Transitioning From School to Work: Meet Janet Estervig


Janet Estervig is Attainment Company’s new Director of Curriculum and Training: Transition, Employment, and Supported Living. Janet has an extensive background with supporting individuals with disabilities and is currently developing the new Pre-Employment Transition Solution (Pre-ETS)! She is also one of our expert bloggers for Practical Perspective, offering advice and resources for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and transition services. We’re excited to welcome her to the Attainment team!


What was your professional path to Attainment Company?

I have had the privilege of working within various fields related to employment and health outcomes for people with disabilities. As a special education teacher, I knew the importance of having a job for my students, so I went on to start my own nonprofit agency called Work Opportunity in Rural Communities: This was back in 1983 when supported employment was just beginning. I was one of the early pioneers in supported employment in Wisconsin and gained a great deal of experience in making connections with businesses and individuals. I helped families, business, and individuals with disabilities see the value of having a job, support within their job, successful job matches, and learning job and soft skills. Over the next 3 decades, I trained on supported employment around the country and the UK.

During this time, I also became a registered nurse, which allowed me the opportunity to supervise personal care workers and other RNs to provide home-based personal care services. This is a critical component for assisting people to get up and out of their homes for jobs, but I didn’t stop there! I decided to bring all this knowledge to help support the Department of Health Services of the state of Wisconsin, and their employment initiatives for youth and adults with disabilities! I was able to write policy and collaborate with other state departments around two major federal legislation changes that are and will impact youth and adults with disabilities. One is the WIOA and the other impacts Medicaid services for people in long-term care called the “Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) final settings rule." I helped in developing policies, guidance, Memorandum of Understanding, and provider training to support the outcomes for youth and adults into working and living in their communities under these two federal rules.

This has culminated in an opportunity to work at Attainment Company and to turn my knowledge and experience into practical resources. These resources should give educators, adult employment providers, and vocational rehabilitation counselors tools to promote employment and community inclusion for youth and adults with disabilities!


How have your past experiences influenced the way you conceptualize the Pre-ETS curriculum?

This curriculum comes from field research and best practices that support employment outcomes for youth. As a past classroom teacher and supported employment provider for 25 years, I will bring hands-on practical activities and objectives that support students with various levels of disabilities. We have staff members at Attainment Company who bring their own experiences to this curriculum, including a special educator, and experts in technology and graphics.

This range of experiences illustrates that in order for students with disabilities to be successful, they need to live and work in their communities. We need the support of families, businesses, community and school leaders, adult service providers, and most importantly, classroom instructors and vocational rehabilitation counselors. This collaboration makes our Pre-ETS curriculum an especially unique tool to help meet those transitional needs.


How do you think WIOA will change transition programs and impact students’ lives?

The strong partnership between the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies and the schools is a critical component for successful job placements for students with disabilities. WIOA includes ALL students with IEPs or 504 plans, which expands the opportunities for students still in school. The funding requirement of WIOA states that 15% of each state’s VR budget must be spent on Pre-ETS for youth still in school. This is a significant change for most VR agencies throughout the country with this level of commitment to youth still in school. VR counselors must collaborate with secondary educators to “provide or arrange for the provision of pre-employment transition services." VR must provide support for students to receive pre-employment services. Research has shown that youth who have at least two paid community work experiences during high school are five times more likely to work in the community post-high school. Students' lives will be greatly impacted with transition programs across the country now being required to focus on their employment, career, and vocational training needs. WIOA will touch more students with disabilities than ever before and that will mean more opportunities for post-secondary education, vocational on-the-job training, and employment.


What inspired you to create the Pre-Employment Transition Solution?

Prior to coming to Attainment Company this year, I had been working at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. We partnered with the Departments of Vocational Rehabilitation and Public Instruction to develop statewide policies and practices to implement the WIOA. Many schools in our state were still graduating students with disabilities without gainful employment in their community. Building a strong transition program that focuses on jobs and careers for all students with an IEP or 504 plan is necessary to increase employment outcomes for our youth in school. Teachers need the tools to develop employment and career- focused lesson plans that will include jobs in their communities once they have graduated.

We are working hard to create a curriculum that includes best practices, practical activities, and effective educational goals that will support career development and employment. It is appropriate for use in a classroom and community setting and will lead in-school youths toward the path of having a job and living in their community successfully.


Where would the Pre-ETS curriculum be of most use?

The curriculum is aimed at educators, paraprofessionals, and special education administrators, but will also support vocational rehabilitation state agencies looking for training materials to fulfill their mandated 15% spending for Pre-ETS. This can include adult vocational providers (Community Rehabilitation Programs, Supported Employment Agencies, Independent Living Centers) who will be providing Pre-ETS funded by VR. The schools are already providing transition services for students with disabilities, but with WIOA, they now have a stronger partner with VR to fund more enhanced transition services for students 14-21 who are still in school and have an IEP, 504 plan, or are potentially eligible for VR services.


What else are you working on at Attainment?
  • Writing and editing the WIOA Pre-Employment Transition Solution
  • Planning a filming project with youth working in jobs in the community that will be used in our training materials
  • Creating future webinars and blogs to support staff development and training on transition and job placement activities
  • Providing on-site staff training on such topics as engaging employers, discovery process, and systematic instruction on-the-job
  • Developing functional and supported employment assessment tools
  • Collaborating with a special education teacher in developing lesson plans and supporting material for user-friendly curriculum
  • Collaborating with other departments within Attainment to create high quality materials for best practice
  • Looking at ways to incorporate assistive technology and online learning within all our products


We hope you enjoyed this interview! Let us know if you have any questions about the Pre-ETS curriculum or WIOA.

One thought on “Transitioning From School to Work: Meet Janet Estervig”

  • Carole A Stuebe January 11, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Hi Janet,
    Miss you in WI but so excited for you and your next venture. We are planning to order the Pre- ETS Curriculum: Pre-Employment Transition Solution when it becomes available. So, keep me posted!.

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