Impact Feature Issue on Postsecondary Education and Students with Intellectual, Developmental and Other Disabilities

Employment and Dual-Enrollment Transition Programs: Data From a Two-State Study

In 2004, the Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC) Project, established by TransCen, Inc., collaborated with dual-enrollment transition programs for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities in Maryland and Connecticut on a study of exemplary practices in supporting students with intellectual disabilities, ages 18-21, in dual-enrollment programs in postsecondary settings. "Dual-enrollment" programs are those in which students receive their final two or three years of public school transition services on a college campus, with most of these programs addressing the issue of employment.

The Maryland and Connecticut programs shared a common expectation that the students served could and would obtain paid employment in the community. This belief, backed by trained staff and fostered in a context of flexible scheduling and access to community businesses, allowed a large percentage of the students in these programs to get and keep jobs in their communities.

Employment data were collected twice annually on all participating students, and upon exit from the program. Employment was defined as an individual being hired and directly paid competitive wages by a business or employer; therefore, these data did not include volunteer experiences, unpaid job training or internship experiences, jobs that had sub-minimum wage or stipend pay, or group or enclave work. Between 2005 and 2009, data collected on 96 students with intellectual disabilities showed 89 employed in paid jobs while they attended the dual-enrollment program. The average wage earned was $8 per hour and students worked on average 19 hours per week. Over half of the students held jobs in the retail field; other students were employed in clerical jobs, food services, maintenance, personal care, and trades. Of those students who completed exit and follow-up surveys, 78% were engaged in paid employment after they exited the college-based transition program. Overall, the students in these programs had a relatively high rate of paid employment, and some factors that may have contributed were 1) setting paid employment as a goal, 2) time and staff dedicated to job development and placement, 3) staff trained in job development strategies, 4) flexible staff schedules that facilitated spending time building relationships with potential employers, 5) flexible student schedules that allowed them to work a variety of times of day, and 6) a person-centered career discovery process.

Adapted with permission from Grigal, M. & Dwyre, A. (October 2010). Employment activities and outcomes of college-based transition programs with students with intellectual disabilities.