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Work Toolkit:


The basics

Work options

There is no one-size-fits-all job or type of work.

Some people may be successful in a traditional full-time job, but 40 hours a week isn't the only option. Various work arrangements and options can align with someone's interests, needs and skills. As you help the people you support build their employment paths, keep these options in mind.

Competitive integrated employment is the preferred and expected outcome of employment supports for people with disabilities.

Competitive integrated employment takes place in the competitive labor force and places someone on the payroll of a competitive business or industry. Competitive integrated employment pays at least minimum wage but not less than the customary wage and benefits for the same or similar work performed by workers without a disability.

Competitive integrated employment includes:

Full-time employment is defined as 35 to 40 hours a week, while part-time employment is any number of hours less than that. Part-time and self-employment typically don't offer the same benefits (such as medical insurance or paid time off) as full-time employment. Still, part-time or self-employment can be a good fit for those who aren't able to accommodate a full-time schedule.

Some employment occurs during certain times of the year, such as harvest season on a farm. Retail stores or restaurants may have seasonal employment during the holidays. In Minnesota, landscaping or lawn maintenance positions are seasonal during the summer. If the people you're supporting are considering seasonal employment, it's important to plan for the off-season. What will they do for employment during that time? How will the off-season affect their benefits?

Customized employment is a way to individualize the employment relationship to better meet the needs of both the job seeker and the employer. The approach is based on the job seeker's strengths and the employer's ability to customize the specific tasks of a position based on those strengths. 

In a customized employment arrangement, a representative for the job seeker (known as a job developer) helps the job seeker find work by discovering the person's strengths and then working with an employer to find or create a position based on those strengths. Customized employment often involves negotiating certain parts of the job to meet the employer's needs while creating a good fit for the job seeker. The job description is personalized, and the person is hired and paid directly by the employer. 

Customized employment is a proven employment strategy for people who have barriers to employment. It can be particularly effective for nontraditional job seekers.

To learn more about customized employment, read about implementation and policies from the U.S. Department of Labor. Also check this helpful guide on practical solutions for employment success (PDF).

Some people may prefer the flexibility of self-employment or starting their own business. Check these considerations and resources for self-employment and entrepreneurship from the U.S. Department of Labor. Also consider ways Vocational Rehabilitation Services can help (PDF).

Working with supports is often referred to as supported employment. Supported employment is considered competitive integrated employment, whether the work is full-time, part-time or self-employment. Supported employment is an important way to help people with disabilities succeed at work. 

Informally, supports may be provided by coworkers, family members or others in the employee's support network. More formal supported employment services may be available through home and community-based service waivers or Minnesota's Extended Employment Program. Vocational Rehabilitation Services may also provide initial employment supports.   

Many people with disabilities have traditionally participated in noncompetitive work. These types of arrangements are intended to help people gain skills and prepare for competitive work. Noncompetitive work may pay less than subminimum wage.

Noncompetitive work includes:

  • Work crews. In a work crew, a group of people with disabilities (typically six or fewer) works together to complete tasks such as cleaning, mail sorting or document shredding. The crew may work at a single business or rotate between two or more local businesses.
  • Sheltered work. Sheltered work takes place in a facility owned and operated by a service provider. These facilities are commonly known as day training and habilitation centers. People in sheltered work settings often complete manufacturing tasks, such as assembling boxes or information packets.
  • Service-provider owned and operated businesses. Disability service providers may run businesses out of a day training and habilitation center or in a community-based location, primarily employing people receiving services through the provider. Common examples are thrift stores and recycling centers.

When considering noncompetitive work options, it is critical to ensure informed choice. Noncompetitive work should not be considered a long-term outcome of employment supports. 

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