Preparing for Employment

It is good for young adults to try different jobs and internships to get a better idea of what sort of career will be the best fit and become more employable in the future.

The Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (MBRT) has created a website for youth called Be What I Want To Be.  This website highlights exciting careers, demonstrates what a student will need to accomplish in high school to be prepared for employment, and assists students in exploring their interests.

Finally, the US Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy has developed resources for youth with disabilities who are preparing for employment.  They include:

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Work Opportunities for High School and College Students

Work-Based Learning for Student with IEP's

In high school, there may be the opportunity for “work based learning” as part of a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  Work based learning means the opportunity to learn while actually performing a job in an employment setting, as opposed to sitting in a classroom.  Work-based learning can also include: job shadowing, visiting worksites, interviewing professionals in different jobs. Students should request that their IEP and Transition Plan include as many work based opportunities as possible, particularly if they are not planning to go on to postsecondary education.

Getting Work Experience in High School
Maryland State Department of Education's Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs designed to help with informed decisions regarding their future careers. Whether a student is interested in entering the workforce upon graduating high school or planning to go to college, there are programs to meet the different career paths of students.  Programs include communications, finance, construction, hospitality and tourism, natural resources, health and bioscience, human resources, information technology, manufacturing and engineering, and transportation. 

Maryland One-Stop Career Centers are community centers that have many programs for training, education, and employment under one roof, including youth summer job programs. 

Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), which provides job assistance to people with disabilities, has programs for high school students with disabilities. Depending on the student's skills and interests, DORS can possibly assist with finding and keeping a summer job, as well as provide other career preparation training.  Click here to learn more about DORS programs for high school students. 

The US Department of Labor has a website, Summer Jobs, to help youth in their job search.

Getting Work Experience in College

  • Workforce Recruitment Program: (WRP):  WRP is a recruitment and referral program that connects qualified college students with disabilities with federal sector employers nationwide.  The applications and interviews are hosted by each campus. Be sure to visit the Career Services office and Disability Support Services office on campus when you are looking at schools.
  • Emerging Leaders: Emerging Leaders is a competitive internship and leadership development program for college students with disabilities.  In the past, students have interned with Booz Allen Hamilton, MetLife, Microsoft, and JP Morgan Chase.
  • Entry Point!: Entry Point is a competitive program that offers internships in science, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and some fields of business to students with disabilities.  Past internship organizations include IBM, NASA, Merck, Google, Lockheed Martin, CVS, NAVAIR, Pfizer, Infosys, Shell, and Proctor & Gamble.
  • AmeriCorps:  AmeriCorps offers over 75,000 opportunities annually for individuals of all ages and backgrounds to make a difference in their communities through a commitment to service.
  • National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP):  NSIP focuses on increasing the number of individuals with disabilities participating in community and national service with information for individuals, service programs, and providers. 
  • White House Internships: The White House Internship Program is a hands-on program designed to mentor and cultivate today's young leaders, strengthen their understanding of the Executive Office and prepare them for future public service opportunities. Applications are generally due 6 months prior to each intern session.
  • Postsecondary Higher Education Career Services are office in colleges that can help college students find employment opportunities. If you are in college, contact your school's career office to learn what services they offer.

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Disability Employment Services

Note that for some of the resources listed below, you must be found eligible for the services. That means you must meet the agency's eligibility criteria and they must have funds available to serve you. You should contact the appropriate agency and get an eligibility determination prior to completing high school.

Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) offers programs and services that help people with disabilities go to work or start their own business.

  • What can you expect?  Applicants will need to complete an eligibility process with DORS.  If found eligible, youth will then develop an employment plan of services to meet their needs. DORS encourages students to apply two years to completing high school.
  • What employment services are available?  DORS provides personalized support and employment services.  Youth may be eligible to choose from DORS programs and services such as career decision making, counseling and referral, vocational training, job search, placement and job-keeping services, supported employment, self employment, assistive technology, medical rehabilitation services, and other support services.
  • Where to start?  Interested applicants will need to complete a referral form and contact their regional DORS office. Click here for a listing of local offices.

Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) believes that all people with developmental disabilities can work, and contribute to their community, when given opportunity, training, and supports that build on their strengths. 

  • What can you expect?  Youth with developmental disabilities are encouraged to apply to DDA by the age of 14 to determine eligibility. If found eligible, and funding is available, an individual plan will be developed to meet the needs of the youth.
  • What employment services are provided?  Services include supported employment, employment discovery and customization services, community learning services, traditional day habilitation, and medical day services.  The services are provided through an array of community providers.
  • Where to start?  To apply, families will need to contact their regional office or visit DDA’s website to download an application form. Click here for a listing of regional offices.

