The Individualized Career Planning Model was being developed and refined in Montana with the support of U.S. Department of Education grants and the Montana Council on Developmental Disabilities. The purpose of the demonstration projects has been to create a model of transition planning and career development for students with significant disabilities which incorporates the use of Social Security Work Incentives, natural supports, and linkages to Workforce Investment and other adult agencies to promote access to community employment and self-employment. The model was created to address the concern about poor transition-to-employment outcomes for students with severe disabilities and to offer a model of career development and transition which could offer a solution. It has been piloted in twelve partnering schools, two education cooperatives, and two Human Resource Development Councils (HRDC) in Montana.
• The end goal of the planning is paid, community-based employment for each student regardless of the severity of their disability. The innovative features of the model include: customized employment opportunities, work experiences and transition planning for each student driven by the student’s interests, support needs, strengths and contributions.
• Entrepreneurial options or self-employment are considered as a post-school outcome or as a career experience option for students in addition to traditional wage employment.
• Alternative resources which increase consumer and family choice and control over services to support employment, such as Social Security Work Incentives, are incorporated into transition planning.
• Linkages between agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation, Workforce Investment and the schools are developed to promote the collaborative funding of employment and transition activities for each student.
The Individualized Career Planning Model was conceptualized for students aged 14 (or younger if appropriate) through 21 or graduation from high school. The model promotes individualized vocational planning within some recommended benchmarks and time lines for vocational activities. To ensure individualization of career planning, vocational activities (whether school-based jobs for students under the age of 16 or community-based jobs for students 16 and older), are guided by a process called Discovery and the Vocational Profile.
Customized Employment Versus a Labor-Market-Driven
Another feature of the Individualized Career Planning Model is that employment experiences and paid jobs are customized for students. This includes unpaid school-based experiences for younger students or paid, community-based experiences for older students. "Customized employment means individualizing the employment relationship between employees and employers in ways that meet the needs of both" (Callahan, 2002). "Customized" implies that the work experiences are created, carved or negotiated for the individual student based upon their needs, strengths and interests, i.e., the information gathered during the Discovery process.
Why customize? For students with a significant impact of disability, customizing an experience or employment setting enhances the opportunities for their participation. By custom tailoring a position, we can maximize a student’s competent performance. By removing or avoiding tasks a person cannot do well (or at all) and creating supports and environments where we know students are at their best, we maximize their independent and competent performance, increase their self-esteem, and also promote them as competent employees to coworkers and employers. If we place a student in a job environment or performing a task that doesn’t match their ideal conditions, we can set them up to be perceived as less productive, needing more support than they actually do, and dependent on a support person to work in the community.
The traditional labor market approach, matching people to existing job openings, has not typically resulted in jobs for people with more severe disabilities. When required to compete against applicants without disabilities for a job opening, or having one’s skills and abilities compared against an existing job description, people with a more significant impact of disability don’t measure up (Callahan, 2002). However, if an individualized approach is used to represent a person’s contributions to employers needing those contributions, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics, employment becomes a reality for all people. In order for schools to customize work experiences or post-school employment, the first step is getting to know the student. In the Individualized Career Planning Model we use the process of Discovery.