A Peek Into The Customized Employment Process - Penn-Mar

A Peek Into The Customized Employment Process

Posted on May 10, 2023

By Courtenay Dudek, Employment Coordinator, DSP III | Penn-Mar Human Services

A man at the beach.

Penn-Mar has partnered with the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) for many years in Maryland. As a Vocational Rehabilitation Partner, the Penn-Mar West employment team has worked with DORS in supporting people with intellectual disabilities in Carroll County to find jobs of their choosing, and has recently expanded into Frederick County.

Currently, we support people who have secured jobs at Giant Foods, Walmart, and Cracker Barrel, with seven people actively seeking job placements, and three still on the waiting list to receive employment support. Frederick County DORS reached out to us a while back in need of Employment Specialists to support the many people on their waiting list to find jobs in their communities.

The Customized Employment Process

So, what do we do as Employment Specialists working with DORS?

The first step is job development preparation, which is the process of creating an employment plan. This means we spend a couple hours getting to know the person who is seeking a job. A parent or guardian may also be involved in this part of the process. We go through a crash course of the person’s interests, abilities, attributes, career goals, any volunteer or work experience, and chores the person does and likes to do at home.

Then using Google Maps we do some community mapping of businesses in the area pertaining to three career themes that the person we’re working with has identified interest in. We also use job boards to help find companies with open positions.

The person we work with leads this process and ultimately we develop a list of places where the person would like to apply, or visit the business and speak to an owner or manager to learn about the company and culture, which can sometimes even lead to a job.

The next step is creating a resume and cover letter. Then finally we work on interview preparation: going over common interview questions, watching videos of successful and not so successful interviews, “dos and don’ts,” and then a mock interview commences.

The Job Search

Once the person is ready to proceed, there is a process of job searching and applying. This consists of online applications, going to businesses to inquire about job openings and dropping off a resume, sometimes impromptu interviews, calling businesses, and lots of follow-up.

Finding a job can take months – if one is lucky, it might be as quick as a week, but this is rare. An Employment Specialist uses a lot of encouragement and real-world examples of how the job process will go. Employment Specialists need to communicate realistic timelines for job searching, and also be creative and supportive throughout the process, especially if it is proving to be challenging.  

Once someone is placed, job coaching support will last four to six weeks, with possible check-ins twice a month thereafter if needed. In Frederick County as well as Carroll County, there is a waiting list of people needing support to find a job.

The Challenges We Face

The most difficult challenge is that there is a limited time in helping someone find a job. With the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) funding, a person can job develop for a couple of years, whereas with DORS funding, the specialist will have up to 60 hours to job develop. This sounds like a lot, but it equals to about 7 months of working with that person. The case can be looked at with a potential extension. But to put it in perspective, there have been some people with DDA funding where securing a job took a year to a year and a half. With that said, there has been success within that 7 month window. 

Other challenges can include competition for open positions, hesitancy from business owners to hire people with disabilities, tightening of the economy, or lack of motivation on the person’s part.

Another obstacle is that with a burgeoning area, there is a lot more competition. Frederick County is certainly booming, with new businesses as well as residential areas. The city of Frederick boasts the historic district with creative arts workshops, independent shops and boutiques, Frederick Coffee Co. Café, Carroll Creek Park, and bakeries.

It is a lot to discover and learn, but it keeps my interest; I learn about new businesses every time I am in that area and am always on the lookout for “Now Hiring” signs when driving there and going around town.

Being an Employment Specialist takes determination, but it’s incredibly rewarding when someone secures a job they have desired for some time and is successful in their career.

If anyone has connections to businesses in Frederick County, I’m all ears! 

Business owner or manager? Hiring? To contact the customized employment team about opportunities in or around Carroll or Frederick counties, please contact Court Dudek: courtdudek@penn-mar.org or 443-289-4453

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