Eastern Montana Graduate to Work

Project Periods
October 1, 2004 – September 30, 2005
October 1, 2005 – September 30, 2006

GTW History:
Beginning in 2002, the Montana Council on Developmental Disabilities funded the Graduate to Work Project (GTW), which in the first two years was a collaborative effort between the Rural Institute on Disabilities and the Missoula County Public Schools. The purpose of GTW was to implement a customized model of career planning in Missoula high schools and to pilot collaborative agreements between Vocational Rehabilitation, Workforce, Developmental Disabilities agencies, families and schools to promote transition from school to work. For the 2004/2005 project year, the Council requested that we share information about this model with schools, employment agencies, Developmental Disabilities staff, case managers, Workforce personnel, Vocational Rehabilitation counselors, students and families in eastern Montana. To reflect this new focus, the project was called Eastern Montana Graduate to Work (EMGTW).

ssa work incentives
self employment

In 2004/2005, EMGTW focused on information dissemination and training. In 2005/2006, we piloted a customized employment approach with four job seekers in Miles City. Our local partners were Sue Nielson and her staff from Eastern Montana Industries, and Rhonda Shumway from Vocational Rehabilitation. Together they identified a total of four people (two of whom were students) who could benefit from customization. Rural Institute staff provided a combination of on-site and long distance support and training with the goal of negotiating paid employment for the four individuals.

Is this relevant for employment agencies? Project staff illustrated several strategies proven to be effective in developing jobs for people with significant barriers to employment.

Customized Employment Strategies:

Discovery: a person-centered process that guides service providers and schools in getting to know a person in terms of interests and abilities, support needs, and contributions for the purpose of planning for employment.

The Vocational Profile:
a strengths-based, narrative document that captures information about the individual and guides the job search. (Several employment and Workforce agencies are offering this as a billable evaluation service, funded by VR, to job seekers as an alternative to more traditional vocational evaluations).

Representational Portfolios:
a narrative and pictorial representation of an individual job seeker utilized by job developers to custom tailor employment on the person’s behalf and to explain customized employment to employers.

What about Vocational Rehabilitation and Workforce personnel?
Workforce personnel from Lewistown and Bozeman HRDC offices have participated in previous transition projects and are currently piloting the above strategies to meet the needs of their consumers with disabilities. Vocational Rehabilitation recognizes the Vocational Profiles as one option for evaluation that a VR counselor and consumer can choose. Feedback from Missoula-based employment vendors has been that when the processes of Discovery and Profiles are used, job development is more individualized, streamlined and thus more cost-effective for VR.

Could school staff or families of students who are still in school benefit?
Graduate to Work (GTW), Linkages to Employment and WISER (Rural Institute Projects) targeted transition-age youth (ages 14-21), although all of the customized employment strategies are applicable to adults as well. Participating schools implemented the above strategies to enhance students’ curriculum, IEPs, transition planning and employment experiences. Families are essential components of this process and are always encouraged to attend training.

Project Staff
Ellen Condon, Project Director
Toll Free: 800-243-5467, or (406) 243-4134
E-mail: condon@ruralinstitute.umt.edu
Rural Institute, 700 SW Higgins Ave., Suite 250, Missoula, MT 59803

Kim Brown, Project Coordinator
Toll Free: 800-243-5467, or (406) 243-4852
E-mail: brown@ruralinstitute.umt.edu
Rural Institute, 700 SW Higgins Ave., Suite 250, Missoula, MT 59803