Developing a Tool for Meaningful Employment Opportunities

Individuals with disabilities represent one of the largest minority groups seeking employment in today’s marketplace. One crucial step to their success lies in assessing their readiness for supported or competitive employment, but there is currently no broadly available tool to help public educators make this kind of evaluation.

Grafton first approached the challenge on behalf of its own clients in 2008,when its education administration team began to search for anassessment tool that would evaluate the career and technical skills of individuals across the disability spectrum.

As it turned out, the tool did not currently exist, so the team decided to create one.They would design it to support individualized education program (IEP) development, provide a clear vision for transition planning, and provide a comprehensive overview of a client’s strengths, needs, and preferences.

The first draft of the assessment focused primarily on work skills and behaviors.Grafton stakeholders then provided feedback on the draft, which informed a series of revisions. The process resulted in the Career and Technical Education Assessment (CTEA).

Today, the CTEA has six major sections, including “Current Career and Technical Experience,” “Marketable Skills,” ‘Who Is the Person in the Career World? ,” “Assessments Administered,” “Skills and Needs,” and “Recommendations for Career and Technical Planning.” Each section includes several sub–domains, which highlight clients’ strengths, needs, and preferences in the workplace.

The logistics of collecting data for the CTEA involves three important methods:

  • Formal. These assessments cater to individuals across the disability spectrum, including readers and non-readers, and helpevaluate overall achievement, while comparing a student’s performance with others at his or her age or grade level. They include the Brigance Transition Skills Inventory, the Reading-Free Vocational Interest Inventory, and Choose and Take Action.
  •  Informal.These assessments include student observation, teacher and parent interviews, and performance checklists. They help obtain information that can be used to make observations about behavior, time on task, environmental preferences, and productivity rates.
  • Situational.This type of assessment plays an important role in collecting authentic data, as formal and informal assessment tools often paint only half the picture of a client’sbehavioral and performance needs.In 2010, Grafton’s CTE Education staff developed the CTE Situational Assessment Task Sheet for teachers for classroom or in-vivo business(i.e., clients in work training programs) use.Through task analysis methods, this tool pinpoints how well clients perform real-life tasks in real-life settings. A client is given three opportunities to perform a specific task in a work setting. The data then gathered reflect thestudents’ behavior, work performance, motor and employability skills, interests, and task completion times.


Once data are gathered through these various means, each section of the CTEA is completed.

The information obtained in the CTEA gives the Grafton team a better idea of where to place clients in the specialty area classrooms on campus, as well as matching clients to appropriatebusiness settings and helping ensure they experience successful transitions.

For example, one client was scheduled to leave the Grafton program in February of last year.He had received some job training in the areas of stocking, food preparation, and vending operations.Although this particular client had some behavioral issues in the beginning of his transition, making use of the CTEA and connections at theDepartment of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) led him to competitive employment at a local recycling center.

As clients prepare to exit the Grafton program, external stakeholders such as DARS and Community Services Board workers have the pertinent information they need to transition our clients into competitive, supported, or enclave employment.

The number of CTEAs administered has increased over the years, and undergoing the assessment has become standard procedure for all students of transition age (typically ages 14-22). To date, over 100 CTEAs have been completed.

We hope that public educators will see the value of the tool and eventually adapt it for their own use.As one DARS member recently commented at an IEP meeting, “I wish the public schools had a document as detailed as this is.The information is exactly what we need to place clients in employment settings.”

Grafton would like to thank the following business partners for providing meaningful career employment opportunities for our clients:

Within Winchester, Virginia and surrounding areas:  Anthony’s Pizza,  Bowman Library, Cici’s Pizza, Congregational Community Action Project (CCAP), Early Intervention, Elm Street Maintenance, Food Lion, Living Faith Church- Soup kitchen, Magic Mountain Farm, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Spring Arbor, Walgreens and USA Produce & Seafood.

In Richmond, Virginia:  American Red Cross, Caritas, Chadwick & Son’s, Children’s Museum of Richmond, Cici’s Pizza, Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Domino’s Pizza, Grafton’s ABA Program, Josh’s Rehab & Repair, Jubilant Gardens, Marshalls, Manchester Rescue, Miller’s Auto Center, Pocahontas State Park, Richmond Animal League, Richmond Entrepreneurs Assistance Program, Richmond Multisports, Ten Thousand Villages, Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation and Walgreens.