The Pathway from Discovery to Job Development: Essential Steps for Customized Employment Success

The Pathway from Discovery to Job Development: Essential Steps for Customized Employment Success

>>CARY GRIFFIN: Well, welcome everybody.
I’m Cary Griffin, the CEO of Griffin-Hammis Associates, located
in Florence, Montana and with offices around the country.
Today I am working with our friends and colleagues at VCU at
the Research and Training Center and we’re going to be doing
a short session today on how it is that you connect discovery
and job development. So obviously the title of this
presentation is The Pathway from Discovery to Job Development:
Essential Steps for Customized Employment Success. Typically when we teach discovery, it’s bundled
in a larger format of training, generally at least 40
hours of classroom time and then it’s typically tied with on-site
technical assistance to help implement. But one of the
key issues that comes up is how do we take the assessment
information or the profile information that we’ve gathered on
somebody and then have us lead that, you know, lead us into
job development and guide those steps. So that’s what I’m hoping
to talk about today in the next hour. So, again, the idea is how
do we take this information and then link it directly to job
development and in employment development in general because
sometimes we end up with self-employment outcomes. So, discovery begins with the premise that
everybody can work, that there is no such thing as not having
successful discovery. Discovery is perhaps done incorrectly,
but the person wouldn’t be at fault at that point. We have
to have that assumption that everyone can work, even though
some of us, you know, me in particular, not always smart enough
to figure that out. But I think you’ll see, and as you study
discovery more and as you implement it more, you’ll start to
understand the clues that are revealed that really do make us think
differently about the employment equation. So discovery is the basis of employment planning.
It’s subbed in a lot of times for the traditional assessments,
be they paper or pencil or some other kind of norm-referenced
or comparative approach. And, of course, customized employment
moves away from the idea of comparing people to other people.
It goes so far as to say even traditional job descriptions do
not typically fit in this situation. We a lot of times have to
create something new that enables a person to go to work. So the
customized employment again is a non-comparative, non-competitive
approach. And as we all know in the law that governs
us, sort of the supported employment rules that have been
around since about 1986, it’s still called competitive supported
employment. So customized employment is kind of an offshoot
of that that says a lot of times people get in trouble in getting
a job because they can’t compete in traditional ways. We really
do have to sort of hyper-individualize the process for people
to become successful. And we use discovery and a customized approach
will all kinds of folks. It is a universal strategy in many
ways. The information I’m going to give you today comes
from working with folks who primarily have maybe never had a
job, but they might be an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran with a service-related
disability coming back, having started a career perhaps, or
learned something in the military, but because of their
disability or their new situation, they cannot compete in
traditional ways or they can’t do the work in a traditional
sense. So we would use a customized approach to restructure
employment and also gather information about that person that is
different than what we would get in traditional vocational
evaluation and testing. Discovery and your employment plan, or if
you want to call it a job development plan, are driven by the
applicant’s strengths, their skills, the tasks that they do and that
they enjoy, or tasks that they’re learning or skills that
are emerging, and then interests and conditions of employment.
One of the things that we hope to rectify with a customized
approach is that for many years we’ve focused on people’s interests,
but interests aren’t enough in work. Certainly they aid
learning and they give us direction, but a lot of us have interests
that we don’t have the wherewithal, we don’t have the skills,
or it would take us so long to get the skills that we would never
get a job perhaps. I have an interest in being a rich Hollywood
movie star, but, you know, it’s probably not going to happen
for me. I don’t have those attributes. I don’t have those skills.
And so we think differently about this. We really do focus
in on what can the person do, and through the use of good systematic
instruction, how do we teach somebody something that they
want to learn. So that we’ll come back to because that really
changes the way that we approach employment, the way that we engage
employers, and the way that we think about work. We also want to think about the conditions
of employment or what we might call ecological fit. Where does
the person fit best? What environments are they going to
do best in? And one of the things that I think we all know deep inside
is that, as employers, we tend to hire people who are
like us, and not just in a demographic sense. But we hire people
who like what we like, who want to learn the skills that maybe
a master craftsman knows. We surround ourselves a lot of times
with people who we share opinions with and that we share hobbies
with or that we share our vocation with. So musicians, a guitar
player tends to hang out with other guitar players. It’s not
only because they kind of speak the same language, but it’s
because you mentor one another. And part of the way that we have
approached discovery and customized employment is really trying
to leverage that natural mentorship that human beings seem
to have. But, again, one of the things that gets in
our way is that we have a real lack of intimacy with the community
and with employers. We don’t spend enough time with
them. Discovery allows us to sort of explore and leverage
again the willingness of a community and of employers to help one
another. So it is a little bit of a different approach. It is
a nuanced approach, I will admit. And it’s not something that comes
really naturally. Okay, and as I said, individualization is
required. Now some people on the federal level suggest that,
well, maybe – and the state level – maybe this isn’t quite as scalable
as other approaches. I don’t know another way to get
somebody a job other than to individualize it. That’s what all
our federal legislation says. The Voc Rehab Act in particular
really emphasizes individualization. It’s the predominant
model that we want to follow. We can try to scale things
and try to get 10,000 people at jobs at a time. I’ve never seen
that be terribly successful nor fulfilling for the individual
who wants a job. I’m an individual. My job is sculpted to my
needs in many ways. And as an employer, I want to individualize
my jobs. I don’t want people to just feel like a cog in a machine.
And I think that because of the multiple and complex barriers
of those that we serve, we need to individualize to be successful.
