The ultimate goal after college is to find a job. To help students with disabilities plan for their future vocation and gain work experience while in high school and college, consider the following strategies:
- Get Early Work Experiences. Many students without disabilities hold a part-time job during high school. They may mow lawns, baby-sit, walk dogs, or work at the local fast food restaurant. Through these experiences, students learn important lessons in responsibility, time management, and money management. Students without disabilities need these opportunities as well. In fact, having early, paid work experiences is one of the best predictors of postschool employment success.1 Check out "On the Job: Stories from Youth with disabilities" found at the Natural Supports website for stories about studentsí early employment experiences in Wisconsin. Also visit the Let's Get to Work website, a project of the WI-Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (WI-BPDD).
- Use Person-Centered Planning. It is essential that the student has a voice in his/her career goals. See Person-Centered Planning for Promoting Academic Success for more information and resources.
- Create specific goals for job experiences. The Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan provides a structure for monitoring progress in foundational and career related skills.
- Follow Best Practices for Transition. What does research tell us about evidence-based practices to support transition-aged students? Check out The 5 C's of Evidence-Based Practices in Transition for Students with Disabilities and the webinar Transition to Employment: Evidence-based Policies and Practices.
- Apply for a job on a college campus. Some individuals with intellectual disabilities may not be interested in taking college classes but would enjoy being on the campus. By becoming an employee of the college, the individual would have access to the wide variety of activities available to college students and employees.
- Check out the following websites and webinars:
- The personnel factor: Exploring the personal attributes of highly successful employment specialists who work with transition-age youth, an article by Tilson and Simonsen published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, reports the findings of a qualitative study examining personal qualities of effective employment specialists. According to the abstract, these qualities include "(a) principled optimism; (b) cultural competence; (c) business-oriented professionalism; and (d) networking savvy."
- Let's Get to Work, a project of the WI-Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, strives to lauch youth with disabilities into the workforce. The project website includes excellent and extensive resources on employment. Check it out!
- Finding Jobs for Students with Intellectual Disability: Where Do You Start? webinar is archived on the national Think College website as is Preparing for What? Employment and Community Participation.
- JobTIPS for a resource about employment for people with disabilities. This website has assessments to help match a personís skills and interests to a job as well as information about finding and keeping a job.
- Wisconsin Youth First includes many resources about applying for a succeeding at work. There are also a number of videos about studentsí work experiences.
- Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success is a curriculum developed by ODEP (Office of Disability Employment Policy) focused on teaching workforce readiness skills.
 Test, D.W., Mazzotti, V.L., Mustian, A.L., Fowler, C.H., Kortering, L, & Kohler, P. (2009). Evidence-based secondary transition predictors for improving postschool outcomes for students with disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 32, 160-181.