Resource Guide: Customized Employment

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Customized employment is a form of supported employment used to assist people with the most significant disabilities achieve competitive, integrated employment.

It is designed for individuals who:

  • Do not have a history of competitive integrated employment or are unable to sustain competitive integrated employment without long-term supports, OR
  • Have had experiences primarily in segregated facility-based programs, sheltered workshops or subminimum wage positions, OR
  • Have not had the opportunity to work due to low expectations of abilities

The definition of “supported employment” in 34 CFR part 361.5, means competitive integrated employment, for an individual with a significant disability, that is:

  • Based on an individualized determination of the unique strengths, needs, and interests of the individual with a significant disability;
  • Designed to meet the specific abilities of the individual with a significant disability and the business needs of the employer; and
  • Carried out through flexible strategies, such as -
    • Job exploration by the individual; and
    • Working with an employer to facilitate placement, including -
      • Customizing a job description based on current employer needs or on previously unidentified and unmet employer needs;
      • Developing a set of job duties, a work schedule and job arrangement, and specifics of supervision (including performance evaluation and review), and determining a job location;
      • Using a professional representative chosen by the individual, or if elected self-representation, to work with an employer to facilitate placement; and
      • Providing services and supports at the job location.

How It Works

In the Customized Employment process:

  • The vocational rehabilitation professional begins working with the job seeker and available friends and family to discover their interests, needs, and job preferences to create their vocational profile.
  • Next, the VR professional and job seeker work together to identify and learn about businesses that align with the job seeker’s employment goals.
  • Once the job seeker identifies specific businesses, the VR professional meets with employers to learn more about their needs and to determine if they are a good fit for the job seeker. The VR professional advocates for the job seeker and negotiates specific job tasks that reflect the job seeker’s interests and skills.
  • When the job seeker is hired, the VR professional helps to train the job seeker on the job and provides other necessary support to assist the employee in being independent and successful.

Customized employment is a collaborative process where both job seekers’ and employers’ needs are considered and met.

Online Decision Guide: Supported Employment or Customized Employment?

Vocational rehabilitation agencies offering both supported and customized employment approaches to pursuing employment for people with disabilities may have questions about which approach is best based on an individual’s circumstances.

TACQE’s online tool can help vocational rehabilitation professionals choose between supported and customized employment approaches when working with someone on achieving their employment goals.  This tool asks questions to determine which approach might be a good fit for someone you are working with.

Customized Training

More and more, VR agencies are partnering with businesses to build customized training programs. This training is designed to meet the specific requirements of an employer or group of employers; in many cases it partners will with a customized employment strategy, as it meets the needs of both the employer and job seeker.

Recommended Resources from TACQE and Partners

Here are some useful resources to get you started using customized employment as an effective employment strategy.

On-Demand Training


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