Right now the employment rate for people with intellectual
disabilities in this country is about 15% depending on whose
data you use. We’ve tried scalability. It doesn’t work very well.
We need to go back to individualization. Part of the process requires negotiation of
job duties and/or of employer and coworker expectations. It’s
not a downward trend. It’s actually emphasizing what people
are good at, and again, having robust job coaching, heavy on
systematic instruction, heavy on engaging the natural
support in a workplace. And employment development is really
determined by the individuals. It’s not determined by who
is hiring, or market demand, or growth jobs, or labor market studies,
or those kinds of things. We’re still very heavily investing
that in the rehabilitation and the community rehab system.
I’ve never gotten a job for somebody because, oh, the computer
industry is hiring. It’s always been around the individual and
where the individual is going to fit best and the skills and the
tasks that they can take to that employer or they can learn on
the job the way the rest of us did. I think for folks who are in transition programs,
transitioning from school to work, I think this is really,
really important that you not be focused on the market or on
growth industries in your community. I know schools get a lot of
that kind of information. It really is about figuring out who
that kid is and where they’re going to fit and getting them some
experience during the school year and their school career so
that they’ve got a good sense of what happens after graduation,
that they’ve got an array of possibilities, and that we’re
starting to demystify what it is to have work. In the old days – well, I guess today too
– we still have school districts that may have five or six
work sites out in the community and they rotate the kids through.
That does a couple things. A lot of that is unpaid work. So it
teaches kids that work is punishment. Personally, I’ve never
had an unpaid work experience in my life. When I started milking
cows on the farm, for instance, they paid me minimum wage. And
even though I didn’t know anything about milking cows, they
taught me and they paid me at the same time. Most of my jobs
have been like that. I think we’re also by doing very short cycles,
like one or two hours a week of work, that we’ve taught a
generation that work is only a few hours a week. And so I think
we need to, you know, through the school years, I think we need
to sort of be building up that propensity for work and through experience. So, customized employment again means individualizing
the employment relationship between employees
and employers in ways that meet the needs of both. So I need a job,
you need somebody to do these tasks, let’s see if there is a
match here. And I wouldn’t just be going out and engaging employers
by saying, oh, I’ve got a classroom here, or I’ve got a day
program here, and I’m serving 30 people here, and I need some
jobs for four people or even one person. I’m not going out randomly
getting to know what employers do. I’m actually getting to
know through discovery who that person is and then using
that person to target places where I think they may fit in
the community. So the bottom line for customized employment
is that we’re looking to work with the employer to satisfy
the unmet needs that are recognized – or sometimes not recognized
– in their companies. Now that could be internal needs,
that staff need some help. If you’re a line mechanic and you’re
constantly having to run back and forth to get parts
from the parts room, wouldn’t it be great to have a parts runner,
maybe? That would save time and that would save money. It also
may be that customers are waiting in lines for too long.
Is there something that we could do? Is there a position that
we could create or modify that would remedy that situation? So
the satisfying the unmet needs comes from a lot of different
directions within a business. So that process requires sort of
a deconstructing of job descriptions and then reconstructing them
through what we would call an interest-based negotiation.
That is here’s what’s going to be good for your potential worker,
your new employee, and here’s how it’s going to benefit your
company. Now a lot of companies, of course, don’t have
job descriptions, especially if you’re working
with small business, and that’s sort of where we advocate. And
I’ll talk about that more. But even if you don’t have a written
job description, the boss always has a job description in his head
or her head about the way that that job ought to get done. Or
you’ll find that coworkers or the manager or whoever that you’re
running into, they have some opinions and some ideas about
the way a job ought to be done. So the negotiation process can
be quite broad in working with a number of different folks about
rethinking – not overwhelming people – but rethinking in a
constructive negotiation process, you know, how is it that
we would restructure this work. Often DPG, which is Discovering Personal Genius,
which is kind of our brand of discovery, it may not
lead to a customized job. In fact, I would say probably at least
50% – and maybe higher than that – 50% of the time it doesn’t
lead to a customized job where we’ve totally restructured
a job or created something new. Instead what we’ve found is
that we find a good job match because, again, starting with the
individual and having really good information about who that
person is, where they’re going to fit, the kind of skills and
tasks that they can do for that employer, and the things that
in observing the workplace that we can figure out. I can figure
out how to teach that to that person, or I can support that
person’s supervisor in teaching them that task, or maybe there’s
some technology that we could bring to bear in that, whether
it’s an app or some kind of robotics or some simple template or
fixture that we could build. Again, it doesn’t always lead
to a customized job, just a really good job match. A better job
match than if you’re just eyeballing it, doing some 20 hour, or
10 hour, or five hour observation, or a test, really doesn’t give
you the kind of information that discovery is going to give
you to perform that job match. Discovery doesn’t ask what type of job is
best for this person, but it rather seeks to answer that
question who is this person. And Michael Callahan at Marc Gold
& Associates really brilliant on this, and as the architect of
discovery, really sort of bit through the fog and really helped
clarify a lot of the stuff that we were doing from the mid
’90s – in the mid ’90s In 1996 I think we published a manual called
Person-Centered Career Planning that had a lot of our basis
for discovery and some of the directions that we’ve gone with
that, but we have to give credit to Mike Callahan for really clarifying
where we were going and using very eloquent language in
the process that we adopted so that we weren’t running it at opposite
ends of sort of the same process. We don’t seek out dream jobs. Dream jobs are
things that maybe come once in a lifetime or they come
at the end of your career, actually, rather than the beginning.
