Follow us on:   
Generic filters
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in comments
Filter by Content Type
Resource Listings

Five Recommended Best Practice Strategies for Job Carving with Individuals with Disabilities and Barriers

Tips from the Front Line Employment Specialist

By Joanna Samuels

In today’s complicated and competitive labour market, people with disabilities are often excluded from the workforce leading to high rates of unemployment for these population group (Baker and Vaks, in AAIDA, 2015). Yet, working is critical for how we define ourselves and “create our personal sense of identity” (Eichler, 2017). As a result of this situation, unemployed individuals with disabilities “may be deprived of the benefits of labour market participation, a key component of social integration” (Turcotte, in Stats Canada 2011).

In my role as a job developer and job coach over the past 12 years, I have helped countless talented individuals with disabilities and multi-barriers from diverse backgrounds and fields with securing paid placements and internships that met their employment and career goals. The focus of my practice is the integration of the job seeker with disabilities into the competitive or supported employment workforce. This has required me to consider creative and different approaches to help the person with disabilities secure meaningful employment and integrate into the competitive market.

One of the strategies that I have used to secure the match that meets the “job seeker’s and employer’s interests and needs” with the individuals with disabilities is job carving also known as job customization or customized employment. ((NBACL, 2013; Baker & Vaks, 2015; Butterworth et al. 2015, p. 122). Following some of the theory from the researchers in this resource, I will present five hands-on job customization techniques that I have found useful and have applied in my practice as a frontline employment specialist professional:

1. Understand your job seeker. Conducting a thorough and holistic assessment of the job seeker’s hard (work/job related) and soft skills (social and behavioural) as well as supports required in collaboration with anyone involved in helping the client with achieving employment is key. In my work, this included the employment / vocational counsellors, the employer, the managers and other job developers who were co-workers as well as community partners and families (Camuso & Baker, 2008 in Baker & Vaks, 2015). As the job developer, I focused on a strength-based employment counselling model to determine the job seeker’s unique strengths, passions, interests and limitations. Also, by identifying the client’s current “workplace skills”, I was able to manage the expectations of the job seeker and confirm a realistic job goal (Marston, 2015 in AADIC). A reality check would entail an employer site visit or using social media to research potential companies. For example, I worked with a job seeker who loved to cook and bake. We explored this job goal by visiting one of the local bakeries, meeting the employees and the managers and figuring out which job(s) and which companies would the candidate be able to perform or would have to learn. We decided that an afternoon shift in the bagging and tagging of the breads would be the best potential fit to pursue.

2. Understand the accommodations. Continuing with process of learning as much as you can about your job seeker, it’s essential that both of you understand his or her accommodations for the workplace prior to targeting and contacting employers. I clarify how this candidate be the most productive on the job and contribute to the employer and his or her business. For example, if your client can lift a maximum of 20 lbs, then target those types of roles and departments that meet this qualification. Be specific. Be detailed with your research. Engage in employer site visits to check out the environment and the job that you have targeted for your job seeker to ensure that your client can be accommodated prior to approaching the company.

3. Conduct deep research on the labour market. The labour market as defined by, includes information on the demands of the job market in the area where you wish to work. It’s how employers fill vacancies and what are the sources of jobs. Further, it presents employment conditions, salaries and benefits as well as education, training, and qualifications required for the job components. Another important part of understanding the labour market is conducting intensive research on the targeted professions and employers of the job seeker. You both want to know what job opportunities are out there in the targeted field; You can search them on sites such as Industry Canada. This information can also help you determine types of jobs and fields that would be suit your job seeker’s accommodations. Other ways to learn about the profession and opportunities is to research the industry’s associations and organisations as well as trade shows, conferences and conventions. Sometimes the associations have job boards (for example, the Canadian Culinary Federation (CCFCC) post jobs here), information and networking events.

Research the occupation on sites such as the National Occupation Classification (NOC) although this is outdated,, and Working In Canada, as well as social media sites especially LinkedIn and Twitter. By analysing the job postings, you will understand the value of your current skills, strengths, experience and education in today’s marketplace as well as identify the gaps and shortages in the sector. You may discover that your job seeker might have to learn or upgrade his or her skills and education, as well as gain more relevant experience in certain areas in order to be more marketable. Research the companies. Compile a list of all the companies that your job seeker might be interested in working for; and/or areas and departments which could use your client’s skills, experience and education. Identify the decision makers – the people of the company who have power to offer you and your client an information interview meeting or even a job. Once again, social media sites, company websites, media coverage articles, newspapers, trade journals, association websites, and visiting the workplace can provide this information.

