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There are many things to consider when choosing an employment provider. First, remember that you always have a choice in which employment provider you choose to work with. Not all employment providers are alike, so it is important to ask questions about their operations and support levels. Some providers focus on facility-based employment while others focus on community-based employment. This is important to consider when choosing a provider. You may get better services with an agency that has the same goals you do. Critically evaluate every provider you speak with when considering your options. This article, Quality Employment Services: Will You Know It When You See It?, may offer some additional tips on how to assess employment providers.

 

Autism Now with The Arc has listed several quality indicators that, if met, will increase the chances you will get the right services:

  • Professionals acknowledge that everyone has the right to a job without regard to label or severity of disability.
  • The agency helps the person figure out their dreams, hopes, interests and capabilities.
  • The person receiving services helps decide what services are provided, how they are provided, and which staff provides them.
  • Rather than “fitting” people into existing programs, people are helped to find their own jobs (not group situations), and are paid directly by the employer at the competitive wage for the job.
  • Staff do not replace typical employer training and support, but only add to it if necessary.

 

When looking for a job, there are two general categories to consider. Provider-based employment and community-based employment. These two type of opportunities are described below.

 

Facility-based Employment

 

Provider-based employment means that a service provider offers employment at their facility for individuals in their program. This type of employment can take on many forms.

 

Sheltered workshop

This type of employment is complete in a group setting and at a provider-operated facility. It is often referred to as pre-vocational training or employment training. This type of environment is can feel stable and reliable for some individuals. Providers in this setting are able to assist individuals who have greater care needs as well as any behaviors that may risk the safety of others. The provider often contracts with local or national business to complete work contracts. This type of work is often rote and highly repetitive. Tasks can include labeling, assembling items, packing items, shredding, collating, stapling, shrink wrapping, numbering, folding, to name a few. This type of work is typically paid based on production. This means that the provider has likely acquired a sub-minimum wage certificate to pay individual by their level of productivity. Sub-minimum wage certificates require time trials. This means that an individual’s productivity and pay are based against a typical employee’s capability to perform the task in the same amount of time. Individuals are often paid pennies per piece and earn very little.

 

Stores

Stores are another type of facility-based employment. Providers own and operate stores to provide work opportunities to individuals. One common type of store is a thrift store. This type of business provides work in the areas of cleaning, organizing, pricing, customer service, and some repairing. The employee of this type of business may or may not be paid minimum wage for their work as some still utilize the subminimum wage certificate. Another option for payment is having some “training” hours and some “employment” hours. Though the number of hours worked is the same, some providers use alternative approaches to payment. Other types of stores are snack shops, drink stores, and craft stores. Though the public is invited in to purchase items, it is not considered inclusive or community-based employment.

 

Enterprises

Though not the official term, these types of provider-owned employment are trending. It is a modified workshop in that the tasks are not assembly in nature, but rather creative production. Areas of production can be things like woodworking, screen printing, crafts, farming, sewing, candles, and jewelry. This is a type of employment where individuals create crafts or goods for sale in typically the facility-owned store. Individuals create items for sale. Forms of payment are similar to that of a store.   Though the public is invited in to purchase items or to collaborate with artists, it is not considered inclusive or community-based employment.

 

Questions to Ask Providers of Facility-based Employment

 

Questions to ask yourself or to discuss with your family or friends:

  • What is your “dream job?”
  • What are you good at?
  • What does work mean for you?
  • Do you need transportation or other supports?
  • Do you need to balance benefits with an income?
  • What type of environment would you like to work in?
  • Do you want part-time or full-time work? Days or evenings? Week or weekends?
  • If walking to work, can you call a cab or take a bus in bad weather and pay for it? Who could you call in emergencies?
  • Will you have vacation and holiday pay? What will it take to get a raise?
  • What makes a “good” work day? What can prevent a “bad” work day for you?

 

Questions to ask job coaches or provider employment services/supports:

  • Do you utilize the sub-minimum wage certificate?
  • How to you calculate my pay?
  • How much do people usually earn?
  • If I want to move on to community-based employment how will you support me?
  • In respecting my decisions, do I get to choose where I work and how often?
  • How often will I go out in the community?
  • Are there time clocks, shift schedules, or meal schedules to follow? When are breaks and for how long?
  • Will I have vacation and holiday pay? What will it take to get a raise?
  • How many individuals have transitioned to community-based employment?
  • How much support will I receive from job coaches?
  • If I get tired of the job or need to change with whom I work, how will you support me in making changes?
  • How many individuals will I be working with in my area?
  • Do you offer any type of supplementary activities such as educational or daily living classes?

 

Things to consider when touring:

  • How clean is the facility and what is the condition of the building and furniture?
  • How cluttered or organized is the facility?
  • How engaged are the support staff?
  • How many community members are present in the store?
  • Is it busy?
  • Is the facility close to public transportation or home?
  • Is the manager present? Where do supervisors spend their time?
  • Do you notice any unsettling smells, spills, or safety issues?
  • Would you feel safe here?
  • Will you be wearing a uniform or protective gear? Will you be sitting or standing up for most of the job?
  • Does the type of work offered interest you? Could you do it for hours?
  • Is there a place to relax available for use?
  • Are people introducing you by speaking respectfully with you?
  • Do you notice any screaming, crying, loud talking, frustration, or impatience?
  • Do you value the activities that are provided by the organization?
  • Are restrooms and changing facilities safe, well-maintained, and smell fresh?
  • Do most of the people working there seem happy?
  • Would your advocates like to spend their days at this facility?
  • Would you like to work here?

 

Community-based Employment

Community-based employment means that a service provider offers employment supports at community-based jobs for individuals in their program. This type of employment can take on many forms.

