Customized Employment: Changing what it means to be qualified in the workforce for transition-aged youth and young adults

Christopher Rogers, Don Lavin, Tri Tran, Tony Gantenbein, Michael Sharpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Current school-to-career transition practices are not leading to sufficient levels of competitive employment and post-secondary education outcomes for youth and young adults with significant disabilities despite progressive mandates and policy improvements in federal and state secondary and post-secondary education, vocational rehabilitation, and workforce development services. To address this concern, a coalition in a Twin Cities suburban area established an "interagency community of practice" to explore systems change opportunities and to improve school-to-career outcomes. The Anoka County Transition & Customized Employment (TCE) Project was designed to inject an "employment-first" philosophy into transition practices by introducing a range of customized employment strategies. After a five-year project demonstration period, TCE had enrolled 475 young people with various disabilities from seven autonomous school districts. An independent evaluation of TCE's performance revealed that 62% of all enrolled students had individualized job placements in the workforce at competitive wages. In addition, competitive employment wage outcomes were attained by 72% of all enrolled "out-of-school" participants including high school graduates, youth completing their Individualized Education Program (IEP) academic objectives, and secondary education dropouts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-207
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


  • Collaboration
  • Customized employment
  • Students with disabilities
  • Transition
  • Youth with disabilities


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