Learning from Practice: Finding the Right Fit

This is the first story in our new series, Learning from Practice, about how customized employment helped one young girl and one caring employer.

People with developmental disabilities have a hard time finding paid employment. Traditional job assistance approaches try to match people to existing job openings, and this works if the job seeker has the skills and experience to compete. But if that person has cognitive or physical limitations, they often fall through the cracks and do not experience the status that comes with paid employment in a mainstream job.

What is Customized Employment?

Customized Employment is an approach to job finding and retention that would seem to provide a good alternative to more traditional job search approaches. It’s designed to support individuals, like those with developmental disabilities, who would love to work but find the doors closed.

Customized Employment is highly individualized and based on finding a good fit between the unique skills, abilities and preferences of the job seeker and the specific needs of the employer. It involves a comprehensive approach beginning with a period of “discovery” in which a services coordinator, or job coach, works with the client to identify their strengths and preferences. “Discovery” is followed by job search planning, job development and negotiation with employers and, post-placement support.

It can be time-consuming and labour intensive but there is evidence that suggests it works. Between July of 2008 and June of 2011, eight organizations in BC took part in a Demonstration Project to test whether this approach would lead to better employment outcomes. One of the organizations was Delta Community Living Society, a community-based non-profit organization that supports people with development disabilities to find work in the Delta/Surrey areas. They were happy with the results they saw and they’ve continued to use a customized approach with their clients.

In addition to the eight organizations that participated in the Customized Employment Demonstration Project, 11 service providers are delivering customized employment services with funding provided through the Labour Market Agreement.

Customized employment services are also available at Work BC employment centres across the province. Please contact your nearest Work BC centre for more information.

This is a story of how customized employment helped one young girl and one caring employer.

For more information about customized employment for people with developmental disabilities, go to Community Living British Columbia’s website.

For more information about Delta Community Living Society, click here.

Customized Employment training is available through Douglas College.

More information about customized employment can be found in the BC Centre for Employment Excellence’s Knowledge Clearinghouse:

Customized Employment and Flexible Work Arrangements

Customized Employment Demonstration Project

Thought Sauce! – Hot Ideas for Cool Employment