Supported Employment for People with the Most Significant Disabilities
Supported employment is a program to assist people with the most significant disabilities to become and remain successfully and competitively employed in integrated workplace settings. Supported employment is targeted at people with the most significant disabilities for whom competitive employment has not traditionally occurred, has been interrupted or is intermittent because of the disability, or who, because of the severity of their disability, need intensive or extended support services to work competitively.
Increasingly, supported employment programs seek to identify jobs that provide wages above the minimum wage, fringe benefits and career potential. Supported employment programs not only develop jobs for people with the most significant disabilities, but also provide a qualified labor source for the business sector.
The most effective employment outcomes are achieved initially by using natural workplace supports in conjunction with agency-provided supports. Many of the agency supports can eventually be replaced by natural supports in the work environment, similar to the ones that all employees receive.
Supported Employment Models
Definitions of Basic Supported Employment Terms
Benefits to Employers
Project EMPLOY, an Office of Disability Employment Policy program with strong support from the Society of Human Resources Management, promotes the employment of people with cognitive disabilities using a variety of techniques, including supported employment. Below are examples of successful Project EMPLOY placements involving the use of supported employment methods. In each case, the employment specialist located the employee's job, provided support services for a time, then facilitated the use of natural supports. The specialist remained available for resolution of new issues as they arose.
AMB, a real estate investment company based in San Francisco, had grown rapidly. AMB contacted WorkLink of TransCen, Inc., a local Project EMPLOY partner, for help in dealing with the increased workload. WorkLink's staff examined AMB's operating procedures and identified a number of areas where centralized administrative support would improve the company's efficiency and communication.
Working with AMB's staff, WorkLink created an administrative support position responsible for managing a central filing room for property purchase proposals and sending old files to storage. A young man who has a cognitive disability was hired for this position. He was responsible for collecting, filing, storing, logging and distributing submissions. This more centralized process allowed administrative assistants to spend less time on organizing and screening properties, thereby enabling them to devote their efforts to examining the properties AMB was potentially interested in purchasing.
Because of his successful work in Acquisitions, other departments requested assistance from this employee. Work-Link's staff worked with department managers to determine which tasks should be reassigned. A weekly schedule was developed, as well as a method of requesting assistance for random assignments (i.e., large copying projects, mailings or tasks that occurred intermittently). In one year, this clerical support position has grown from 20 to 40 hours a week, and the employee is now earning $18,000 a year and has full benefits.
Prudential Insurance Company of America
A young woman who has a cognitive disability has been an employee of The Prudential Insurance Company of America in Newark, NJ, since 1996. She was placed by Our House, Inc., Employment Services, a local Project EMPLOY partner. When she first joined Prudential, she was a part-time employee in the Comptroller's Department, where she was responsible for general typing, data entry, photocopying and mail delivery, as well as ordering supplies.
Since 1996, this employee has attended many training classes offered by Prudential and as a result was transferred to the Tax Division of the company. She has received promotions and is now a Senior Assistant, in a full-time position paying more than $24,000 annually, with full medical and vacation benefits. She has adjusted to new supervisors and their management styles and recently received a bonus for her efforts on a special project.
This fact sheet was developed with assistance from Project EMPLOY and its local partners.
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