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Customized employment: Translating policy into practice through SourceAmerica Pathways to Careers (Sevak et al. 2019)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Sevak, P., Denny-Brown, N., & Shenk, M. (2019). Customized employment: Translating policy into practice through SourceAmerica Pathways to Careers. Mathematica.

Highlights

  • The study examined the impact of the SourceAmerica Pathways to Careers program on obtaining competitive integrated employment (CIE) for at least 90 days. 

  • The study used a nonexperimental design to compare outcomes of Pathways participants to a matched comparison group of participants served by state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies.  

  • The study did not find a statistically significant relationship between Pathways participation and obtaining CIE for at least 90 days following the program.  

  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented non-experimental design. This means we would be somewhat confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to the Pathways program, but other factors might also have contributed. The study did not find a statistically significant effect of participation in the program on employment outcomes. 

Intervention Examined

SourceAmerica Pathways to Careers

Features of the Intervention

The SourceAmerica Pathways to Careers program, launched in 2012 in Clearfield, Utah, uses a customized employment (CE) model to help people with disabilities obtain meaningful paid jobs in the community. CE models began gaining attention in 2001 in the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and gained additional support through the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which placed greater emphasis on competitive integrated employment obtained through CE and other approaches. 

The Pathways service model begins with Discovery, a process where staff talk with the participant and people who know them best to learn about their job-related interests and skills, using that information in a career planning meeting to identify criteria for a well-suited paid internship or customized job match. Participants can then choose to move directly into CE or opt for an 8- to 12-week paid internship where the Pathways program provides the salary and benefits. During the internship or CE, employers and participants receive job coaching and other support. SourceAmerica also funds an experimental employer payroll tax adjustment (EPTA) intended to pass on to employers some of the potential savings to the government from employing people with disabilities and thus reducing participation in public insurance and disability programs. 

This study examines the pilot site for the Pathways program where the service model was implemented by the Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center (PARC). The program served adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities or with autism spectrum disorder who lived in Davis County, Utah.  

Features of the Study

The study used a nonexperimental design to compare outcomes for Pathways participants to those of a matched comparison group of people with similar characteristics served by state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies in Utah and other states. The intervention group consisted of 89 Pathways participants who enrolled in the program from 2012 to 2016. These individuals were matched to a comparison group of 8,537 VR clients, with statistical matching based on age, gender, race, cause of disability, and education level and whose VR cases were closed between 2014 and 2016. By definition, the two groups were equivalent on a baseline measure of the outcome since no participants in either group had competitive integrated employment at baseline; achieving this employment was one of the goals of enrolling in Pathways or seeking services from state VR agencies. 

Sixty-two percent of both groups were male, and 94 percent identified as White. Seventy percent had a high school diploma or GED, and about half were ages 18 to 24. Sixty-five percent were receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at baseline. 

Two data sources were used for analysis: PARC administrative data and Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) case service record reports. Pathways data were collected at baseline when the participants applied for the program and monthly thereafter through June 2018. RSA-911 case service record reports include information on cases closed in 2014 – 2016.  

Findings

Employment

  • The study did not find a statistically significant effect of the Pathways program on obtaining competitive integrated employment for at least 90 days. However, among Pathways and VR participants that gained competitive integrated employment, Pathways participants had significantly higher wages, higher weekly earnings, and more hours worked than VR participants. 

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Participants in the Pathways program were randomly selected from a pool of eligible applicants as part of a zero-exclusion philosophy. VR clients, on the other hand, are not selected randomly. It is possible that the VR program excluded participants who were deemed unable or unlikely to succeed in obtaining competitive integrated employment, which could affect the comparison. Further, while the comparison group is from a national sample that includes Utah, the intervention group all reside in one county in Utah. 

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented non-experimental design. This means we would be somewhat confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to the Pathways program, but other factors might also have contributed. However, the study did not find a statistically significant effect. 

Reviewed by CLEAR

September 2022