4. Understand the business needs and drivers of the employer. Once you have targeted jobs, companies and potential employers who could support employees with disabilities, such as Canada’s best diversity employers of the year, begin learning the business. For example, meet with the employer at the workplace site prior to presenting opportunities to your candidate. It’s the best way to learn and evaluate the workplace culture, the people and the existing opportunities for your job seeker. Be alert to possible shortages and “uncover any potential unmet needs” (Baker & Vaks, 2015, in AAIDA, p. 128). Using your strong business savvy sense, assess the employer and his or her business needs, values, and workplace culture applying the same evaluation as you would do with your candidate. At your employer meeting, ask questions and listen for the hidden job market opportunities, or as best described by Baker and Vaks, as unpublished opportunities that only internal employees know about or are ones that even the employer didn’t realize existed. To expand, the researchers recommend that by identifying the inefficiencies (in confidence) at the employer’s site, you can turn this into a task or responsibility that works for your client’s job goal as well as the employer’s unmet business need that will help him or her be successful. It’s about balancing the two “clients”. It’s helping your employer’s business be successful. It’s not a make-work project. Expecting an employer to be a venue for you to train your candidate is unrealistic unless you have the support of the employer to offer this prior to placement. Respect the employer’s business needs unless you will be pursuing a partnership business or a social enterprise or organization that is already set up for train-and-place model.

5. Build mutually beneficial relationship with the employer. Trust is key when you are working with employers as is when working with your job seeker with disability. Before you pursue job carving with the employer, it’s important to first see how you can help that employer with the existing business model. For example, if the employer has an urgent need for an architect, take this as an opportunity to source qualified architects from your caseload or collaborate with community partners. Provide stellar customer service for the employer with a fantastic job match. At first it may not be someone from your caseload, but it’s a great way to kick start a good professional relationship. Customizing a job for a person with disability involves identifying the employer’s problems, shortages and needs and areas that he or she needs help with. As the NBCAL states “it’s about adding value to your employer’s business. It’s a real job; not a “charity job”. It contributes to the overall operation and productivity of the business. Continue to build your collaborative partnership with the employer by helping him or her with all of the recruitment, selection and hiring needs and related projects. Keep the employer updated on all the new programs and services available to him or her that can help their business (for example government funded subsidies, grants, employer events like job fairs, and internship to name a few). Expand your services to the employer to look after all of the hiring and recruitment needs not only with your own caseload and at the same time, continue job coaching and promoting natural supports for your client for the long term (Butterworth et al, 2015).

The challenge of securing meaningful and sustainable employment for people with disabilities in the labour market can be addressed by employment specialists through an innovative strategy of job carving or work customization. Through deep research of the labour market, a thorough assessment of the job seeker’s skills, strengths, passions and limitations and analysis of the employer and his or her business needs, employment specialists can identify gaps and “unmet needs” in the business. This critical information can lead the way for a paid placement for your client that is a good fit for both parties as well as to a mutually beneficial and long term relationship with this employer. All of this engagement leads to improved employment outcomes for the people with disabilities and eventual integration and inclusion in the competitive work force.


Joanna Samuels, MEd, CMF, CTDP, RRP, is an Employment Resource Specialist at with an expertise in job development, job coaching, and workshop facilitation with people with disabilities and multi-barriers as well as staff training. Also, Joanna helps employers with diversity recruitment and selection, and is a published author and employment advice columnist, as well as a certified Life Skills Coach, and certified Personality Dimensions Facilitator. Joanna is available as a guest speaker on employment/career advice topics.

Work Customization: Creating Employment Opportunities for People with a Disability in Today’s Workforce, New Brunswick Association for Community Living (2013). URL:
Hagner, D., Dague, B. and Phillips, K. 2015. “Supporting inclusion in workplace cultures”. In Way leads on to way. American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 147-164
Baker, D., and Vaks, B. 2015. “Employment for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities and challenging behaviour”. In Way leads on to way. American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 123-143
Butterworth, J., Nord, D., and Migliore, A (2015). “Strengthening the role of employment consultants”. In Way leads on to way. American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 321-339
Eichler, L. (2017). “Without a title and paycheque, who are we?” Globe Careers. The Globe and Mail
Marston, D (2015). “Behavioural assessment and vocational training programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities”. In Way leads on to way. American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 107-122
Turcotte, M (2011). “Persons with disabilities and employment”, Statistics Canada. URL:

Lucie Morillon
Lucie Morillon is the Bilingual Content & Communications Co-ordinator for CERIC. With a passion for quality content, she connects with her online communities and provides strong resources to engage members – and always encourages new ones to get involved. She identifies, creates and curates the content destined for the ContactPoint website, the weekly CareerWise newsletter and Careering magazine.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to toolbar