What we try to do is engage people as soon as possible in the
world of work, and sometimes those jobs turn out – they don’t
fit very well. But this is how we learn. All of us have probably
had a job or two that didn’t really fit us very well but we
needed the money. And, again, those of you working in the transition
world, remember back to when you got your first job
and how much earning that money meant to you. So again,
when you take money out of the equation, boy, it really changes
the reason why you go to work. It’s more coercive than anything
else I think sometimes. I know that’s not always possible
for schools, but we do want to aim in that direction. We do want
to get as close to reality as we can. We use Discovering Personal Genius information
to find the best fit, right, in a setting that matches
those conditions of employment that I talked about, the vocational
themes that I’m going to talk about, and that promises a career
or skill growth. That is that jobs as they evolve, you start
to see this pathway for a person. And it may have multiple branches,
obviously. Most of us are pretty complex. As human beings,
we don’t have just one like or dislike. We have a lot of different
sort of vocational pulls or directions that we could
go, and all of us sort of know that in our career. But what we want is we don’t want to just
go out and get somebody a – let’s say a grocery bagging job,
right? That’s a big job for folks with intellectual disabilities.
It’s hard to walk into a grocery store and not see somebody
bagging groceries. And there are people who just really
dig that whole customer service thing, whatever it is that
brought them there, they found that match and that’s great for
them. But we know that that’s fewer than one or two percent
of people who really like and want to stay at that job. And so
in customized and in discovery, what we’re looking for are where
is the career or the skill path for that? First of all, did we
just go to the grocery store because they had a help wanted sign
out? Well, that right there, that may be a great first job for somebody.
But I would say that there are a lot of great first jobs
for people. There are millions and millions of businesses
in the United States, why do we always go there? Why do
we always go to the box store? Why do we always go to the grocery
store or fast food? We don’t need to go there. I hope to
make a case for that today. If we were going there, we would go
there because the person had a customer service theme, or they
had an agricultural theme, or a culinary theme, something like
that that kind of makes sense for why you would start in an
entry level job at that particular place of business. With that, during that negotiation, we would
say this is a great job. We know from industry data that
your average grocery bagger is only going to last about eight weeks
and then they’re moving on to another job, or they’re going
to college, or they’re going to tech school or whatever.
I would expect the same option for the folks that we’re supporting,
and that negotiation might be, gee, it’s great, and
what we’d like to see is after eight or ten or twelve weeks something
reasonable. What we’d like to see is some exploration of a
new job, of new tasks being added over in produce, or maybe becoming
a meat cutter with a union job, or going to work in the
bakery. Again, we would assume that we’re in the grocery store
for a reason, and that comes back to the vocational theme. A vocational theme is a broad category that
holds hundreds of thousands of job descriptions in a specific
area. If you looked at an agricultural theme, you would not only
find grocery stores but you would probably find farm to table
restaurants, and you could find all the different kinds of crops
that are grown, and then there’s the fertilizer industry and that
would lead you to chemistry. It just goes on and on and on from
going to veterinary medicine to botany to tractor repair.
That theme could take you in a lot of different places,
and so you’re almost overwhelmed by the opportunity that
you can create using this idea. You’re no longer scratching your
head wondering what to do. All you have to do is follow the theme
and find people in your community who also share a similar theme
and then you refine over time. So early career, early jobs,
summer jobs, after school jobs, work experiences, both
paid and unpaid as an adult, and again, keeping the unpaid stuff
to as minimal as you could keep it. But all of this can happen
through discovery or through job development using a customized
approach. So discovery is very nuanced and it’s a skilled
practice, which means it takes time. You don’t go to
even a three-day training in discovery and know how to do discovery.
All you’ve got is the information about discovery. You
actually have to go do it. You have to do that initial home visit.
You have to know what it’s like to ask somebody can I have
permission to look in your bedroom. Can you show us around your
bedroom? Because in so many situations, that’s where people keep
the clues to their life. They keep their collections. They keep
the books that they like to read. They keep the movie CDs that
they like to watch. All of that stuff is contained in the bedroom
or out in the garage. But as a matter of practice, we really
like to see the bedroom and the home. We like to meet with
the family if the family is involved. We certainly want to see,
if the person lives in their own place, we certainly want
to see that place. Discovery, you know, so it’s practice, and
what we find is it takes about a year. It takes doing four or
five discovery sessions, or generating a profile with somebody,
to really start to understand how discovery works and how
they can be so different one person to another. And this
is one of the reasons why discovery is best done with a team. So
a typical team for us would be your lead employment person, whoever
that would be, typically an employment specialist who would
take the person through discovery, job development, job coaching.
It would also involve the person, obviously, who guides
the team and who is in charge really. They may not do all the heavy
lifting but they’re certainly the center of attention in that.
We love to have family involved sometimes. We have had great,
you know, Special Ed teachers are so great and we’ve had so
many great Special Ed teachers involved with the team, both current
and former. That’s the level of their dedication to their students.
It’s very telling. But they can give us insights into
best ways to support a person, and how to instruct them, and how
to read the clues that they’re giving off in their language
or in their behavior. Right now discovery is taking us – the averages
are always tough, but about 30 hours. Some folks who
have had a career before that we’re working with now who have
acquired a disability over time, it might take ten hours.
And we’re not doing a whole discovery. I’m not going to
go find their parents unless it makes sense to do that. If I’m working
with a 42-year- old carpenter who has fallen off a roof and
now uses a chair, I’m not going to go interview their family
unless the person says, you know, my family runs a construction
company, or they have real insights that you need to hear.
