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Dignified and meaningful employment
for people with disabilities

Thrift stores have become an important additional source of revenue for many workshops in Missouri, including this one operated by Valley Industries in Hazelwood. But as important as is the income, another benefit is significant as well: interaction between the community and workers with developmental disabilities.

Programs Place Workshop
Employees In Their Communities

With names ranging from “supported” to “community” employment, Missouri workshops have for years offered carefully designed programs that have workers with disabilities working at community job sites operated by private companies or other nonprofit organizations.

The programs are often called “supported” because of the assistance provided by the workshop to help the employee get started and ensure smooth long-term success. Workers may need help with specific job skills or even locating businesses that work in fields in which they are interested. If there are transportation or on-the-job issues, the “follow-along” staff provided by the workshop help with solutions so the worker with disabilities keeps his or her job or, if needed, finds a new one.

For decades, The Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City has operated two employment services programs, its Rehabilitation Institute Industries workshop and its Community Employment. As with many Missouri operations, both work in close conjunction with each other. Workshop employees often learn skills that can provide the foundation for more competitive community programs. In some cases, workers with disabilities find that community employment is not a good fit and still have the workshop option.

In 2015, RIKC’s employment services department provided community supported employment services to 280 participants, with some of these individuals coming from its sheltered workshop program. There is a long history of participants in RIKC’s sheltered employment choosing to work in some type of community employment setting.

The program manager visits annually with all workshop participants to gauge which ones are interested and qualified to enter into supported employment. The manager will then assist the participants in making application to the Missouri Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for services.

On average, there have been approximately five to six workshop participants who have opted to transfer from the sheltered workshop program to community supported employment for the past several years. About one third of those individuals are successful and remain in their community employment, while the other two-thirds may opt to return to their sheltered employment. Throughout the decades of operation, RIKC’s sheltered employment programs have seen that many of the participants who have left the program to enter into community supported employment return on their own volition because they miss their friends, staff and work environment.

Not far away, one of the newest such programs is JobOne Careers, a customized employment service launched in 2014. In less than two years, the program has grown tremendously. Careers currently employs four customized employment specialists who have served nearly 60 people with disabilities.

The program’s unique design ensures that an individual seeking a job works with the same staff member throughout the process. This has earned high marks from VR and the people being served. Careers is providing a new way for JobOne to help existing employees and those who might not have considered working with JobOne in the past. JobOne believes strongly in employment choices, and Careers is one option of many for people with disabilities. It complements their extended employment services well, and all staff members are excited about the potential for further growth and innovation.

Many of Missouri’s workshops operate community or “supported” employment programs in which workers with disabilities are placed in competitive jobs. Often a little help gets them started in longterm positions. The smile on this employee in JobOne’s Careers program is a good indication of these successes.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 MASWM Newsletter. Download the Full Newsletter PDF

MASWM The Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers
If you have questions, please contact:
President Rob Libera – (636) 227-5666 or
or Legislative Chair Kit Brewer – (314) 647-3300 or