This toolkit is intended to give information and guidance to any LEA looking to build or strengthen their transition team. This guide focuses on strategies and best practices to develop partnerships among multiple disability-related agencies to coordinate employment services for transitioning young adults with developmental disabilities from school to employment. It was created from the experiences, practices, and lessons learned from the Utah School to Work Initiative. We hope this guide and the supporting documents can help strengthen and build upon the work you are doing with transition age youth.
A Toolkit for Coordinating Employment Services:
Developing School to Work Transition Teams
On the following pages, we will discuss the Why, Who, What, and How of the Utah School to Work Project.
WHY: History of the School to Work Project
The Utah School to Work Project is a systems-change initiative that started in 2015 when it was identified that not all transition-aged students were being considered for competitive integrated employment. Further, these students were not getting connected to the services that may help them navigate a path to employment. This was and continues to be especially true for students with significant disabilities who tend to need a higher level of support.
In 2016, the Utah Division of Services
for People with Disabilities (DSPD) received a
grant from the Administration of Community Living.
This grant was intended to focus on changing systems to increase employment outcomes and opportunities for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The goal of the School to Work Project is to ensure that students with significant disabilities have access to the full range of supports necessary to live and work in their communities before they exit school.
As the School to Work Project started and continues to unfold, we have several key questions that guide the initiative. These questions include:
- Whose responsibility is it to ensure that students exit with individualized, paid work experiences or employment?
- During their time in school, what are we preparing working-age youth for?
- What are the expectations for students, families, educators, adult service providers, student’s peers, and community?
- What about students who there has not been an expectation or vision of employment for?
- Can any of us do it alone?
Between 2015 and 2018, nine project demonstration sites were developed within the state of Utah. Within each site, a School to Work transition team of partners from multiple services agencies were brought together to coordinate services, braid funding, and collaboratively support individual students through an individualized path to employment. See more in the “WHO” section.
Throughout this work, we have learned many lessons as well as uncovered challenges to solve. In this guide, we hope to share some of these lessons learned and how to avoid or problem solve through the challenges.
Why do we need a team?
The goal of a school to work transition team is to coordinate services from multiple partnering agencies and to ensure students with disabilities access the full range of inclusive supports necessary to live, work, and be active in their communities before they leave school.
Working with a team of partners that meet on a monthly basis to coordinate employment related services ensures that students and families are supported throughout the entire process. This process allows the student and family to build a relationship earlier, stay connected to agencies, and provides access to services before the student exits their post-high school program.
You must understand that it is not one agency or organization’s responsibility to ensure students exit school with individualized employment experiences that lead to long term successful community employment; we can’t do it alone and best outcomes happen when we work together. We need to be mindful of expectations among students, families, educators, adult services and the community and be intentional about preparing youth for full and integrated life in the community.
How do we ensure students with significant disabilities have positive employment opportunities?
• Have the mentality of “one student at a time”
• Recognize there is no checklist for each student to follow
• Have the principle of optimism – believe all students can work
(All students can gain employment)
By coordinating employment services among multiple agencies, with a focus on competitive, integrated employment for youth with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities, students will have the opportunity to exit school with a variety of meaningful, individualized work experiences leading to careers and other positive post school outcomes.
Building a Strong Foundation
Before beginning the conversation of employment for students with significant disabilities, there are foundational principles you must believe and adhere to in order to provide the best support possible. These principles and beliefs include:
To function successfully as a coordinating team, it is very important that you and each of the team members hold these values and beliefs. Without these foundational principles, a team cannot truly and effectively bring the full range of employment services to ALL students and therefore cannot provide best chances for successful outcomes.