8 Other Variables and Considerations in Work Experience

It is likely that brief experiences resulting in two to three times a week with one to two hours each time of community-based employment training are not intensive enough to allow young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to identify their strengths, interests, and preferences. Internships, on the other hand, typically involve a significant portion of a students’ weekly educational time. Indeed, internships provide the intensity and experience necessary to allow youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities to learn the job skills and social behaviors that result in successful employment (Wehman, 2014, Schall et al., 2014, as cited in Wehman et al., 2017). Instead of being present a few times weekly to learn a few job skills, a young person in an internship earns real work experience. [1]


s with terminology, there are similarly no provincially or institutionally mandated specifications or recommendations in regard to the amount of time or number of hours spent on work experience activities in BC’s ASE ER programs. These requirements are established internally for each ASE program or course and within each institution’s accountability framework. Many factors influence the ranges and activities chosen, such as the purpose and focus of each WEP. The ASE Program-Specific Transfer Guide Project stipulates that Level 2 ER programs should include “at least one” work experience, but does not make recommendations in regard to time spent on WEP. Websites from programs in other provinces show a wide range of expectations in terms of hours spent in various work experience activities. A similar situation exists in the post-secondary system in the United States where there is more extensive array of programming. A query to Think College, regarding state or national requirements for hours spent on WEP activities, elicited the following response from representative, Catheryn Weir:

…it is not very clearly defined, so programs may decide for themselves how many hours they dedicate to internships and work-based training.  At this time, the only mention of a requirement for internship hours is from the Higher Education Act of 2008, and there it states:

(5) Requires students with intellectual disabilities to have at least one-half of their participation in the program, as determined by the institution, focus on academic components through one or more of the following activities:

(i) Taking credit-bearing courses with students without disabilities. (Higher Education Opportunity Act, 2008)

(ii) Auditing or otherwise participating in courses with students without disabilities for which the student does not receive regular academic credit. (Higher Education Opportunity Act, 2008)

(iii) Taking non-credit-bearing, non-degree courses with students without disabilities. (Higher Education Opportunity Act, 2008)

(iv) Participating in internships or work-based training in settings with individuals without disabilities; and… (Higher Education Opportunity Act, 2008) [2]


In order to identify and attain career goals, youth need to be exposed to a range of experiences, including the following:

  • opportunities to engage in a range of work-based exploration activities such as site visits and job shadowing;
  • multiple on-the-job training experiences (paid or unpaid), including community service, that are specifically linked to the content of a program of study and school credit;
  • opportunities to learn and practice their work skills (so-called “soft skills”); and
  • opportunities to learn first-hand about specific occupational skills related to a career pathway.

In addition, youth with disabilities may need to do one or more of the following:

  • understand the relationships between benefits planning and career choices;
  • learn to communicate their disability-related work support and accommodation needs; and
  • learn to find, formally request, and secure appropriate supports and reasonable accommodations in education, training, and employment settings.



Despite a lack of clarity around the articulation and application of specific evidence-based practices in ASE ER work experiences, one of the greatest strengths of these programs appears to be their flexibility. Flexibility in ASE ER programming is vital as each work experience needs to be carefully planned and organized to address an array of challenges and a wide scope of individual needs. Faculty and staff are able to readily differentiate instruction and tailor academic pursuits to meet individual goals. While there is a logical career progression, students arrive at ASE ER programs at various stages of job readiness due to variances in career education practices within each school, district, etc., as well as differences in individual background and circumstances. For example, some students may have strong career focus and are looking to gain skills and experience in their chosen field as they transition directly to employment or further skills-specific training, while others are still in an awareness and exploration stage, learning about the basic expectations of the workplace, their likes and dislikes, the supports they may require, etc. Initial exploration and discovery activities are generally intended to determine and highlight personal strengths (e.g., develop a positive personal profile), and identify, or confirm, a number of work themes, which can then be investigated further for suitability.

As noted elsewhere in this handbook, various sources recommend that each work experience be tailored for explicit, individual outcomes and the particular conditions of the WEP (hours, days, support, etc.) reflect both the specific purpose (exploration, etc.) and the student’s position in their career progression.  Specifically defining the individualized purpose and outcomes for each work experience is heavily emphasized in various documents outlining the conditions for high quality work experiences (as outlined in the recommendations on the following pages).

Generally, BC’s ASE ER programs reported that WEPs are focused on individual goals and needs. ASE ER programs employ an array of practices and activities, classified as work experience, such as:

  • job shadowing
  • field trips
  • worksite tours
  • use of assessment and evaluation tools
  • simulations
  • structured work experiences
  • research activities, such as informational interviews, library research, etc.

The most current overview of BC’s ASE employment readiness programs is the 2018 Adult Special Education Program-Specific Transfer Guide Project. The outcomes listed in the box below, specific to the work experience component of these programs, are detailed in the transfer guide. A minimum of 70% of the identified outcomes are required in courses/programs identified as Level 2 (see appendix). Work/Training Experience outcomes are not listed as a requirement for Level 1 programs.  Related outcomes (Employment Exploration Skills and Employability/Workplace Skills) are listed in the previous section.


Work/Training Experience

(Mandatory for Level 2 Courses/Programs; Optional for Foundation Courses)

The learner will:

  1. Identify and demonstrate safe work practices as per WorkSafeBC BC guidelines
  2. Participate in work site training orientation
  3. Identity and evaluate safe and unsafe work sites
  4. Complete a minimum of one work experience in an identified job, based on interests, skills and abilities when applicable
  5. Plan transportation to participate in an interview and work placement, as required
  6. Set goals and participate in evaluations
  7. Demonstrate good workplace habits and positive attitudes
  8. Plan and complete tasks as per instructions

  1. Wehman, P., Avelline, L., Brooke, V., Hinterlong, P., Inge, K., Lau, S., & McDonough, J. R. (2017). Transition to Employment. In M. Wehmeyer, & K. Shogren (Eds.), Handbook of research-based practices for educating students with intellectual disability (pp. 450-470). Routledge.
  2. Higher Education Opportunity Act, 20 U.S.C. § 760 (2008). https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/PLAW-110publ315/pdf/PLAW-110publ315.pdf 
  3. National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability. (2004). Career planning begins with assessment: A guide for professionals serving youth with educational and career development challenges. Retrieved December 12, 2017, from National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability: http://www.ncwd-youth.info/career-planning-begins-with-assessment


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Other Variables and Considerations in Work Experience Copyright © 2021 by Nicola Soles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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