That would be great. But we would start in a different place and
probably end in a different place with that person than the
typical person that we’re working with who has little to no work
history. So 30 hours, generally five or six weeks, is about
how long it takes to develop a good profile and then start job
development. So much of your job development, sort of roadwork,
has been done if you’re doing discovery. That job development
is actually not terribly complex at this point. You have so
many clues if you’ve done discovery correctly. So, again, that’s
a random number. I mean, it’s taken over a lot of different samples
and in a lot of different situations in a lot of different
states. We find that we have much better job matches
I was saying earlier. And what that’s meant in a number
of places is a reduction in job coaching because when you
have a good job match, you don’t have to constantly be augmenting,
learning, and fixing, and patching the placement to put
the supports in place. They’re already kind of there because you
have a good job match. Easter Seals Southern California that we work
with a lot has been tracking this over the last few years
of working with them and they’ve been able, depending on their
community and person, they’ve been able to drop job coaching by
20% to 40%. Well, that means great consistency for the individual,
for the worker. It means great consistency for the employer and
the family, and it means great cost savings obviously. And we find also that discovery means faster
placement. If you can get that sense of urgency and get
it going, what happens, again, because of better job match,
because you’re really targeting very specific businesses
in your community, when you’ve taken a lot of considerations
into play here, you understand the supports the person will need
and it means that folks are going to get their job faster. Kaposia,
which is a wonderful organization in Minnesota, recently
published some of their data on that. I urge you to go to
and to look at one of their latest newsletter. I think
it may have been late 2015 or early 2016. But they have a wonderful
little piece about comparing their placement data over the years.
They’re strictly a community employment program, so very well-run
and top-notch organization. So we start with discovery – we’re starting
with home and neighborhood visits. We’re meeting with the
family when the individual gives us permission to do that.
We want to enlist the family at that point. And again, I’m not going
into all of the nuance of that and the scripts. We’re in the
process right now of rewriting the Job Developer’s Handbook
and it will have a lot of that stuff in. If you just need a really
good chapter on discovery, we recently rewrote our book Making
Self-Employment Work for People with Disabilities. There is
a chapter on discovery in there that explains all of these
processes. And quite frankly, if you understand how to put
together a small business, it makes you a much better job developer
because you start thinking a little bit more like a business
owner. Also, we have Relias classes, our on-site classes,
on discovery that you can take as well and you just go to our website
and you can find that stuff. But there’s lots of information
on all of this. How do you conduct a home visit? How do you structure
that? How long should it be? And then we visit the neighborhood as long
as it is safe and secure. This is another reason to go with
a team of people. And again, the team is generally pretty small.
Again, the lead person, the individual, maybe a family member
or two, maybe a teacher, four or five people is generally
what we find in a team because then we have a lot of sets of eyes
looking at the individual, and their performance, and the
tasks that they’re doing, and the circumstances. I see things
differently sometimes than other people see. It’s amazing, right?
And so we want that diversity of thought in the process. But the
neighborhood visits, I’m looking for transportation, I’m
looking for employment options, I’m looking for clues
that maybe somebody else in the neighborhood has the same hobby
or interest as this person because there is a natural ally there
that maybe we can enlist in the process. A lot of times I’m
looking to be surprised. We also use this process called smooth listening
in this in that when I’m visiting the home, I’m not going
in with a checklist. In fact, I go in without anything
to write on. I leave my phone in the car. I let the people
talk and I have some things, some things that I want to get out
of them, but I can steer the conversation in a respectful, non-dominating
way. And again, the listener in a conversation is the
one who is in charge, not the talker. When you quit listening
to me, I’m out of a job. So we want people to tell their
story basically. We want to know about junior growing up and how
was Sally? Tell us Sally’s life story from your perspective.
I’m going to have lots of time to work with Sally. I may not have
a lot of time to work with the family. But I’m also going to try to engage them.
I want to know where do they work. Where do the siblings
work? What kinds of connections do you have in the community?
Could you drive your son or daughter to work? Little things like
that. Are you afraid that your son or daughter is going to get
injured on the job? After all, many parents kept their children
alive through seizures and operations and here you come
in wanting to put them in a factory or on a farm or something that
is inherently dangerous to the family because, again, it’s
an unknown. Are you feeling that resistance? What can you do to
provide safety and security for that family member? So often
I hear that the folks say, oh, the parents are difficult. No. The
parents are not difficult. They’re protecting their son or
daughter. I would much rather have that than somebody who wasn’t
engaged, that didn’t care. So, again, we learn these things.
And you may do more than one home visit to get the information
that you need, or just to check in, to be respectful. We interview, again, others. I interviewed
a sister not too long ago up in Canada of a young man who grew
up on a ranch in Western Colorado. Her perspective of her brother
was very different from the perspective of her parents.
And so we want to get those perspectives. We want to know what
do your siblings think. And again, all of this is done with
permission. So I like to, if I can, again, go back and talk to folks
who have known this person and knows this person well, their
friends and their family and former colleagues. We really, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not
quite so interested in skills. Skills are something
that very early on we adopted Person-Centered Planning and now Person-Centered
Planning has come back into – not that it ever went away. It’s a
fantastic process. Discovery is based on Person-Centered Planning. But it’s come back into the light
of day. Suddenly there is a lot of renewed interest in it because
the centers for Medicaid services have said in the adult settings
role that you need to be using Person-Centered Planning.
Discovery is Person- Centered Planning. So you don’t need both.
You need one or the other. But the reason why we moved to discovery was
that we saw right away that there were some things missing
in traditional Person-Centered Planning that didn’t address
employment. Things like Social Security benefits; pretty important
to know the impact of wages or earnings on Social Security.
