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Collaboration Leads to Successful Competitive Integrated Employment for Students and Youth with Disabilities

Ruth Allison, M.B.A – Senior Faculty Specialist at the University of Maryland and a Technical Assistance provider for the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition: The Collaborative (NTACT:C)

Michael Stoehr, M.S. – Knowledge Development and Technical Assistance Specialist at the University of North Caroline Charlotte and the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition: The Collaborative (NTACT:C)

Because a student’s transition happens across multiple environments including school, home, work, and community collaboration across agencies is critical to the development of common transition plans and delivering services needed to support the student in achieving his or her goal for Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE).  Collaboration among professionals and service systems has long been understood as an important component of effective initiatives and programs that support the transition of students with disabilities from school to work and adult life (Haber et al. (2016; Kellems et al., 2016). We know when professionals collaborate it assists students and their families in navigating the transition process and is a predictor of successful employment outcomes for students with disabilities. (Oertl &Seader, 2015; Haber et. Al. 2016). The IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act, as amended by WIOA, both place a strong emphasis on VR and Education collaboration and coordination in planning and providing transition services. (Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, 2017). 

One local organization that exemplifies this process is the Orange County Local Partnership Agreement (OCLPA). The purpose of the OCLPA is to enhance partnerships that promote preparation for and achievement of competitive integrated employment (CIE) for youth/adults, 14 years old through 30 years+, with disabilities and related “At Risk” populations including individuals with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities (ID/DD).

The OCLPA includes partnerships that have been operational for over 15 years as well as new partners that have been established for a variety of workforce development programming opportunities. The OCLPA has many organization & stakeholders who have agreed to participate and support CIE and related programming. This is just the beginning. New partners continue to be added as needs are identified to support workforce development programming and CIE. Currently the OCLPA includes representatives from Local Education Agencies, Workforce Development Programs, Career Pathway Programs, Disability Related Resource Agencies, Post-Secondary Education & Training, Disability Advocacy Organizations, Adult Service Providers, and Foundations/Private Non-Profits.

Since 2017 OCLPA has developed and implemented a number of effective practice strategies and resources including: a universal referral process for student/youth engagement, a person driven planning document, a business advisory committee, a monthly COVID-19 resource list, a collage 2 career program, a transition resources website and monthly “Ask the Experts” Zoom Conversations.

The following link provides access to a number of the OCLPA’s resources: Orange County Local Partnership Agreement Resources

Understanding the importance of communication, coordination, and collaboration of all agency partners at the local level is truly the driving force for successful and lasting CIE for students and youth with disabilities. Remember, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie

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