Brian is a man in his 20s who loves working with animals. After graduating from high school, Brian worked at a department store, where his responsibilities were not a good fit for his skills and his interests. He and his job coach made the decision to seek employment that would better match his passions and goals. Brian was able to purchase valuable equipment and use it to negotiate with a business where he was eventually hired.
Brian was served by an employment provider agency in Georgia that was moving people out of sheltered workshops and into community-based employment. The provider was receiving training on customized employment. Customized employment is a flexible blend of strategies, services, and supports designed to increase the rate of employment for job seekers through negotiating with businesses to find a fit between their needs and a potential employee. Many of these ideas were used to help Brian develop and pursue his goals. The provider put together an employment planning team to help uncover his interests and identify opportunities within his local community that would meet his needs. This is called "job seeker exploration." The team included Brian, his parents, his VR counselor, his job coach, and a former teacher. They met regularly over several months and uncovered one of Brian's passions—working with animals. His job coach used her knowledge of the local area and found a small grooming business that had recently opened near Brian's home and began to explore opportunities for employment.
Brian's job coach approached the employer and asked what service or product they could offer to help them grow their business. They immediately identified a need for hydraulic lifts for the animals, which would ease the physical stress on the groomers. The job coach realized that she now had leverage to sell a solution to the employer. This is called "finding a negotiation point" in customized employment. Together the job coach and the employer went through a catalog for groomers and chose equipment that would benefit the business. Brian's team was committed to his passion for working with animals, and they brainstormed creative ways to fund this equipment. This would give Brian something tangible to contribute to the business in addition to his personal skills. The team decided to use funds from a Customized Employment Grant (see link below for more information) to purchase the equipment on Brian's behalf. Bringing this important resource to the business, the job coach negotiated wage and responsibilities and Brian became a salaried employee. Funding from Brian's state Vocational Rehabilitation agency paid for training that has enabled Brian to feel comfortable walking to and from his job, as well as early job coaching. Brian's co-workers provided the bulk of the initial training and ongoing support. A job coach checks in with Brian and the employer a few times per month to troubleshoot any issues that arise on the job.
Brian currently works 30 hours per week and has been employed for five years. His responsibilities include all the aspects of dog grooming and customer service, and he is in charge of independently opening the business on some mornings. His employment provider feels that Brian is not just employed but on a career path, as his responsibilities at the business have increased over the years. His reputation as a person who needs significant support on a job has changed into that of a successful entrepreneur who, through his own resources, has made a business even more successful. His employer has said that she is extremely happy with Brian's work and finds him stable, dependable, and hard-working. Brian reports that he likes everything about his job, including both the people he works with and the animals.
- Resource ownership, as in the case of Brian bringing equipment with him to the job of groomer, is one way for an individual to add value to what they can contribute to a business.
- Having access to money that can be used in creative ways is key in creating opportunities to become linked up with businesses. For example, the PASS Plan from the Social Security Administration can allow a person to purchase job-related equipment or provide the funds to start a small business. Vocational Rehabilitation can purchase skill training, capital equipment, vehicle repairs and insurance, work clothes, adaptive equipment, and computers. Many community rehabilitation programs can use funds to meet employment needs.
- Brian began with a "job seeker exploration" process, which asks the questions, "Who is this person?" and "What are the ideal conditions for employment? "This is crucial as it reveals the person's interests, skills, and passions that help the team uncover opportunities.
- Brian's employment with the groomer created a win–win situation. It resulted in a career path for Brian and increased business for the employer.
- Brian's financial contribution to the business enabled the initial connection with the employer, but his increase in responsibilities and his longevity on the job can be attributed to supportive co-workers, regular contact with a job coach, his own strong work ethic, and a successful job match.
For more information contact:
Cobb Community Service Board
Self-employment and Microenterprise: A Customized Employment Option
Customized Employment: An Introduction