Employment First

Employment First is not a program or a plan, it is a movement that aligns and supports the philosophy that all people, including persons with complex support needs, are presumed capable of competitive integrated employment. In 2012, Virginia established the Employment First Initiative to raise expectations, implement better practices, and align policies to promote employment for all.

Educators, families, service agencies, and community partners have a vital role in preparing students to live full productive lives in their communities. In efforts to improve the postsecondary outcomes for individuals with disabilities, we must make sure that all stakeholders possess the philosophy that anyone who wants to work is able to do so with the proper support.

Strength-Based Approach

In order to support students on their pathway to employment, IEP teams must get to know students’ strengths, preferences, interests, and support needs as they relate to academic and functional performance in various environments. While providing curriculum, instruction, and assessment activities, take the time to uncover students’ abilities, capabilities, and contributions. Using a strength-based approach is more productive than a deficit approach that looks at the barriers and what a student cannot do.

Employment First Perspectives

To make employment the first and most preferred service option, school personnel, families, community agencies, and business partners must support the Employment First philosophy and work towards the goal of employment for all who desire to work. Hear from educators and an Employment Specialist's perspective on Employment First and preparing students for the workforce prior to graduation.

More Resources

For additional information about Employment First, please see our additional resources.