Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS)

A guide for Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB).


The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (W.I.O.A.) requires vocational rehabilitation agencies to set aside at least 15% of their federal funds to provide “pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS)” to “students with disabilities who are eligible or potentially eligible for vocational rehabilitation services.” W.I.O.A. defines five service categories Pre-ETS students should receive to encourage better preparation for postsecondary education, independent living, and employment. The five Pre-ETS service categories are:

  • Job Exploration Counseling
  • Work-Based Learning
  • Post-Secondary Education Preparation 
  • Workplace Readiness Training
  • Instruction in Self-Advocacy

Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) pays contracted non-profit organizations and educational partners to provide Pre-ETS.

Pre-ETS are designed to build on the transition services already occurring within the local education agency. Meaningful delivery of Pre-ETS is most effective when educators, families, and employers are engaged and working together on the student’s behalf. With successful collaboration, the transition team can address the complex needs of students and contribute to opportunities to improve post-school outcomes for children with disabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can receive Pre-ETS services?

  • Visually impaired students ages 14 through 21 (up to their 22nd birthday) receiving services through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a Section 504 Plan. Students may be either eligible for MCB vocational rehabilitation services or “potentially eligible.”
  • “Potentially eligible” students are registered with MCB but have not applied for MCB vocational rehabilitation services (and may wish to do so at this time), as well as students with visual impairments who are not registered with MCB and whose medical condition and prognosis are undetermined. The federal government wants agencies to provide these limited Pre-ETS services by a referral process service that is “simple, engaging, and not discouraging.”

What are the benefits of Pre-ETS for the student?

  • Identification of student career interests and needs
  • Awareness of the variety of options and the role of post-secondary education and training
  • Development of plan with outcome-oriented goals and activities
  • Awareness of the variety of careers available and the variety of jobs within career fields
  • Broaden perspective of personal skills to utilize, reinforce, and develop for work
  • Increased communication with family about student’s progress and needs
  • Broaden self-awareness, including how to request accommodations or services and supports

What types of programs can be provided as Pre-ETS services?

Pre-ETS services are much more limited than the services available to students who have applied for and been found eligible for vocational rehabilitation. However, a number of different programs may be provided to address the five core Pre-ETS:

Job Exploration Counseling

  • Purpose: Job Exploration Counseling is meant to provide students with a variety of opportunities to gain information about careers, the skills needed for different jobs, and to uncover personal career interests. 
  • Examples of activities:
    • With student, review vocational interest inventory and skills assessment results
    • Learn about and explore career pathways using career information systems
    • Interview people to learn about jobs and skills needed to succeed
    • Provide information regarding nontraditional employment, such as teleworking and self-employment
    • Provide information about in-demand industry sectors and occupations

Work-Based Learning (WBL)

  • Purpose: Work Based Learning (WBL) is an educational approach or instructional method that uses community workplaces to provide students with the knowledge and skills that will help them connect school experiences to real-life work activities and future career opportunities. 
  • Examples of activities:
    • Connect student with a business mentor
    • Develop work sites aligned with student interest
    • Provide local volunteer opportunities for students
    • Conduct work-based learning evaluations of student performance
    • Provide opportunities for internships, apprenticeships (not registered apprenticeships or pre-apprenticeships), fellowships

Post-Secondary Education (PSE) Preparation

  • Purpose: Post-Secondary Education (PSE) Preparation improves employment outcomes and increases opportunities for students with disabilities to access 21st century jobs.
  • Examples of activities:
    • Learn about accommodations for college entrance exams
    • Develop ‘class shadows’ in college and vocational training classrooms
    • Advise students and parents or representatives on academic curriculum
    • Provide information about college application and admissions processes
    • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with student
    • Provide resources that may be used to support individual student success in education and training (i.e., disability support services)

Workplace Readiness Training

  • Purpose: Workplace readiness traits describe a number of skills that employers expect from most employees.
  • Examples of activities:
    • Identify and learn how to use assistive technology in the workplace
    • Meet with a benefits counselor
    • Develop individual transportation plans and learn necessary mobility skills
    • Provide self-evaluation instruction/programs that include the same topics as found under a group setting:
      • Maintaining healthy relationships
      • Work and study habits
      • Planning and goals setting
      • Using community resources
      • Budgeting and paying bills
      • Computer literacy

