Insights Into Advancing “Employment First” to Support Individuals with Disabilities
A special issue of the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation explores evidence-based practices and links the past to the future of Employment First implementation
“As the world recovers from the economic and educational disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and adjusts to new workforce norms, it is more important than ever to translate emerging research in ways that can guide and inform practice in the nascent Employment Support field. This special issue of JVR helps to advance the ongoing conversation about how to realize Employment First,” explained Julie J. Christensen, MSW, PhD, Executive Director, APSE, Rockville, MD, USA, who guest edited the special issue.
Employment First is a national systems-change framework adopted by the US Department of Labor that is centered on the premise that all individuals, including those with the most significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in the workforce, which is known as “competitive integrated employment,” or CIE, and community life. Supported Employment (SE) is considered the gold standard of evidence-based practices for achieving CIE for people with disabilities. Its success in supplanting segregated employment or non-work alternatives for an array of populations, as well as its benefits for employees and employers, have been well documented. Various adaptations to extend the positive outcomes to underserved populations have emerged: Customized Employment (CE) is one example that focuses on individuals with the most significant and complex disabilities.
An editorial by JVR’s Editor-in-Chief Paul Wehman, Director of Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA, provides a comparative overview of the various approaches to inform policy makers, practitioners, advocates, and clients. He also reports that many of the presentations at APSE 2022 centered around the need to put intentionality behind embedding equity, diversity, and inclusion practices into all aspects of the work.
At the conference, attendees shared strategies for increasing employment outcomes from transition-aged youth – a population that is particularly at risk as a result of the K-12+ education disruptions throughout the pandemic. Building and supporting the employment support professional (ESP) pipeline was also raised as a pressing issue. Discussions focused on attracting more candidates as job coaches and developers; elevating the field by obtaining standard occupational code designation by the Labor Department and other public policy advances; incentivizing career pathways and retention by securing greater state recognition of Certified Employment Support Professional™ (CESP) certification; and establishing flexible rate reimbursement models that reward expertise with higher wages.
“It is my hope that emerging evidence across all current modalities are evaluated with an eye towards principles of universal design for learning – is it usable, accessible, and inclusive? We should coalesce around lessons learned and how they can be broadly applied to benefit the field as a whole,” advised Dr. Wehman.
Dr. Christensen added that “APSE is grateful for the continued partnership with JVR and the opportunity to publish our 2022 Conference Proceedings special issue as a sampling of the incredible expertise across our network.”
She highlights the contribution by Vikki Ortiz, MSc, Employment Services, Developmental Disabilities Resource Center (DDRC), Lakewood, CO, USA, which advances a strong case for the importance of ensuring that ESPs have access to quality training that is grounded in evidence-based practices. “If Employment First leaders and service providers seek to elevate the professionalization of the SE field, an onboarding journey that is both standardized and customized must be a cornerstone of professional development,” Ms. Ortiz noted.
In another article, lead author Alberto Migliore, PhD, Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA, USA, presents evidence about ES-Coach, a tool that helps ESPs visualize the implementation of supported and customized employment, reflect, set goals, and take action for continuous quality improvement, thereby “contributing to [their] professionalization and recognition… and [playing] a key role in determining the quality of life of people with disabilities.”
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
Proceedings of the 2022 Annual APSE National Conference
Guest Editor: Julie J. Christensen, MSW, PhD, Executive Director, APSE, Rockville, MD, USA
Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, Volume 58, Issue 3 (2023), published by IOS Press.
The issue is openly available at https://content.iospress.com/journals/journal-of-vocational-rehabilitat….
“Supported employment and customized employment: How effective are these interventions and what has been their impact on the field?” by Paul Wehman (https://doi.org/10.3233/JVR-230022). The editorial is openly available at https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-vocational-rehabilitat…;
“Impactful onboarding for supported employment professionals: A firm foundation for employment first supports,” by Vikki Ortiz (https://doi.org/10.3233/JVR-230017). This article is openly available at https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-vocational-rehabilitat….
“Supporting employment consultants leveraging data to deliver quality services and outcomes,” by Alberto Migliore, Britni Miles, Micah Fleisig, and Jeff Gentry (https://doi.org/10.3233/JVR-230015). This article is openly available at https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-vocational-rehabilitat….
Full text of contributions to this issue and additional information are also available upon request. Credentialed journalists should contact Diana Murray, IOS Press, at +1 718-640-5678 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Journalists who wish to interview the Guest Editor or individual authors should contact Julie J. Christensen, MSW, PhD, Executive Director, APSE, at +1 301 279 0060, +1 585 615 5934 (mobile), or email@example.com.
ABOUT THE JOURNAL OF VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION
The Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation provides a forum for discussion and dissemination of information about the major areas that constitute vocational rehabilitation. Emphasis is on publishing rehabilitation articles that have immediate application for helping rehabilitation counselors, psychologists, and other professionals in providing direct services to people with disabilities. www.iospress.com/journal-of-vocational-rehabilitation
ABOUT IOS PRESS
IOS Press is an independent international scientific, technical, medical (STM) publishing house established in 1987 in Amsterdam. We produce around 90 journals and 70 books annually in a broad range of subject categories, primarily specializing in health and life sciences (including neurosciences, medical informatics, cancer research, and rehabilitation) and computer sciences (including artificial intelligence, data science, and semantic web). In addition, we offer specialized services that support scientific advancement. www.iospress.com