Behavioral Health Administration creates and manages a coordinated, comprehensive, accessible, culturally sensitive, and age-appropriate system of publicly funded services and supports, including supported employment services, for individuals who have psychiatric disorders.

  • What you can expect?  Applicants will need to complete an eligibility process. If an applicant is found eligible, they will then select a community service provider.  
  • What services are provided? Services include supported employment, case management, psychiatric rehabilitation programs, crisis services, housing and residential rehabilitation services, psychiatric treatment and medication management, assertive community treatment and mobile treatment, respite, transition age youth services, and traumatic brain injury services.
  • Where to start?  At the local level MHA has Core Service Agencies to assist children and adults seeking mental health services.  Click here to find a Core Service Agency near you.

Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program oversees state approved apprenticeship programs and provides information on the numerous apprenticeship programs in Maryland.  Apprentices work full time and receive training from a sponsoring organization.  Most programs take 3 to 6 years to complete leading to a nationally recognized Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship.

For a complete list of all the occupations registered to have apprenticeship programs please visit Find an Apprenticeship.

  • What can you expect?  The Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program does not work individually with youth in providing employment services.  Instead the Program provides individuals with information on researching a trade and locating participating apprenticeship programs in the state.
  • What employment services are available?  Once a trade has been selected, applicants must contact program sponsors directly to ask about their application requirements and hiring schedule.  Applicants will need to submit their application directly to the sponsor they have selected. Click here for a list of apprenticeship sponsors.
  • Where to start?  Review the Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Programs step-by-step instructions on How to Become an Apprentice, starting with researching and selecting a trade.

Maryland One-Stop Career Centers are community centers that have many programs for training, education, and employment under one roof.  One Stop career services are available to ALL Marylanders. 

  • What can you expect?  Most One-Stop Career Centers offer workshops on interviewing, résumé writing, and other career-related skills.  Job openings are also listed on the Maryland Workforce Exchange (MWE) with information about what skills and education are needed for specific jobs and assistance in creating resumes.  Eligible youth may also qualify to receive funding for training for a specific job
  • What employment services are available?  Services vary at each One-Stop Career Center, but most centers offer all job seekers easy entry to services such as job listings, referrals to employers, and placement assistance.  Other services that may be available are career and skill assessments, youth services, and training services.
  • Where to start?  Find a Maryland One-Stop Career Center in your community or visit America’s Service Locater to find a One-Stop Career Center nationally.

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Job Seeking and Accommodations

While each job application is different, there are three common elements of many job applications: the resume, the cover letter, and the interview. Additionally, if you have an interview, you may want to send a thank you letter to your interviewer afterwards. You can have a friend or a parent help you proofread your resume and cover letter, and practice your interview skills.

The Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation DLLR), which provides support to job seekers, has many helpful resources, including:

Resumes, Cover Letters and Thank You Notes (includes templates)

Pocket Resumes for Job Interviews

Job Interview Guide

If an individual needs accommodations for the interview or want to know how and when to disclose a disability, this fact sheet titled Disclosure can offer some guidance. For further information on workplace accommodations and other rights, visit the Maryland Department of Disabilities web page "You're Working, Now What?"

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Working While Maintaining Benefits

Social Security has rules called “work incentives” that let individuals earn even more and still keep benefits.  As part of Social Security’s work incentives, youth you are planning to, or are currently, receiving SSI and Medical Assistance can also earn money (often up to $1,432 a month) and still keep some of their SSI check.  For youth who earn too much money to keep SSI, they can usually keep Medical Assistance if their income is under $38,000 a year.  Almost everyone who receives SSI and Medical Assistance is better off financially working than not, and work usually improves a person’s physical and mental health.  For more information, view the Don’t Panic! Your Son or Daughter Can Work and STILL Keep Benefits fact sheet or view the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) For Students webinar.

Many youth become eligible for SSI once they turn 18.  Before age 18, children are often ineligible for SSI because their parents’ income and assets count against them.  Once they turn 18, only the youth’s own income and assets count.  To apply for SSI, contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.  Once a person qualifies for SSI, he or she can take advantage of work incentives to keep SSI and/or Medical Assistance while working.

Youth who receive SSI are encouraged to take advantage of available benefits counseling. Youth receiving services from the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) should ask their rehabilitation counselor about this service. Youth who are not receiving services with DORS should contact their local Center for Independent Living or call Benefits INfoSource at 1-888-838-1776.

For more information on applying for disability benefits please visit the Social Security Administration’s Disability Benefits website.  

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