I also want to know what do people need to live. So very
early on back in the late ’80s, early ’90s, we started adding a
financial page to the planning documents. But probably the biggest issue for us was
that it was based on what are you interested in doing. Again,
we can have all the interest in the world but it doesn’t get us
a job. We have to have skills and tasks that are exploitable
in the workforce or in the workplace or you need to be able to
teach those and learn those. We really focus on tasks and skills.
And Michael Callahan, again, is so clear in his writings
on this topic. We kind of came at it both from a little bit
different direction but it’s the same stuff and we really need
to hunker down. So if you’re going to do discovery, what I would
also say is that you need to learn systematic instruction, whatever
you call it in your state. Precision learning, arrowless
learning, whatever it is, it’s based on engineering principles. We tend to also only job-develop up to our
level of competency to teach. So this is why you don’t
see people with welding jobs because there are only a few
of us who know how to weld, I think, who have ever been job developers.
And so we tend not to teach that. Not that you need to know
how to do that, but you need to be able to break that job down
and then engage the person who would typically train somebody
who was going to do some welding tasks on a job. Who are they?
Where is that coworker or that manager who is going to teach
that person typically? Can I give them some insights into
how I would train this person? How would I break down that job
and the kind of cues and supports that I would use to do that? Again, discovery and job development are not
isolated. All this stuff is interconnected. And if you’re
missing the accomplishments and the skills and the practice
in one area, it’s going to impact the other areas. This
is one of the reasons why we’ve worked so hard at VCU, us and Marc
Gold & Associates, WiSe out in Seattle, a lot of us have really
worked hard to professionalize the frontline services. This
is what the Association of Community Rehab Educators,
or ACRE, is about. This is what APSE is about. It’s professionalizing
this. So we also want to, again, perform skills
and tasks observation in multiple environments. A lot
of this is done around the house. You can have families do
this work. If Dad says, well, you know, Sam mows the lawn with
me every Saturday. Well, great. Could you shoot some video of
that or some pictures of that for us? Or could we come over Saturday
and help you mow the lawn and observe that? You really do want
to observe what the person does and the kind of supports that
they’re given in the process. You might also see places where,
wow, with a little bit of additional instruction, I can have
that person running the power mower by themselves instead of Dad
having to be with them all the time. Again, good job coach approaches. Again, I can give you some examples of the
kind of activities that we’ve been doing lately. We worked with
a lady in East Los Angeles who had grown up with her mom teaching
her how to make just the best Mexican food in the world, but
she had never baked anything. And cooking is different than baking.
And so we said, okay, well we’re going to observe you cooking,
we’re going to go grocery shopping, we’re going to the farmer’s
market, we’re going to put together several dishes, and
we’d do that in her kitchen where she’s comfortable and where
she has the tools that she uses and is familiar with. And then we
said we also like to do something that’s related but different
to see how people adapt, to see how people generalize. We said,
well, what would you like to bake but you’ve never baked? She
goes, oh, you know, a pineapple upside-down cake. And so we got
the recipe and got the ingredients and she had a blast. And we
learned that she could measure because she wasn’t measuring
during her cooking activities because she just eyeballed it the
way most of us cook. But baking is a very precise art. So
we watched that and ended up getting her a couple different jobs
– part-time jobs that were created for her. So, again, it could be as simple as going
into a garage and changing the oil in the car. Again, that could
be done at home, that could be done with a staff car if the
person had some sort of transportation or mechanical theme. But
we want to take that information and make sure that it is observable.
That is that there is an action in there that we could
take a picture of that. We want to document things and we tend
to shoot less video than we shoot still pictures because we can
use the still pictures later in a digital resume for the
person. We avoid situations where there isn’t action.
If you’ve got somebody who you think has, let’s say, an
emerging fashion theme for instance. Going window shopping in the
mall, that’s not really a discovery activity. There’s not anything
really measurable there or that I could take a picture
of and show it to my grandma and say, Grandma, what’s this
person doing? There’s no action to it. There’s nothing to
show an employer that would impress that person. Anyway, through
the process we take notes on what it is that we observed.
It’s important to not speculate. It’s important not to say little
things like, well, she did this but she didn’t do it very well.
Na, na, na, na. Just write what you saw. The other piece here, too, is as you’re doing
activities, if you’re doing activities in front of other
people, we want to use that systematic instruction. We’ve had cases
where we’ve – recently we took a person into a soap making
company. They make hand soaps. And this wonderful teacher that
we worked with, just great, but she was just learning this stuff.
The young man that we were working with, the employer set up
a big block of soap for cutting. You use this – basically it’s
a wire. It’s like a cheese cutter and you just slide it down over
the soap. And it cuts the soap, and then you come back and
you do a couple more cuts, and pretty soon you have 12 bars of
soap. The teacher didn’t know to get her hands in there and
help this person with the cutter and just let him kind of fumble
around in front of the employer. Well, what’s the employer seeing? The employer
is seeing, well, this kid is incompetent. Well, no. The
kid is like every other person who has never cut soap before.
