Written by Lindsey Meilak – Adults Training Department Manager (Inspire)

bannerSupportedEmployment refers to service provisions wherein people with disabilities, including individuals with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities as well as those suffering from mental illness are assisted to obtain and maintain gainful employment. In supported employment the employee earns a competitive salary together with benefits.

Supported employment is a sign of a truly inclusive and just society, and at times, for it to be successful many people in different roles need to collaborate.  The main players are the job seekers, the job coaches and the employers.

Job Seekers:

Research shows that the majority of job seekers who access Supported Employment services have not been in employment for long periods of time or have not had any employment opportunities since leaving school or education and are unsure of their own job preferences, strengths and difficulties.

Supported Employment service providers may find that a work experience placement is an excellent tool to identify a job seekers’ support needs. Work experience placements also provide an opportunity for a job seeker to get a first-hand experience of a variety of work, enabling them to understand their preferences as well as increase their choices by experiencing different environments and situations e.g. production line, cleaning duties, reception duties, administration duties, shop assistants etc.

  • It is important to note that many job seekers do possess employment skills or professional training/education that makes them able to take on more complicated jobs.
  •  Supported Employment Services believe that one size does NOT fit all and therefore this view should also prevail within the job finding process.
  •  Supported Employment Services use formal and informal methods of job searching.

Informal Job Searching Methods:


  • Word of mouth – get to know about a job opportunity from others
  • Job carving – an opportunity is created by identifying parts of a job or tasks that the employer needs completed and can be completed by the job seeker, in many cases leading to a successful employment outcome.
  • Informal contacts – Get in touch with others to understand whether there are any job opportunities available
  • Extending work experience placements – negotiating with employers to extend work placements when identifying potential job opportunities, as well as a job match and skill development in job seeker.

Formal Job Searching Methods:

  •  Job application forms
  • Job seekers having access to their own curriculum vitae
  • Job interview techniques training

Factors for Success:

  • Awareness by Supported Employment providers of job finding approaches leads to improved informed choices.
  • Increased understanding of Supported Employment providers in addressing the needs of employers.
  • Self-determination of job seekers.


deskJob Coach:

  • An individual who is employed to support individuals learn, accommodate, and perform their work duties.
  • Helps with the interpersonal skills necessary at the workplace.
  • A job coach may work with individuals one-on-one and/or in a small group.
  • The coach will assess the worker’s strengths and needs or may rely on an already completed assessment.
  • Sometimes a job coach will work with an individual both in and outside of the workplace.


Jenny has an intellectual disability and is currently searching for a job accompanied by her Job Coach. Before entering the place of employment, Jenny, as well as many other individuals may benefit from specific training to help her learn what to expect in the work environment. In this case, the job coach visited the place of employment to understand the requirements of the job and work environment. The coach then worked with Jenny to prepare. During the initial few weeks of employment, the job coach will accompany Jenny at work. This allows the coach to directly observe Jenny’s abilities and any training requirements for improvement.


The ROLES of the Job Coach


  • Will help you identify opportunities and provide advice and direction on how to best approach different projects, relationships and work plans.
  • Help you develop strategies for improving performance in particular areas.


  • Will help you identify what you’re doing well and assist you in enhancing the impact of your strengths.
  • Will discuss difficulties or areas in which you need improvement, and help you develop an approach to become more effective in these key areas.


  • Helps plan the course of your professional life through goal setting
  • Will help you identify long-term career goals and develop steps for getting to where you want to be e.g. set agendas, develop timetables and plans and helps you stay focused and on-track.
  • Will meet you on a regular basis to assess your progress, help you evaluate workplace situations, troubleshoot career issues and develop workplace strategies.

 Confidence Builder

  • He will listen, recognize positive steps and remind you of the progress you’re making.
  • Will help you correct behaviors and processes that are not serving you well, and help you establish new approaches to career issues when your original plan is not working effectively.


Matching support to need

  • The level of support provided is matched directly to the person’s need for support in each task, by using a person-centered approach in practice.
  • While the support provided has to be enough, the aim is always to promote the person’s independence by giving only as much support as is needed. This support is gradually faded out as practice makes the person more skilled.


  • In order for the Supported Employment process to be effective, it is essential that the service providers work with both job seekers (clients) and employers.
  • Supported Employment focus on identifying the skills and abilities of the job seeker, and matching these abilities with the needs of the employers.


gardenWhy are Supported Employment Services of benefit to Employers?

  • Provides a free and confidential recruitment service
  • Enables employers to access appropriate potential employees, possessing the skills necessary for the job.
  • Continuous support, even following the job coaching period. This will ensure that the ‘job match’ continues to be successful.
  • Provides employers with all the necessary advice and guidance on the incentives and grants that may be available to you
  • You will be provided with assistance to co-ordinate any training that the new employee may need
  • Can enhance your company’s profile, as it allows you to promote yourself as an equal opportunities employer, increasing in business and profits.
  • Employers can acknowledge and demonstrate their commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Supported Employment service providers offer disability awareness training, knowledge of government support/funding programmes and practical solutions to health, safety and disability employment issues.


One of the most fundamental aspect of Supported Employment and the key to a successful outcome is the job matching process, during which the needs of the employer are matched with the skills of the potential employee. When the match is done correctly it leads to a “win-win” situation where both the employer and the new employee achieve their objectives.


In April,  Inspire and The Richmond Foundation launched an MQF Level 4 Award Course in Supporting Individuals with Disabilities at The Workplace as well as a Mental Health First Aid Course. There are currently 14 students following this course which aims at providing the learners with basic knowledge, skills and competencies that will enable the them to support people with disabilities and mental health, as job coaches. The students are learning to identify and understand in order to facilitate their inclusion in an employment setting.  Students will also learn Mental health first aid – this is provided to a person developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis resolves.


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