Customized Training Toolkit

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What Is Customized Training?

Customized training (CT) meets the specific skill needs of an employer or a group of employers. This type of training typically includes a commitment from the employer to share costs with the training provider and to hire some or all of the successful graduates of the training program.

CT programs are partnerships between employers and local training providers, such as community colleges or community-based organizations. Partnerships can also include organizations like vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and American Job Centers. These additional partners perform critical tasks like managing and convening the partnership, doing recruitment, performing assessment and intake, and providing linkages to supportive services.1

Customized training can be financed in a number of ways. The Federal Government supports CT programs through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Additionally, many states make funding available for CT programs through a variety of resources, including general funds, unemployment insurance off-set taxes, bonds, tax credits, or the lottery.2 CT programs can also be privately funded.

There are many different types of CT, each with its own goals, partnership and management structure, funding streams, target populations, and training design. Some CT meets the requirements of a particular industry sector, and other trainings are based on a particular employer's business needs. This fact sheet highlights some of the most common types of customized training partnerships.

  • Community college training programs: Community colleges across the country offer demand-driven training programs in partnership with local and regional employers. Colleges customize training based on the needs of an employer or a group of employers. One example is the federally funded Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program. TAACCCT grants provide funding for community colleges to expand and improve training programs to prepare participants for placement in high-wage, high-skill occupations. TAACCCT grantees are required to partner with local and regional employers as part of the grant.3
  • Registered Apprenticeship: Registered Apprenticeship is an "earn and learn" customized training strategy run by the U.S. Department of Labor. These apprenticeships connect job seekers with employer sponsors to provide them with paid work-based learning opportunities and academic instruction in a specific industry sector, like healthcare, manufacturing, or information technology. The goal is to connect employers with workers that meet their specific needs.
  • On-the-job training (OJT): OJT for one or more participants is one method of customized training where training takes place directly on the job site. Trainees learn how to perform critical tasks for their OJT employer with the goal of being hired on upon the completion of training. OJT may be used in conjunction with classroom training.

Note: VR agencies have traditionally used an OJT model for 1:1 skill training and placement. Today, more and more VR agencies are partnering with businesses such as Walgreens and Lowe's to build CT programs.

All of the types of CT identified above are effective strategies that the workforce investment system, including VR, can offer local employers and job seekers.

Webinar View ExploreVR webinar, Introduction to Customized Training in a Job Driven Economy to learn more about current VR customized training models and practices that demonstrate VR collaboration with employers and other community partners.

What is the value of customized training to VR agencies and their clients?

Often, the business community's perception of VR and VR clients is that they are only seeking entry-level jobs because they lack the skills, education, and experience to compete for higher-level jobs. Customized training is one way to change that perception.

CT is particularly relevant in a challenging economic environment. "Job-driven" workforce development has become a major focus area within many branches of the Federal Government, and therefore is an important part of the White House agenda. Additionally, it is a critical component in WIOA legislation.

The Biden Report (Ready to Work: Job Driven Training and American Opportunity, July 2014 [PDF]) states, "...Simply put, customized training provides ready-to-work individuals with the skills they need to secure good jobs that are ready to be filled." This is well-aligned with the VR system's purpose and mission.

The report also provides details about what currently exists as well as projected activity in this arena. Customized training is at the forefront of these efforts.

Along similar lines, the White House released a report called Progress Update on Job Driven Training and Apprenticeships [PDF] in September 2015. It documents extensive activity underway to expand education and training and open doors to good jobs with good wages.

The government continues to identify what works and to scale up proven strategies. Apprenticeships are recognized as the gold standard of jobs-driven training; investing continues accordingly, achieving the largest growth in apprenticeships in nearly a decade. Work with all stakeholders around career advancement also remains a high priority.

Significant resources are available to maintain and expand current options as well as to create innovative partnerships that will provide job seekers with the skills needed to thrive in lucrative, interesting jobs. Many customized training arrangements lead to immediate employment and provide decent wages as part of the model. The scope and variety of CT programs has expanded beyond the traditional trade industries--employers representing fields such as retail, IT, manufacturing, and hospitality are eager to participate.

Customized training allows VR to position itself as a respected human resources agent for candidate recruitment and for consultation on disability-related supports and services. CT also provides an opportunity for VR to increase career opportunities for clients, and to build collaborative relationships with employers and other workforce initiatives.

Benefits of Customized Training
  • Customized Training (CT) is leading to improvements in the number and quality of employment outcomes for VR clients, opening doors for people with disabilities to high-quality, well-paying jobs.
  • CT can inform VR staff and clients about up-to-date employment opportunities.
  • CT offers direct connection to jobs: participants become part of a pool of qualified candidates, often paid while training.
  • CT leads to credentialing of candidates, which is valued by businesses.
  • CT offers strategies to get beyond entry-level work by focusing on training for jobs requiring "middle skills," and opens multiple career pathways.
  • CT aligns with federal focus, which brings attention, resources, and funding.
  • Business understands the model of CT. With VR as a partner, a "win-win-win" collaboration is created with benefits to business, VR, and clients.
  • Forming CT partnerships is an efficient way to allocate limited resources. The costs can be reimbursed, shared, or distributed across partners, depending on the CT model.
  • Increased involvement with CT will enhance VR's visibility with businesses as a valuable disability expert, consultant, and supplier of qualified talent pools.

The time is right to jump on the bandwagon! In this economic climate, customized training programs can become a major gateway for people with disabilities to obtain and retain high-quality, well-paid jobs in their communities.


1 Long, David A. (2009). "The Promise of Customized Training: Evidence from the United States."

2 Duscha, Steve & Graves, Wanda Lee. (2006). "The Employer as the Client: State-Financed Customized Training 2006."

3 http://doleta.gov/taaccct/

Webinar  View ExploreVR webinar, Job-Driven Customized Training: Exploring Innovative Models, to learn about innovative CT programs at two companies: ORION Industries and Starbucks Coffee.