Individuals with significant disabilities are frequently not given opportunities to be involved in the workforce.
- 80% of people with disabilities do not have jobs.
- Estimates of chronic unemployment among all Americans with significant disabilities routinely exceed 70%.
- Currently, 14 million Americans of working age with significant disabilities are receiving Federal disability and medical benefits totaling more than $500 billion annually.
- Less than ½ of 1% of these recipients leave disability benefits for work each year.
It takes organizations like SourceAmerica®, a nonprofit that creates employment opportunities through a network of nonprofit agency partners, to champion for these underrepresented individuals by identifying more effective approaches to create job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. One way SourceAmerica is facilitating access to high quality employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities is through an initiative titled Pathways to Careers.
Pathways to Careers initiative relies on state-of-the-art employment strategies to enable people with significant disabilities (including those with the most significant disabilities) to have an informed choice of competitive, integrated, full-wage employment options that match their individual skills, interests and abilities. These employment options are provided across a broad range of community settings. The initiative primarily focuses on achieving this goal for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities (“I/DD”) and individuals with serious mental illness/psychiatric disabilities (“SMI”).
The Pathways to Careers operational approach includes principles of individualization, flexibility, informed choices and transparency. Through an in-depth “discovery” process participants’ skills and interest are identified to better match them with an 8-12 week paid internship in a wide range of jobs and work settings. An individualized employment support plan shows the potential costs, if any, of ongoing employment supports and an Employer Payroll Tax Adjustment (“EPTA”) provides employers with the ongoing financial resources to meet any identified employment support needs.
There are four major operational components of the Pathways initiative: (1) “expanded discovery;” (2) paid internships and individual employment support plans; (3) the EPTA; and (4) ongoing, post-employment career support.
“Discovery” is a strengths-based assessment that begins to facilitate real and meaningful informed choices by gathering information about an individual participant’s job-related interests, conditions and contributions. The initial discovery process begins with a Discovery Meeting attended by the participant, members of the participant’s family and friends, and Pathways staff members. The purpose of the meeting is to identify a prospective paid internship (or job placement) for the participant that matches their interests and conditions.
Through the paid internship process, the participant and Pathways staff develop a greater experience base to make decisions about employment and a better understanding of a participant’s career interests, conditions for success and job-related contributions. These internships foster the development of both “soft” and “hard” job skills and showcase the intern’s abilities to an employer. Through the development and revision of internship support plans, the accommodations, support, and training the individual needs to be successful in the position are identified.
Employment and EPTA
The EPTA was developed by SourceAmerica’s Institute for Economic Empowerment and represents a proposed reduction to the employer’s FICA taxes which, at the same time, is budget positive to both the Federal and State Treasuries. At this time, the EPTA is being simulated and evaluated as part of the Pathways initiative design. Pathways will continue to provide the employer with the simulated EPTA for a period of up to 5 years from the date of the Pathways participant’s employment, as long as the participant/employee continues to be employed.
Ongoing Career Support
A final operational component of the Pathways initiative is ongoing, post-employment career support. Once a Pathways participant/intern has accepted an offer of employment, Pathways staff members continue to work with her/him to support the ongoing success and growth of the employed participant’s overall career. A Career Plan is developed for each individual that provides a framework for ongoing support and development for the employed participant.
The Career Plan includes an identification of the contributions and conditions of the participant’s ideal work situation; an assessment of what does and does not work in the current work situation; and a description of potential changes in current job tasks and/or in the employment support plan. A discussion of possible career advancement activities related to mentoring, participation in career professional organizations, conferences that should be attended, certificates that should be pursued, and continuing and higher education to be undertaken are also identified.
Success Story: Ty Ross is an excellent example of a Pathways to Careers success story. Prior to Pathways, when he would go on interviews, people would not take him seriously because he has cerebral palsy. At his last job as a theater ticket-taker, Ty knew that he wanted more out of his job. With the help of Pathways he is seeing his career goals become a reality.
He is now working in data processing at the Davis School District in Layton, UT. On his experience so far with Pathways, he says, “From the beginning with Pathways, I had advocates who I felt really cared. I wasn’t just another case, they took their time to get to know me.” His interest and knowledge in data and computers was discovered during his Pathways assessments and interviews, which helped in placing him in his current position. That was almost a year ago, as Ty will be celebrating his one-year anniversary in a few weeks.
“With my employers and my job coach, I can be really successful because we all interface so I can deliver good work.” More importantly, Ty feels better about himself and feels his job gives him motivation, “I feel valued at work; and my favorite part of the job is the deep, meaningful friendships I’ve made.”
For additional Information and to view video testimonials, visit http://www.sourceamerica.org/workforce-and-research-programs/pathways-to-careers
 A goal of testing and evaluating the EPTA in the Pathways initiative is to capture data on the cost savings to the Federal Treasury when individuals reduce their benefit levels as a result of gainful employment and to evaluate how employers will apply this resource to provide ongoing accommodations.