find jobs starting the last two years of ...
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