$500,000 Grant Funds IDRPP’s Customized Employment Training

By JoLynne Lyon | November 13, 2023
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Tricia Jones-Parkin

Specialists from the Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice have received nearly $500,000 from Utah’s Department of Workforce Services to continue their work on bolstering customized employment for people severely impacted by disability in Utah. The funding will cover training and consulting work over the next three years.

Principal investigator Tricia Jones-Parkin has provided training and technical assistance on customized employment since 2020. Over that time, customized employment job placements in Utah rose from five in 2020 to 14 in 2021 and 12 in 2022.

In a customized employment scenario, a service provider approaches an employer to create a job that meets the needs of both the business and the employee with severe disabilities. Customized employment allows employees to work in the community, rather than in a sheltered workshop setting.

In addition to administering the grant, Jones-Parkin offers training statewide through the Institute for Disability’s Center for Employment and Inclusion in Salt Lake City. Over the course of the grant, Parkin said she and CEI Project Coordinator Kelie Hess will work to build leadership skills among customized employment providers.

Another aspect of the grant will include work with the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind. “We are working with transition-age youth who experience Deaf-blindness. We are working with educators and trying to get some more individualized work experiences.”

They are also adding an element to the training that she hopes will have a big impact: hands-on work in placing people with disabilities in jobs. “Because we partnered directly with vocational rehabilitation, I have set up the curriculum so that the people taking the course learn the content, and then they work directly with a job seeker. … I'm mentoring them through the process, and then giving them feedback on their work.

“What we're seeing is, people are doing the process to fidelity. We're seeing an increase in customized employment outcomes in our state.”

A large part of the work involves a process called discovery.

“It’s a different way about figuring out employment for somebody. We go and we spend time with them in their home, or wherever they're the most comfortable. We try to understand what kinds of things they might be initiating on their own. A lot of people with significant impact of disability may not have household chores that they're doing at home, or they may not have a lot of tasks that they complete. But even pulling laundry out of the dryer, lifting up the basket, making toast, making oatmeal, those are tasks. It's a contribution.

“And then the other piece that's so important is the environment, where it makes sense for people to spend time.”

Once discovery is complete, they can move on to working with employers to create a job that fills both employee and employer needs.

Jones-Parkin will also provide on-site technical assistance to meet job seekers and employment specialists wherever they are in Utah.

To find out more about customized employment training, contact Tricia Jones-Parkin.

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