Inclusive postsecondary education (IPSE) programs provide college students with intellectual disability (ID) access to a college education. This access should include paid employment. Paid work while in college helps students gain the skills and experiences needed for future careers. Students that engage in paid employment while in college are more likely to have paid employment after graduation (Grigal et al., 2018).
Not all students have access to paid employment while in college. One reason for the lack of opportunities is that obtaining employment is often a collaborative effort. Bringing partners and systems together is an essential but often challenging task for IPSE program staff. More information is needed on how to bring partners together to address these lack of paid employment opportunities.
A national collaborative workgroup focused on Employment Partnerships has been formed to address the challenges with system collaboration. This workgroup is led by the Rehabilitation Research & Training Center (RRTC) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). The Virginia Commonwealth University RRTC provides resources for professionals, individuals with disabilities, and their representatives. VCU RRTC is committed to promoting evidence-based practices to increase hiring and retention for individuals with disabilities through their research efforts. Jaclyn Camden, Assistant Director for the Center on Transition Innovations and the Director of the ACE-IT in College at VCU RRTC, is the Chair for the Employment Partnerships Collaborative Workgroup for the Think College Inclusive Higher Education Network.
The intended outcomes of the Employment Partnerships Workgroup are to:
● Identify and address policy and practice barriers;
● Assess current practices, strengths, and challenges;
● Collect existing resources that support employment;
● Identify areas of need for new resources;
● Identify strategies and policies that assist others in the development of collaborative practices; and
● Develop case studies that highlight successful collaborations.
Members include Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, Developmental Disabilities Agencies, employers and employer organizations, IPSE program staff, IPSE students and alums, national leaders, and policy experts who are vested in creating system change to enhance employment opportunities. Over three years, the VCU-led Workgroup will bring together experts in the field to assess current practices and develop new resources to support enhanced paid employment outcomes for students with ID in IPSE programs.
As the employment workgroup engages in this collaborative effort, we are seeking new members to help us round out and grow. Specifically, we are looking for employers who have a strong relationship with an IPSE program and have hired student workers or graduates from IPSE programs. Joining the workgroup will not only allow you to be part of the conversation and work that will enhance paid employment opportunities for college students with ID, but it will also allow you the opportunity to network and grow your relationships with experts at the national, state, and program levels.
If you are an interested employer, or would like to nominate an employer for the workgroup, please email Jaclyn Camden, Employer Partnerships Workgroup Chair, at jLcamden2@vcu.edu.
There is another opportunity to get engaged in the work of employment partnerships through the Employment Partnerships Affinity Group. The Employment Partnerships Affinity Group is an open-access group for individuals who want to learn about successful systems-level employment partnership collaborations between institutions of higher education, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies, developmental disability (DD) agencies and employers that support students with intellectual disability to go to college. If you are interested in employment, sign up for the affinity group and join us at our next meeting!