Pre-Employment Transition Services

Pre ETS Map

For 45 years, Watauga Opportunities, Inc. has assisted individuals with disabilities in becoming a part of both the workforce and their community. Transitioning from student life to the workforce is a critical milestone in the path towards self-reliance and independence. WOI has offered pre-employment services to students in Watauga County through a Board of Education contract since 1977 and students in Avery and Mitchell counties through Community Based Assessments and Job Coaching services since 1993.  

In January 2018, WOI began a partnership with the NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Watauga, Avery, and Mitchell County school systems to provide Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) to students. The Pre-ETS program has grown each year since that time. Currently, the program serves students in Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes, Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, Yancey, Buncombe, Asheville City, Madison, and Caldwell County Schools. In the 2021-2022 school year, the Pre-ETS program will also be starting in Surry County Schools, Elkin City Schools, Alexander County Schools, Hickory Public Schools, Newton-Conover City Schools, and the Catawba County School system.

Enrollment Criteria:

Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) provides pre-vocational training services to students between the ages of 14 to 21, who have a documented disability, and who are enrolled in a credential-seeking school program (high school, homeschool, GED, or post-secondary education).

Pre-ETS is a collaboration between Watauga Opportunities, Local Education Agencies (LEAs) through area school districts, and Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). Pre-ETS is federally funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and is entirely free to participants and their schools. Students do not have to be a VR participant to enroll in Pre-ETS. Additionally, students who attend school in a public, private, or home-schooled setting are all eligible for services.

Enrollment Process:

Pre ETS Flow

In order to enroll in Pre-ETS an enrollment packet must be completed.  This packet contains releases from both Watauga Opportunities and Vocational Rehabilitation.  Completing the Pre-ETS packet does not enroll a student in Vocational Rehabilitation services other than Pre-Employment Transition Services. 

Areas of Service:

Pre ETS Categories

Pre-ETS covers five instructional areas: 1) Job Exploration Counseling, 2) Self-Advocacy Instruction, 3) Workplace Readiness Training, 4) Counseling on Post-Secondary Education Opportunities, and 5) Work-based Learning Experiences. All Pre-Employment Transition Services are individually designed with input from the student, teachers, family members, guardians, VR counselor, Pre-ETS Specialist, and any other identified stakeholder in the student’s life.  The Pre-ETS program has no set starting or ending point- enrolled students are at the center of their services and are able to give input on what is most beneficial to their personal dreams, goals, and plans!

The Pre-ETS curriculum is differentiated and created using educational best practices including a focus on community-based instruction, multi-sensory approaches to milestone completion, and a person-centered approach to all experiences. Students have spent time practicing work behaviors by volunteering. Others have been paid to practice work behaviors by working with local businesses such as gyms, coffee shops, video game stores, restaurants, etc. These experiences are all chances for students to try out different jobs that they may like to have someday. 

Here are the 5 Pre-ETS categories in which students can receive services:

  1. Job Exploration Counseling can include a wide variety of activities that helps to identify the career interests of the student. Sessions are intended to foster motivation and informed decision-making. Discussions and/or information may include the administration of vocational interest assessments, exploring the local labor market, and viewing various traditional and non-traditional employment options.
  2. Self-Advocacy Instruction is about teaching independence and responsibility.  As many students are in process of learning how to speak up for themselves, training in this area provides specific instruction on how to become an advocate. Sessions are intended to aid the student in being able to communicate their career interests effectively and to identify areas where accommodations are needed to be successful. Students may also be given the opportunity to hear from former students who have received similar services through Pre-ETS, Supported Employment, Work Adjustment, and/or other Vocational Rehabilitation services.
  3. Workplace Readiness Training also commonly referred to as soft skills training. These skills may include communication, time management, teamwork, and critical thinking. These abilities are an essential component in maintaining appropriate behaviors for any job. Employers value employees who can display professionalism. 
  4. Post-Secondary Education Counseling allows students the opportunity to gain a deeper awareness of potential career pathways through various postsecondary programs. Some of these programs may include four-year degrees, AA/AS degrees, certificate programs, and Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Programs.  Students are also given guided tours of local institutions of higher education. Within these tours, students familiarize themselves with the disability services department where they are educated on ways to self-advocate and request services.
  5. Work-based Learning is an instructional approach that provides real-life work experiences. Students are able to work alongside of a Pre-ETS Specialist in a workplace setting.  These milestones are ideal for developing and maintaining employability skills. Workplace tours and job sampling are two commonly used tools used in providing real-life work experiences. Students participating in these two activities are able to observe and work in job sites geared towards their interests. During work-based learning experiences, students participate in paid work activities and are evaluated on work-relevant skills.

Do you want to enroll or learn more about Pre-Employment Transition Services?

Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) is a service that is completely free for schools and families.  As of 2021, The Pre-ETS program has served over 750 students in preparing for the transition to adult life.  We anticipate serving 1500 students in the 2021-2022 academic year.  To enroll your student or to learn more about the program, please reach out Watauga Opportunities, Inc. at (828) 264-5008 or email

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