Improving school to work transition for young people with intellectual disability

Ms Michelle Wakeford1, Amy Scott1, Dr William Crisp2

1National Disability Services, Australia, 2Living with Disability Research Centre/NDS

The transition from education to employment is critical for the social and economic futures of young people with intellectual disability. Ticket to Work networks have been supporting school transition since 2014 creating 1,400 jobs for secondary students the majority with intellectual disability and attending special school.

Test Ticket to Work theory of change that ‘Connecting a student with disability with the world of work before they leave school (through a coordinated approach), creates better economic and social outcomes’. Surveys were completed by 59 participants, 93% of those that responded indicated they had an intellectual disability. The study used a quasi-experimental treatment and comparison group design.

Young people that had employment engagement and career experiences at school:

  • are more likely to be employed (64%) than the comparison group (33%).
  • who participated in three or more career and work development activities during school have higher levels of employment (77% to 55%).
  • are more likely to complete year 12 (95%) than the comparison group (52%).
  • are more often studying post school (31%) than the comparison group (23%)
  • are more likely to obtain further qualifications (32%) than the comparison group (16%), and
  • have higher rates of social interaction and independence

There are implications both at the policy and practice level to a range of stakeholders including:

  • Government and their agencies – focus on how to get different sectors working in concert to improve post school outcomes and building an ‘Employment First’ approach that raises expectations that employment should be prioritised for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • NDIS – with a focus on how to improve employment outcomes for people with disability.
  • Practitioners – how to ensure key stakeholders eg schools, parents, disability employment services, NDIS providers, provide evidence based practice to improve school to work transition


Amy Scott is the Partnerships & Development Coordinator at Ticket to Work, an initiative of National Disability Services. Amy has several years’ experience coordinating programs and projects across the not-for-profit, disability and educational sectors, in the UK and Australia. Prior to NDS Amy was the Operations Manager of a national Recovery College for a large community mental health provider, where co-design was at the heart of all service design. Amy firmly believes that everyone has a right to employment and believes it can form a celebrated part of our identity.

Dr William Crisp is an online facilitator in School of Allied Health, Human Services and Sport, La Trobe University and a Research Officer in Living with Disability Research Centre at La Trobe University. He also works for National Disability Services as a policy and project officer on the Ticket to Work Initiative. Dr Crisp completed his PhD in 2018 on the processes facilitating the self-determination of people with intellectual disability.

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