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Starting a career

Young adult in red Spar shirt

The period of time following high school graduation can present many challenges. But it can also be a time of excitement, productivity and great satisfaction.

Today, there are more opportunities than ever before for individuals with Down syndrome to pursue goals. The options available are skills training, working in a protected work environment or working in the open labour market – either supported or competitive.



There are opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to participate in skills development through vocational or training programmes,

Programmes vary widely, it is very important to find a program where staff clearly respects the student’s learning style and is willing to go the extra mile to meet his or her needs. As many of these education & learning programmes have eligibility or entrance requirements and are not necessarily located in your community, it is important to start researching early. Knowledge of existing programmes and entrance requirements can help identify specific goals when planning for the future. For example, students can plan to take certain courses in high school as preparation for particular programmes. Or, they might secure part-time jobs or volunteer work in a specific field of interest. Deciding which program to enroll in is just like researching any college or program. It is important to find a good fit between the individual and the program.


In general, there are three types of employment options available to individuals with Down syndrome:

  • Competitive – the individual secures employment— for example, by responding to ads or job postings or proactively approaching businesses — and works independently without any support services.
  • Supported – the individual works in an integrated setting and receives support services from a job coach. The job coach accompanies the individual to the workplace to enable him or her to learn the necessary job skills and to prepare to work independently. Usually, the job coach works with the individual full-time at first, and moves toward the goal of providing only periodic support such as visiting the job site to assist in training the individual for new assignments.
  • Sheltered – individuals work in self-contained settings with others who have disabilities without the integration of non-disabled workers. Sheltered employment is often obtained through agencies, and wages for this type of work are typically lower than for other types of jobs. Sheltered employment usually involves manual labour tasks such as assembling goods.

Regardless of the type of employment that is pursued, the challenge will often be locating a job and coordinating appropriate support services.

Useful links:

Brownies & Downies

Work 4 U

Care Career Connection

Living Link