Collaborating to Support Project Search for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Description of the Practice

Project Search is an internship employment model for job seekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) whose goal is competitive integrated employment. Project Search participants learn workplace skills and tasks in a combination of classroom and workplace settings at a community employment site.

Project Search is usually targeted at young adults finishing high school. Over the last decade, Florida has established up to 40 sites for transition-age youth. With the success of these sites, stakeholders in Florida began studying the possibility of creating Project Search programs for adults with IDD receiving Adult Day Training (ADT) services. The intent is that after participating in Project Search, adults with IDD will have the necessary experiences to make an informed choice about obtaining a job in their community.

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TAP Equals Talent: Agency Partnership Introduces Employers and Job Seekers Through the Talent Acquisition Portal

Description of the Practice

Florida’s Division of Blind Services (DBS) and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) use multiple resources to meet their employment placement goals. One resource that each agency uses is the Talent Acquisition Portal (TAP). Nationally, the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) oversees TAP. CSAVR includes 80 agencies, staffed by about 25,000 people, serving approximately 1 million customers with disabilities each year.

TAP is an online platform where employers can identify job candidates with disabilities. The purpose of TAP is to address the wide disparity in employment rates for people with and without disabilities. TAP supports employers who want to increase the diversity of their workforce, including individuals with disabilities.

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Division of Blind Services: Supporting Employment Staff to Meet District Service Goals during Challenging Times

The Division of Blind Services (DBS) is under the Department of Education and includes 15 district offices throughout the state that provide a full range of services to Floridians who are blind and visually impaired. Staff at the state level ensure that each of the 15 district offices has the information and skills to meet its employment placement goals. Over the past five years, including during the COVID-19 public health emergency in 2020-21, DBS has met or exceeded its annual goals.

At the beginning of the most recent fiscal year on July 1, 2020, the COVID-19 public health emergency brought a new set of challenges to job seekers supported by DBS. However, the public health emergency did not stop DBS clients from obtaining employment and it did not stop the district offices from meeting or exceeding their goals. In fact, the combined total of successful employment closures for all the district offices for FY 2021 was 788, 33 more than the annual total goal of 75

“This was a great accomplishment for our DBS team due to the uncertainty that the pandemic brought to each district office area, where COVID numbers and safety measures were affected differently by higher numbers in some areas more than others,” DBS’s business program consultant Stacy Smith shared.

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Mentors offer Support and Connection to Students Navigating Educational Challenges

When a student is at risk for poor educational outcomes because of a significant disability, medical issue, or emotional or behavioral problem, a mentor may be able to provide a unique, invaluable form of support different from the support teachers, other professionals, or family members provide. This is what mentors in the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resource System (FDLRS) provide to students in school and students transitioning to work or postsecondary education: www.fdlrs.org/.

The FDLRS is made up of six regional multidisciplinary centers (MDCs), each connected to a local university. When educational professionals identify students who may benefit from assessment and support, they can arrange for these services through the center closest to them.

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EmployU Prepares Adults for Success at Work

Description of the practice:

EmployU is a one-stop career service provider that began its work in 2012 and now serves 40 Florida counties from 20 regional offices. Its customers are youth and adults with disabilities referred through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), and the American Dream Employment Network (ADEN).

EmployU’s services include assessments, employment skills training, support with resume development and interviewing, and paid work experiences. Students access many of these services through EmployU’s virtual pre-placement training program. The week-long class offers access to extensive, convenient training to help individuals prepare for or return to the world of work. The class combines instruction with interaction through learning exercises, discussions, and quizzes.

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Apprenticeships Benefit both Employers and Job Seekers in Florida

Apprentice Florida

Businesses are searching for employees with specialized skills and training, while job seekers want to gain work experience and earn good wages. In Florida, the apprenticeship employment model is helping to meet both the needs of job seekers and employers. The state’s goal is that by 2030, 80% of Floridians will have essential work skills. The policy of CareerSource Florida, the state’s workforce investment board, supports the use of sector strategies to align educational and economic resources in support of this goal. Apprentice Florida is a strategy to implement this policy and reach the state’s goals.

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Arc of the Bay, Lynn Haven, FloridaThe Arc of the Bay Supports Staff to Transform Employment Services

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EMPLOYMENT FIRST SUCCESS STORIES: EMPLOYMENT SERVICES

 The Arc of the Bay’s board of directors developed and implemented a plan to transform the agency’s ADT to support employment in the community as a priority outcome. “We decided to play offense and lead the way,” said Ron Sharpe, the Arc of the Bay’s executive director during a recent presentation about this transformation for Employment First Florida.

They framed ADT and employment services around supporting adults with IDD to build employment skills and find employment in the community. This led to the development of organizational goals and objectives to achieve this mission.

BRICK by BRICK: Building a Talent Pipeline through Work-Based Learning Experiences for Students with Disabilities

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 requires that state vocational rehabilitation (VR) departments create local partnerships with school districts. These partnerships have led to improvements in the transition from school to work for youth in Florida with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).  

Many students with IDD aged 14–21 are accessing VR services before completing school through a work-based learning experience, or WBLE. While participating in a WBLE, students spend their time in a real work environment, taking on workplace responsibilities, acquiring skills, and gaining insight into their own work interests and the requirements of careers.

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Interview with Kiersten Lee, Agencies for People with Disabilities

Kiertsen joined Employment First Florida for our third session of the Profiles of the Employment First Interagency Collaborative Team seres. Kiersten provided us with updates on the work the Agencies for People with Disabilities has been doing to support Employment First in Florida. Listen to her recording to learn more!

Brick by brick: Building a talent pipeline through work-based learning for students with disabilities

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New laws are making it easier for vocational rehabilitation (or VR) departments to strengthen local partnerships with Florida school districts. These partnerships support high students with disabilities to transition to employment after postsecondary education.

One way that students can access VR’s services before completing school is through a work-based learning experience (WBLE). While participating in a WBLE, students spend their time in a real work environment, taking on workplace responsibilities, acquiring skills, and gaining insight into their own work interests and the requirements of careers. A WBLE also requires that students take an active part in the program, learning new skills and evaluating themselves on their progress. WBLEs are open to students with disabilities ages 14 to 21 who are still in school. Continue reading “Brick by brick: Building a talent pipeline through work-based learning for students with disabilities”