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Customized Employment Systems Innovation Brief: Implementing Customized Employment, Guided Group Discovery and Self-Guided Discovery in a Variety of Settings and with a Variety of Partners

LEAD Center | March 2019 | Report/Brief

Guided Group Discovery and Self-Guided Discovery are approaches that serve as the first step in the process known as Customized Employment (CE). Customized Employment is a strategy for helping people who haven’t been successful with a more traditional job search approach (e.g., identifying open positions, filling out applications, and interviewing). While a more traditional approach works well for some (i.e., people skills that most closely match the job description), often people experiencing barriers to employment don’t compete well and become frustrated.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 defines Customized Employment and requires that American Job Centers (AJCs) be both physically and programmatically accessible to individuals with disabilities. AJCs typically provide physical access (ramps, accessible computer stations, etc.) but, all too often, do not provide programmatic accessibility and/or simply refer job seekers with disabilities to vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs. While vocational rehabilitation is a wonderful resource and a likely partner, AJCs provide valuable services that can be tapped by individuals with disabilities.

During its six years of operation, LEAD Center supported Customized Employment pilots across multiple states with multiple systems to create employment opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities. Through this work and numerous pilots, LEAD Center staff created effective user-friendly materials and processes, based on the feedback received from partners in the workforce, vocational rehabilitation, developmental disabilities, behavioral health, schools, Veterans services, juvenile and adult corrections programs, Centers for Independent Living, community colleges, and other systems.

This brief summarizes LEAD Center's work, reviews advancing innovation through implementation science and outlines lessons learned.