I wouldn’t know what to do with that or how to do it. I would need
some guidance on that. So we would show the person first and
then we might even do like a hand over hand and then fade that
really quickly because you fade hand over hands – generally
it fades really fast, which is why we use hand over hand,
because it’s a really easy prompt to get rid of. Much easier to
get rid of than a verbal prompt, for instance. So you want to
use your skills through even the activities because you don’t
want that person to look incompetent in front of an employer
or in front of anybody else really. So just be careful of
that when you’re doing activities out in public. And again, this idea of speculation. And again,
it may be a minor point, but what we’re seeking is this
clarity of what it was that we witnessed when the person did
these particular activities or when we did a home visit or
a neighborhood visit when we’re identifying behavioral cues sometimes
or clues. So here are some that I just pulled out of some
discovery staging records, which is where we put the profile
information or the discovery information. The house was quite
clean in anticipation of our visit. You don’t know that. I mean,
it’s not a wild guess, but it’s enough to say the house was
quite clean and then tie that to something later that might make
sense because Jennifer is fastidious, and in observation,
she won’t leave the house in the morning until she’s dusted and
vacuumed. Something like that. Something very observable. You
could take a picture of that. And guess what? You’ve just identified
some skills and tasks that the person can do that might be
really important for job development down the road. Bob has a collection of Country & Western
CDs period. Instead of because he identifies with the stories
the song tells. You may or may not know that, but is it really
important at this point? It probably isn’t. I have a bunch of
CDs too because I like the stories that they tell. It doesn’t
have very much bearing on my work unless maybe I have an
entertainment theme or a music theme. Mom is overprotective. Again,
something that we see all the time. Or Dad is overprotective,
or sister is overprotective. Leave that alone. Again, I
think if you’re seeing clues like that, ask the question.
Are there safety concerns? Something to that degree. Are you
worried about losing SSI? And that’s not maybe the first date question.
That’s a second visit question. Dad sat in the kitchen
while the rest of us talked. That’s all we need to know. He
feels intimidated by the team. You don’t really know that, so don’t
put that in. And even if you did, great, keep it to yourself
and work on that. Work to engage Dad if you can. Bob showed
off his tool collection because he’s proud of his skills.
Eh, you don’t know that, right? Maybe he just likes to collect
tools. Maybe that’s the thing. It’s not the end of the world if you include
a little speculation, okay? But the problem is that
the more you make judgments, the farther you get from where
the ball should be. The more congested the conversation and the
information gets. It gets convoluted. And what starts to happen
is you start to talk yourself out of this person going to work.
And so that’s one of the reasons why I bring this up is don’t put
up barriers against who this person is. So discovery activities confirm and investigate
skills and tasks. If you’ve got a hunch, go out and do
something. You got somebody with a transportation theme, don’t
think, oh, well, he keeps telling me he wants to drive but he
can’t pass a driver’s test. Great. There’s hundreds of thousands
of jobs that require you to drive that don’t require a driver’s
license. I had a bunch of them when I was a kid. I drove a
forklift in a pickle factory. I was 13 years old, I think. I drove
all over – every vehicle on the farm I drove along before I
was of age to have a driver’s license. So we have to rethink. I
always keep in mind that Wilbur and Orville Wright did not have
pilot’s licenses. So, again, the activities should really be
driven by what does the person want to do. Figure it out. We meet
a lot of people who say I want to drive. Well, I don’t know
whether that’s something that person is going to do for a
living, but if I’m struggling for ideas with that person, I’m
taking it and we’re going to the go-cart track for a couple hours
or something. We’re going to go play a round of golf and
he can drive the cart. That’s mostly what I would do anyway
because I don’t play golf. Again, a lot of this stuff can be done around
the home or in the community. You’ve got somebody with an
emerging agriculture theme, right? I didn’t say a gardening theme
because gardening is part of agriculture, right? So gardening
is too restrictive. Agriculture is huge. Hundreds of thousands
of people, millions of people work in agriculture, right? Only
this many people do gardening. We’ll get there, but you’re going
to miss something along the way. If somebody grows up working
with their mom in the rose garden, well that’s great, but there’s
a big world out there. Maybe this is going to be the greatest
wheat farmer ever, or maybe they’re going to work at a flour
mill or whatever. You’re counting yourself out by over-focusing,
right? So, again, be broad in your vocational themes. And again,
we have lots written on vocational themes. You can go to
our website and look at that stuff. So an activity, again, is active.
The person must be engaged. And you should be able to take
a picture. Again, you want to use those pictures later maybe selectively
in a portfolio. For work trials, I like to use nonprofits
instead of for- profits unless I’ve got a for-profit that
I think, well, you know, this might turn into a job, or this
is a place that maybe I’m never coming back here. But I think we
also need to be careful about nonprofits. Every community
on earth has a group of folks with intellectual disabilities working
in the food bank, working in the Humane Society, and of
course it’s non-paid and it’s long-term. I try to stay out of those
places. We’ve learned what we’re going to learn in those
places, I think, for the most part. The community is a really rich
environment. There’s so much going on there – even in the
smallest of communities – that we tend to underutilize
our community. Again, try an activity or two in unfamiliar locations
or performing unfamiliar or unrelated kinds of tasks. So we also use informational interviews. It’s
a very old strategy. But again, we’ve nuanced it for
discovery and for customized employment. We use them in job
development. I’m not really going to talk about that today and
how we use that. But we do go in saying we’re doing job development
right now. We’re not hiding from that. In discovery, we’re
setting up informational interviews as a way of engaging
employers, but we’re asking for advice. So it’s that idea
of asking for advice versus asking for a job. People love to give
you advice, so we set it up that we ask very specifically for
seat time. We want to sit down, okay, here’s the deal. Here’s
the script. I’m working with a young man who is interested
in aviation. I’m a career counsellor, I don’t know very much
about aviation, so we’re interviewing a number of people who
are successful in aviation and we’d like to have about 20 minutes
of your time where we could come in and get some ideas
from you and some advice about how it is that, you know, if
you were starting over in aviation, what would you do. What advice
would you give to this young person? We get about 85% of the
calls that we make or however we engage them, sometimes it’s a call,
sometimes it’s face-to-face, sometimes it’s email, we like
to have a connection to that person. The other night I was in a restaurant that’s
owned by my friend’s friend Joan, and talking to Fred
– Fred’s the chef – and talking to him about his suppliers. He’s
a farm to table kind of restaurant. He’s got 50 local suppliers.
