Work-based learning during the school years leads to better postschool employment outcomes (Hughes, Moore, & Bailey, 1999). Volunteer experiences and unpaid internships, in addition to paid employment, can be steppingstones to future employment. Youth and their families need not rely solely on school programs to pursue such opportunities. They can do much on their own to launch the youth's career search. Recent studies demonstrate the effectiveness of using personal networks as a job search strategy (Timmons, Hamner, & Boes, 2003), and highlight the fact that families make key contributions to successful employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities (26th Institute on Rehabilitation Issues, 2000).
There are creative ways to combine community relationships, a young person's interests, and family or personal networks to help a young person effectively explore work-based learning outside of school settings. Parents may seek opportunities through co-workers, relatives, and neighbors. Moreover, parents often know their children better than professionals do and can help their sons and daughters explore their unique abilities, strengths, and interests -- all of which may lead to an appropriate career path.