LEADOn! Article

A Programmatic Success Story

November 2023 | Customized Employment and Guided Group Discovery

In 2018, Toni DePeel, Pre-Employment Transition Service (Pre-ETS) Coordinator, and her small but mighty team at Oregon’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency began a state-wide pilot project around CE and, more specifically, GGD. The team focused on six different areas in the state, partnering with local high schools. The in-person, group-based curriculum asked five main questions of its transition-age students:

  1. What type of work environment do I want to work in?
  2. What type of work tasks are my strengths?
  3. What type of work tasks do I want to do?
  4. What type of employer do I want to work for?
  5. What industries might I like to work in?

When the COVID-19 pandemic shifted everything online, Toni and her team had to quickly reimagine the GGD process for remote learning. She helped the students stay engaged by using interactive worksheets and artistic projects that asked students to stretch their imaginations. For example, one activity said, “Draw or write out a description of yourself now. Then, draw or write out a description of your future self. Where will you live? What will you do for work? What things would you want to have?” Students held drawings and writing samples up to the screen to share with the group.

Toni also incorporated videos so students could see different work environments and career options, even when they could not visit in person. To keep things interactive and self-advocacy focused, Toni often encouraged students to think through their strengths and preferences and then share with one another, much like job interviews.

Toni’s creativity and the inherent flexibility of CE enabled Oregon’s program to provide support to young jobseekers with disabilities through the pandemic and it continues to thrive today.