Defining Customized Employment
Customized employment is a process for achieving competitive integrated employment or self-employment through a relationship between employee and employer that is personalized to meet the needs of both. It is a universal strategy that benefits many people, including people with disabilities who might not have found success through other employment strategies. In 2014, customized employment was included in Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) as a strategy under the definition of supported employment.
ODEP’s Role in Advancing Customized Employment
In 2001, ODEP began implementation of a five-year customized employment initiative through American Job Centers in targeted states. Today, ODEP supports customized employment through education, outreach, and collaborations that promote the benefits of using customized employment as a workplace flexibility policy.
Strengthening the Workforce System through Customized Employment
ODEP has helped American Job Centers incorporate customized employment into their menu of services. The resources below demonstrate the effectiveness of this process:
- Customized Employment Works for Veterans: A Win-Win Strategy – This video describes customized employment from the veteran, service provider and employer points of view.
- Customized Employment Works for Veterans: A Job that I Love – This video describes the importance of discovery in the customized employment process and the positive impacts a customized job has for a veteran.
- Customized Employment Works for Veterans Brief – This brief describes five wounded warriors who obtained employment by using discovery and customized employment.
- Solutions for Youth with Disabilities – This video describes how to support youth transition to competitive integrated employment using customized employment.
- Solutions for Employers – This video describes how customized employment benefits the employer and overall business operation.
- Creating Opportunities and Solutions – This video describes how customized employment is a win-win strategy for employers and job seekers with disabilities. A Spanish version of this video is also available.
A Compendium of Federal, State, and Local Implementation of Customized Employment
Formal adoption and implementation of customized employment policies and practices is growing among state and local agencies, especially to improve employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities and other significant barriers to employment. This living compendium will grow to document new adoptions and implementations of customized employment strategies, with real-life examples of policies, staff and provider manuals, Medicaid waiver language, fee structures, and other capacity building techniques as they become available.
- National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities (LEAD) – Fully funded by ODEP, the LEAD Center promotes equal opportunity within the broader workforce system for youth and adults with disabilities. Their website features an up-to-date compendium of customized employment resources.
- Defining Customized Employment as an Evidence-based Practice: The Results of a Focus Group Study [PDF] – Customized employment efforts have generated support at the national, state and individual participant levels. This qualitative research study developed a research-based description that agencies can replicate to implement customized employment when supporting individuals with significant disabilities.
- Customized Employment Competency Model [PDF] – This guide outlines the competencies needed by employment specialists and customized employment support teams to successfully provide services to job seekers.
- The Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC) – WINTAC provides training and technical assistance to State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies and service providers to help them develop the skills and processes needed to meet the requirements of the WIOA.
- Essential Elements of Customized Employment – WINTAC developed this manual to help increase the number of individuals who obtain competitive integrated employment by making customized employment training content more consistent.
- Information on Self-Employment & Entrepreneurship as a Customized Employment Option – Self-employment has long been an option for individuals seeking a new or better career. Today, many individuals with disabilities are turning to the flexibility self-employment offers in helping them to meet professional and financial goals.
Discovery is the foundation for securing customized employment. It is a qualitative process aimed to better understand job seekers 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). ODEP worked with national subject matter experts to develop a series of resources focused on discovery targeted to specific groups.
- Guided Group Discovery: Participant Workbook and Facilitator Guide – The purpose of guided group discovery is to lay a foundation for competitive integrated employment, a universal approach that can benefit all job seekers. For some people, guided group discovery leads to customized employment. For everyone, the process can help to identify opportunities that would be a good fit for them and potential employers.
- New Approaches to Customized Employment: Enhancing Cross-system Partnership [PDF] – This paper explores approaches to bringing guided group discovery to scale through cross-system partnerships, leveraging Pre-Employment Transition Services and funding to improve employment outcomes for youths.
- Guided Group Discovery – Youth Version – Facilitator Guide and Supplemental Slide Deck – This guide trains people to facilitate guided group discovery sessions with youth and adults with disabilities and others who experience barriers to employment.
- Guided Group Discovery – Veterans Edition – This facilitator guide trains people to lead guided group discovery sessions with Veterans and others who experience barriers to employment.
- Self-Guided Discovery Facilitator's Guide [PDF] – Self-guided discovery is a set of strategies that can benefit any job seeker who faces barriers to employment. This guide reports best practices and lessons learned from three state teams that implemented self-guided discovery strategies to help job seekers with disabilities take the next step forward in their careers.