Graduate to Work

Project Periods
October 2002 – September 2003
October 2003 – September 2004

The purpose of the Graduate to Work Project (funded by the Montana Council on Developmental Disabilities) was to increase access to community employment for students with developmental disabilities graduating from Montana schools by creating a model transition-to-employment program in Missoula schools that could be replicated by other locales. Graduate to Work demonstrated the effectiveness of Individualized Career Planning tools such as the Vocational Profile, the Pictorial Employment Portfolio, Social Security (SSA) Work Incentives and collaborative, cross-agency, and school funding for employment.

Individually-driven employment exploration and vocational planning was the emphasis of the project, rather than a more generic job sampling approach. The individualized approach better matches students to jobs, thus increasing job satisfaction and job retention while reducing the cost and length of outside supports. A job is considered a good match when a student’s contributions (what skills and abilities they bring to an employer) match what an employer needs and values in the work place. A good match also insures that the structure for learning and the supports a student needs to perform his/her job tasks are naturally available in the workplace. The better the job match, the easier it is for the job coach to fade support as the student learns the job.

Project activities at the student level centered around implementing the project model with ten students with developmental disabilities. Each student had a Discovery process completed, resulting in completion of a Vocational Profile and an Employment Marketing Portfolio. Students were also assessed to determine if they were eligible for SSA Work Incentives. An individualized plan was developed for each student to guide their work exploration, paid employment opportunities and connections with adult agencies.

At the school level, a core team of teachers, paraprofessionals, parents and administrators was identified and participated in the training series including:

  • 2-day Discovery and Vocational Profile
  • 2-day Job Development
  • 3-day Systematic Instruction
  • 1-day Social Security

The school team was responsible for identifying ways in which the new model components could be incorporated into their existing transition processes.

At the systems level, discussions and strategic planning sessions led to the creation of interagency strategies and cross-agency collaboration to support employment for students while in school and as they graduated. Interagency agreements were created between the school, Vocational Rehabilitation, Social Security Administration, the state Developmental Disabilities agency and local Employment Services Providers.

The goal of Graduate to Work was to prepare and support students to be employed as they graduated from high school.

Project Staff and Implementation Partners

Project Director: Ellen Condon, (406) 243-4134,

Project Coordinator: Kim Brown, (406) 243-4852,

Missoula Schools Transition Coordinator: Sue Furey