Success Stories

Customized Employment:

Brian had recently transitioned from high school and was looking to start his career

He had worked in a grocery store and a department store, but neither job excited him.  When Jackie, his employment specialist, asked him if he wanted to participate in a Customized Employment process that could lead to a job that matched his interests, Brian responded enthusiastically.

Jackie began Brian’s Discovery process by spending time with him in activities that focused on his skills and interests. Together, they formed an Employment Team that would support his career transition. The team included his grandmother, father, mother, former high school teacher, neighbor, and vocational rehabilitation counselor.

In getting to know Brian, Jackie soon discovered his passion for and considerable skills in handling animals, particularly dogs. These were skills that Brian had honed throughout his life while assisting his grandmother, a champion dog breeder.  Brian’s team acknowledged that he was strong and patient, had a calming presence with all kinds of animals (including those that were temperamental or frightened), and was reliable, organized, and flexible. They felt he would thrive working in a small business that was supportive, team-based, within walking distance from his home and accepted his unique manner of communicating.

Photograph of Brian and Jackie posing with one dog

Upon the completion of the Discovery process, the team confirmed Brian’s three vocational themes

Then Jackie and Brian began scheduling informational interviews to learn about twenty local businesses that matched these themes.

One of these interviews was with Amy, the owner of a nearby professional dog grooming salon. During the interview, Brian learned about Amy’s business including some of the challenges she faced, while Amy learned about Brian’s life-long interest in dogs, skills, and career goals.  Both of them felt that there were opportunities within the business that could be mutually beneficial.

For Brian these included his ability and desire to work with dogs on a day-to-day basis, enthusiasm for learning more about grooming techniques, and interest in becoming a member of a small business team. Amy saw someone who truly loved dogs, was willing to pitch in as needed, including stocking the supply shelves, grooming dogs and working with co-workers to maintain compliance with the salon’s health and safety requirements; and Brian was flexible, reliable, willing to learn, and able to handle the larger animals. They both determined it was a viable job match.

Amy and Brian developed an agreement

Much like chefs who purchase their own knives or mechanics who own their own tools, Brian agreed to secure specialized equipment and supplies in order to assume grooming responsibilities particular to the customized job he, Jackie and Amy negotiated.  These included grooming supplies such as a vacuum brush and hydraulic grooming tables purchased with funds from Vocational Rehabilitation and other grants as a part of a Customized Employment strategy called Resource Ownership. Amy would provide an hourly wage, career guidance, job training, supervision, and other necessary supports. Amy is quick to point out that Brian’s resources were a useful addition to her business but not the reason she decided to hire Brian and to keep him on her team.

That was 14 years ago. Amy reports that Brian’s responsibilities have grown tremendously as he has learned to master more and more tasks and skills over time. He opens the salon when Amy’s schedule requires her to be away, greets customers, and checks the dogs in and out that are scheduled for grooming. And, because Brian’s contributions are valued, and he has learned new skills, he is engaging in ways that have bolstered his communication.  Amy and Brian’s co-workers note that Brian is also a positive influence and valued teammate.

Brian currently works between 35 to 40 hours per week (depending on the number of grooming appointments). Discovery assisted him with not just finding a job but with discovering a career path. He is skilled in all things concerned with dog grooming, a highly valued employee, and co-worker with a strong work ethic who loves what he does. Isn’t this what we all hope for?