So if I’m working with somebody with a culinary or an
agricultural theme, I just go to Fred and say, hey, I’m working
with this guy and the guy is really interested in meat, or dead
animals, or however you want to say it, butchering. Who
is your meat guy? Who’s the guy who is making your cold cuts?
Who you got? Well, he’s got ten different people, right? And
then there’s the seafood guy. All I have to do is ask Fred
for a favor. Can you introduce me? Can you give me a name and I’ll
just say, hey, Fred suggested I talk to you. Some warming
up of that call. Look in your check book and see where you’re spending
money. Go to your organization’s accounts receivable and
see who you’re buying and selling to. You buy a lot of stuff
in the community. Are you leveraging that? And again, at this point, we’re not looking
for jobs. I want some seat time. I want to sit down with you,
and if we have time after we’re done talking, could we get a tour
maybe? But a tour, I don’t really care about the tour in the
beginning. What I care about is sitting across the table from somebody
who has never sat across the table with somebody who maybe
has autism and has a seizure disorder and is wearing a helmet.
In five or ten minutes, we can start to humanize that. But
if we’re walking around a factory or a shop, we’re not having
face-to-face conversation. This person is busy talking
to his team and signing papers that have to be signed and
showing us the equipment and stuff. I want quiet. I want
a place for a conversation. Again, it’s more in-depth than
that. But I’ve found that if I ask for 20 minutes, then that
seems to be the sweet spot. It’s not too little and it’s not
so much that I’m going to take up their whole day. People love
to talk about what they do. I don’t think we’ve ever done an
informational interview in less than an hour. Again, part of this process is determining
the vocational themes and the evidence for those themes.
And again, then we have – depending on what state you’re in and
how you prefer to do it, a lot of times we say discovery is
done when you have evidence for three overarching vocational
themes. That is you’ve done activities, these indeed are themes,
there are some skills and tasks that the person knows how to do,
that you are also saying I know how to teach this person more
of these kinds of things, or they’ll learn more of these if
I can get them into this particular worksite. After that in career
development, what we do is a list of 20. That’s a list of 20
companies or places to work, accessible to the person, for each
of the vocational themes. So, 60 of those. Now that blows people’s
heads off when I say 60 potential businesses. Out west in Montana, we have a thing called
the Google. I used Google the other day to do a list of
20 for somebody – well, a list of 60 actually – for somebody
whose profile was basically done, we had evidence of their three
vocational themes, they’re in a moderately sized company
or town of about 25,000 people, and it took me about an hour
working 1,000 miles away to do their draft list of 20. So it’s
not difficult. Plus you already know people and you’re going out
during discovery doing this, so you should already have some
ideas. That list will change. That list will change as you
do it and as you add to it through the discovery process. What do I want to know? The bottom line is
what I need to know about people is when and where is this
person in flow? When and where is this person doing what they like
to do? That’s an important thing. And, of course, all of us
have multiple places of those. Even if we haven’t ever worked,
we have things that we like to do, and so part of our job is figuring
that out. When and where are the support needs the highest?
Think about in your own life, when are you melting down? We need
to know that because we need to figure out the supports
or we need to figure out how do we avoid these situations and these
environments. And then again, the people who know this person
best because I can learn from them, obviously, including that
person. Again, we want the most engaging interests
and tasks that we can kind of find. A lot of times what we’ll
find is there will be a dominant theme and then a couple of other
sort of residual themes. That’s okay. I want three because
it shows that I’ve done my work. It shows that I’ve done my due
diligence. Also, people are not one-dimensional. I don’t care
who they are, it’s very rare that we can’t find some evidence
of some emerging theme. It’s not maybe fully blown with somebody
who hasn’t ever worked before, but it’s in there. But a lot
of times we’ll have somebody where, well, computers are the main
theme and then we have this other thing, oh, he likes to draw
on his computer and sketch. Okay, so maybe there’s an emerging
art theme. Let’s go with that. Let’s investigate that. We have to be careful because sometimes people
want to turn, again, these mild interests or environmental
factors into vocational themes. Like, oh, he feeds his
dog. He’s really into animals. That’s great. I’m into animals, too.
But I don’t really have an animal theme. I don’t want to work
with animals. I like our dogs and our cats and our horses and all
that stuff. That’s great, but that’s not who I am. I’m not going
to work with animals probably. I could because I know a
lot. I have skills and tasks. So if I was struggling with myself
on a third theme, I would put that in there just to move the
ball forward, because I could work if I needed to in that area and
it would be okay with me. Again, how do we teach new skills to this
person because they’re going to need to learn new skills?
A lot of times that’s just the foundation of supported employment,
learning things where you’re going to use them. In other words,
at work, right? Picking up those skills, making sure that
that negotiation is not about just this static job where nothing
new comes to them. We want to engineer from day one the idea
that this person is going to advance in their career, that they’re
going to get out of the salary cap that all grocery baggers,
let’s say, work under, that no matter how good a grocery bagger
you are, you’re never going to make more than $10 an hour
or whatever, you’re never going to get promoted. We need to work
around that through a negotiated process. Again, just to get at vocational themes. Vocational
themes are sort of, again, a broad category, not
a job description. We don’t want you thinking in job descriptions.