 

Provider-run Community-based Employment

 

Work Station in Industry/Enclaves

Workstations are located in a community business or industry where persons without disabilities are employed and where there may be several persons working on different job duties or contracts. Individuals still have moderate support and supervision by staff members is available at all times. The provider may contract with business or industry. Workstations do not include provider workshops. Often these are inclusive settings with individuals with disabilities working along side typical employees, but some may be segregated wherein they are separated from the typical employees to complete their work. Transportation is typically provided to and from the off-site locations by the provider. Individuals can be paid anywhere from subminimum wage to over minimum wage, depending on the provider as well as the contract held by the provider with the business in which the enclave is set. Typically the individuals who work at the enclave are technically employed by the provider and the provider is hired as a contractor by the community business.

 

Mobile Crews

Mobile crews are small groups of individuals that work together within the community. The provider employs the individuals and pays them anywhere from subminimum wage to over minimum wage, depending on the situation and the provider. Mobile crews travel to local businesses to perform contracted duties such as cleaning, plant maintenance, lawn service, shredding, recycling, or other such tasks. The provider typically contracts with a local business for the services provided. Transportation is provided to and from the off-site locations by the provider. There is constant support provided by a job coach.

 

Inclusive Community-based Employment

These support models are listed from low support needs to more intensive support needs.

Independent Inclusive Community Employment

This type of community-based employment is where an individual completes the entire job process independently. There is no need for an individual to have a job coach or to be involved with a service provider because they have the communication and adaptive skills necessary to be successful in their work independently.

 

Standard Supported Employment

The standard supported employment model meets the needs of individuals who can self-manage in the workplace. These individuals can effectively communicate, ask for help, and know when to take time to decompress. They can complete their job without the need for constant on-site support. Individuals are hired by a community employer like any other typical employee and paid minimum wage or above. The provider schedules intermittent job supports to help with troubleshooting, conflict resolution, task maintenance. The job coach may visit one or two times a week for a few hours, depending on the individual’s needs. It is important to speak with the provider to find out about the length of services offered. Some providers have time-limited services and close your case after a few months, while other offer long-term support. Job coaches can also meet with individuals outside of the work environment to offer support services if they have chosen to not disclose their disability.

 

Group Shared Support

This model of employment is inclusive, community-based employment. In this model, a group of individuals are employed by the same community employer. The compensation for this type of employment is competitive wage work and the pay and any benefits are provided by the community employer. These individuals can work in proximity to one another or in different departments. It is at the discretion of the community employer and what positions they have hired for. The job coach is employed by a provider that the individuals have agreed to receive supports from. Individuals have access to a job coach at all times during their shift, though support may be intermittent in nature. The job coach promotes independence in the employees by creating checklists, schedules, and other tools so that the individual can be as independent in their work as possible. The job coach acts as a liaison between the employer and the employees to aid with communication, changes at the workplace, or other work-related issues.

 

One-to-one Supported Employment

This model of community employment consists of one employee working at a community-based inclusive job supported by one job coach for the entire length of the individual’s shift. The job coach is employed by a provider that the individual has agreed to receive supports from. Individuals request this level of services because they need a higher level of support in order to be successful in their work. They may have challenges with communication or adaptive coping strategies. They may require prompting to complete their work or they may have The job coach continuously adapts and modifies the work or the environment to meet the individual’s needs. The job coach acts as a liaison between the employer and the employees and helps to ensure that the individual’s work is completed well. Though this is a one-to-one support model, the job coach promotes independence through the use of schedules, lists, photo cues, and other strategies to help the employee be successful.


Questions to Ask Providers of Community-based Employment

 

Questions to ask yourself or to discuss with your family or friends when thinking about employment in the community:

  • What is your “dream job?”
  • What makes you happy?
  • What are you good at?
  • What does work mean for you?
  • Do you need transportation or other supports?
  • Do you need to balance benefits with an income?
  • What type of environment would you like to work in?
  • Do you want part-time or full-time work? Days or evenings? Week or weekends?
  • If walking to work, can you call a cab or take a bus in bad weather and pay for it? Who could you call in emergencies?
  • What makes a “good” work day? What can prevent a “bad” work day for you?
  • Do you want to wear a uniform or protective gear?
  • Do you want a job where you will be sitting or standing up for most of the job?
  • Do you want to work with customers?


Questions to ask employment services provider or job coach:

  • What types of jobs has the provider helped people find?
  • Do you do any assessments before we start looking for a job for me?
  • What type of supports do you offer?
  • How much support will I receive from job coaches?
  • How will you help me at my job?
  • How many positions have they helped people find?
  • How long do people typically keep their job?
  • How long does it take to find a job?
  • How much do people usually earn?
  • How many hours do people typically work?
  • What happens if someone does not like their job?
  • What happens if someone is not successful at their job?
  • Do you utilize the sub-minimum wage certificate for enclaves or work crews?
  • If so, how to you calculate my pay?   How much do people usually earn?
  • If I want to move on to a more independent form of employment, how will you support me in reaching that goal?
  • In respecting my decisions, do I get to choose where I work and how often?
  • How much will I be involved in the job development process?
  • How many individuals have transitioned to inclusive community-based employment?
  • If I get tired of the job or need to change with whom I work, how will you support me in making changes?

 

Things to consider when touring a worksite:

  • How cluttered or organized is the workspace?
  • How engaged are the support staff?
  • Does the type of work offered interest you? Could you do it for hours?
  • Is there a place to relax available for use?
  • Are people introducing you by speaking respectfully with you?
  • Do most of the people working there seem happy?
  • Would your advocates like to spend their days at this job?
  • Would you like to work here?