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Role of the Service Provider

Within a customer-driven approach to supported employment, the employment specialist's job functions are linked to the major components of the support services which include: 1) the customer profile; 2) career development; 3) employment selection; 4) job site training and supports and 5) long-term supports. The specific activities that the employment specialist actually performs within each of these functions will vary depending upon the needs of the individual requesting the service. To adequately perform each of these functions, the employment specialist must move in and out of a variety of roles. There are five distinct roles that would be performed within each of the functions. These roles are not listed in a priority, therefore share the same level of importance. The roles are:

  1. Planner

  2. Consultant

  3. Head Hunter

  4. Technician

  5. Community Resource

The employment specialist must work closely with the customer, employer, coworkers, family, and others providing as little or as much assistance as the individual needs to accomplish her or his employment goals.

Planner Role

An employment specialist acting in the planner role would analyze the services that a supported employment customer was seeking and than assist him or her in the development of a plan to achieve the identified outcomes. The planner role involves the development of a customer profile in which desirable career options and community supports are identified. Mapping out activities, identifying potential supports, scheduling meetings with organizations, and identifying resources to be utilized would be important functions of the planner role. Setting up and conducting a situational assessment is one example of a desirable activity for the planner. This service would be provided to those customers who were seeking clarity in choosing a career path, distinguishing interests, or identifying critical support needs.

Consultant Role

An employment specialist must be prepared to enter into a consultant relationship with customers of supported employment services. As with any consultant relationship, the expectations related to this role would be to provide recommendations based upon the consultants knowledge and expertise. The supported employment customer would be free to then accept or reject the consultant's advice and to contract for additional services as needed. A specific example of the consultant role would be to provide recommendations to the customer in regards to employment selection, job site organization, use of compensatory strategies, technology, and potential support that would assist in getting and keeping a job.

Head Hunter Role

The head hunter role represents an important area of job responsibilities for the employment specialist. Acting in this role, the employment specialist engages in a wide variety of different marketing activities ranging from the development and dissemination of promotional information about supported employment services to the identification of strategies for an individual to market himself or herself to a prospective employer. A "high power" head hunter would remain current with the community labor market and local economic development opportunities and would include such job responsibilities as tracking data on the primary and secondary labor markets within a community, conducting labor market surveys, participating in business advisory boards, keeping files on community employers, and making cold calls to businesses with the intent of seeking position openings or potential need to hire. Essentially, the head hunter spends time developing strong personal relationships with the entire employment community Technician Role

An employment specialist also will be required to perform in the role of a technician, requiring many technical skills and abilities. She or he must be well versed in the latest high and low rehabilitation technologies that would assist an individual to enter the world of work, to maintain a current employment position, or to obtain a career advancement. The technicians role also requires the community employment specialist to be able to identify appropriate strategies to teach a needed skill, to provide training as needs arise, and to fade assistance in a systematic process that ensures acquisition and maintenance of a skill. A typical example of the technician's role performed by an employment specialist is providing instruction to a customer on how to ride public transportation. The customer would assist the technician in identifying a desirable training option and possible supports. The desired choice would then be implemented by a family member, a person riding the bus, or the employment specialist. It is the technician's responsibility to set up the training procedure and to ensure that it is implemented as the customer requested.

Community Resource Role

The community resource role requires that the community employment specialist have a through knowledge of the community. This knowledge can be obtained by conducting regular community analysis activities that investigate potential support resources. These resources areas are not limited to the business community but rather covers the entire range of community supports to include transportation, recreation, social, housing, independent living, organizations and agencies. Acting in this community resource role the employment specialist continually identifies information that will be used to assist an individual in determining preference for possible supports. This role is vital in helping to ensure that customers are not only achieving a measure of economic success but also social success.

Adapted From: Brooke, V., Wehman, P., Inge, K. and Parent, W. (1997). Supported employment: A customer-driven approach. In V. Brooke, K. Inge, A. Armstrong, and P. Wehman (Eds,), Supported Employment Handbook: A customer-driven approach for persons with significant disabilities. (pp. 1-20). Virginia Commonwealth University, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Supported Employment. Richmond, Virginia.


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