It’s too limiting. We don’t want you asking that question, where
should this person work? Or, oh, that would be a great job for
them. We want you to go out and investigate like the sum total
of all these things, all the activities, the preferred tasks, the
interests, the work culture and conditions of employment, the
skills, the personal attributes of this person, put that all into
a mix under these vocational themes that hold hundreds of thousands
of job descriptions and you’ll get something better. Again, themes are not job descriptions. They
are, like I said, these categories that hold lots and
lots of stuff. And I like to combine themes when I can. So if someone
like Melanie here who is obviously an artist, if she also
has let’s say a transportation theme, oh, put those together.
Where do people work in my community who have an art theme
and a transportation theme? Well, they might work at the railway
museum, right? Have you’ve ever thought about that? Do you have
one of those? They work at a hot rod shop. They work at a paint
shop. They work at a tattoo shop, maybe specializing in automotive
tattoos. I don’t know. I look around town, I use my connections
to try to find where are those folks working and I try to
find the smallest and the most obscure businesses I can. Why? Because
I’m going to learn something from them and it’s going to
expand my brain a little bit to think differently. I’m going
to learn about new technology that’s used there. And I’m going
to go where no other job developer has ever been. Some of the common vocational themes – animals,
art, transportation, children, education, history.
You can go down the list here. Advocacy is a really big one
because advocacy holds all kinds of different pieces. Advocacy
could be everything from case management, to law enforcement,
to working for the transportation department in your
state or your county because they have a safety program; all kinds
of different sorts of things that people do inside of that one
category. Using that broad theme helps us to sort of think outside
the box. The other thing that we do is, again, this
idea of supply chain mining. I’m not going to go through
this whole thing because you can get it in the handouts. But
basically here we just started with a couple simple themes,
transportation and entertainment. That led us to interviewing
somebody at a small NAPA auto parts store. That, wow, it’s got
a machine shop in the back, it’s got a paint room in the back where
they mix paints for all the auto body shops in town. There’s
a guy back there making air conditioner hoses. There’s all
kinds of stuff behind the counter. And then there’s the radio station,
and that led us to a voice coach, and that led us to a recording
studio, and that led us somewhere else. Again, you follow
this supply chain and it starts to expand all your opportunities.
You find all of these businesses out there. And again, you
can go to our website and find this stuff too. What I would say is to avoid retail job development.
Retail job development is two things. One is going
to retail stores all the time. There’s a lot to learn in retail.
Unfortunately, a lot of people never get to learn that stuff because
they spend their job either putting things in bags or opening
boxes. And so retail doesn’t have much of a path anymore.
Now there are lots of exceptions to that, but I try not to go
to the box stores. I tell anybody in our projects, stay out of
those places. The other piece is that – the other side of retail
job development, which is you’re going in and you’re asking
are you hiring. You’re only seeing what any other customer
would see. So why do we go to retail so much? Because they can’t
throw you out. All you have to do is go in, ask for an application,
ask if you’re hiring, and you do that five or six times
a day and you go back to the office and you say, man, I’m working
hard today. That’s job finding. That’s not job development. Where we go is we seek out artisanal and small
businesses. That is businesses of fewer than 20 people.
For a number of reasons. There’s 38,000 businesses in the
United States with more than 500 employees – 38,000. That’s where
all the job developers go. That’s your McDonald’s and
Burger King and Home Depot and Walmart and Lowe’s and all that.
And those are perfectly good businesses. Don’t hear me say
those aren’t good businesses. But they’ve got a process, and
that process tends to screen out people with disabilities. It’s
hard to make a personal connection through their HR process.
So I seek out those single owner-operated businesses or
those businesses of fewer than 20 people because there’s about
38 million of those. There’s a lot more. It’s a numbers game. And
I learn something new every time I go there and it’s natural
mentoring. If I walk in with somebody with a music theme into a
Luthier who is making guitars, you know what? Instantly, usually,
they have a connection. Now it may not lead to a job,
but it’s going to lead to information that I can use in later job
development. And this is a relationship. You do not propose
marriage on the first date. You are getting information.
It’s too early to pop the question. You haven’t done your job
yet. So we compile the list of 20 for each theme. That’s completed.
The list of 20 is generally completed during the job development
phase and we list those companies that are accessible to
a person. Where do people with similar themes work where favorable
conditions match or can be developed who that person is, and
where that person contributes. That there is an economic rationale
for why you’re there. We have a saying that wages are the
residue of profit. A job is created through hard work that generates
sales for the company, and those sales generate a profit,
and those profits are turned into salary. We don’t hire people
because we’re good people generally. We’re good people and we
hire because that person makes sense to our bottom line. So thanks for sticking with me today. Again,
I’ll refer you to the Job Developer’s Handbook, to Making
Self-Employment Work for People with Disabilities, to our website, to the ODEP website at Labor, and of course
to the VCU website. So thank you very much. Have a great day.

One thought on “The Pathway from Discovery to Job Development: Essential Steps for Customized Employment Success

  1. Omg. I need to tell you this. I came across this & I want to thank you. I totally agree with this method. Everything about what you had to say is exactly what I want to do or become as a career path. I believe in your method & I have saying to myself this is how people will feel so much in life about their lives. People need help exactly like this. How can I speak w/ you or get in contact with you? I would have needed you around as I'm struggling myself with this problem. Please, I really need your help. My email is [email protected]

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