Instruction in Self-Advocacy

  • Purpose: Self-advocacy skills will enable students to advocate for any support services, including auxiliary aids, services, and accommodations that may be necessary for training or employment.
  • Examples of activities:
    • Discuss with student how their disability impacts them and identify strategies that may assist them at school, work, and socially
    • Use computer assisted instruction to learn about IEP’s and how to be an active participant
    • Assist student to identify, document and explain needed accommodations
    • Assist student in developing goals and information to share at their IEP
    • Conduct informational interviews
    • Provide opportunities for students to participate in mentoring with individuals employed by or volunteering for employers, boards, associations, or organizations in integrated community settings
    • Provide opportunities for students to participate in youth leadership activities offered in educational or community settings

What services can “potentially eligible” students receive?

“Potentially eligible” students may only receive services that address the five core Pre-ETS. Students who have applied for and been found eligible for vocational rehabilitation may receive the full range of vocational rehabilitation services, including college or vocational training, assistive technology, and job placement.

How can a TVI or other school staff member make a referral for MCB Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS)?

A teacher certified in the area of visual impairments (TVI) or other school staff may refer a student to MCB by emailing

Can a student sign up for a Pre-ETS program before contacting MCB?

Students should contact their vocational rehabilitation counselor if they are interested in a Pre-ETS program. The counselor can assist with the application, develop and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and authorize payment.

What MCB services can younger children receive?

Children younger than age 14 are not able to receive Pre-ETS services but are eligible for MCB children’s services. Students aged 14 and 15 are eligible for MCB vocational rehabilitation services. Contact MCB for more information.

Does MCB have a Pre-ETS Best Practice Guide?

MCB Pre-ETS Best Practice Guide Graphic Novel The Quest for Independence Front Cover with MCB Superhero

Our graphic novel, The Quest for Independence, features the story of two fictional, yet typical, Pre-ETS individuals named Alex and Sophia. Alex and Sophia are two visually impaired teenagers on a quest trying to fit in and maneuver through high school. Like other teens who have limited vision or are blind, they strive to be independent but are unaware of the resources available to them.

They get help along their journey from their vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor, Mr. Pre-ETS. As a mild-mannered VR counselor, Mr. Pre-ETS transforms from his day-to-day appearance into a larger-than-life superhero version of himself, MC-B. As in any good adventure, they bravely face adversity and overcome obstacles as they take on various quests along their VR journey.

The Quest for Independence has five chapters that focus on the five areas of Pre-ETS services. These activities correspond with those laid out in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (W.I.O.A.).

  • Chapter 1 focuses on Job Exploration & Counseling.
  • Chapter 2 explores Work-Based Learning.
  • Chapter 3 explains Transition Counseling.
  • Chapter 4 covers Workplace Readiness.
  • Chapter 5 reviews the importance of Self-Advocacy.   

Download a PDF (accessible for screen readers): MCB Pre-ETS Best Practice Guide: The Quest for Independence

Request a large print copy by emailing:

Download the audio version (MP3): MCB Pre-ETS Best Practice Guide: The Quest for Independence Audio Files

MCB Pre-ETS Vendors

Adapted Sports New England


Lowell Association for the Blind

Partners for Youth with Disabilities

Perkins School for the Blind

Polus Center for Social and Economic Development

ReSOURCE: A Nonprofit Community Enterprise

The Carroll Center for the Blind


Work Opportunities Unlimited

Events for the Pre-ETS Community

Our annual MCB Pre-ETS Visions of Collaboration Conference is held every spring for TVIs, COMS, Special Ed Directors, IEP Team Chairs, Guidance Counselors, and Transition Professionals. This educational event ensures collaboration, communication, and learning for the Pre-ETS community in Massachusetts. 

MCB Pre-ETS Vendor Fact Sheets

Additional Resources

Contact for Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS)


600 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111

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