Skip to content

Vocational IEP Goal Ideas

Student completing an an interview with their resume

At a Glance

Exploring Vocational Skills in IEPs: Discussing the broad range of vocational skills essential for workplace success and their integration into IEPs.

Customizing Vocational Skill Goals: Providing strategies and examples for tailoring IEP goals to enhance students' vocational abilities.

Diverse Skill Categories: Addressing multiple aspects of vocational skills, from transferable skills and job site training to job search techniques and on-the-job performance.

Welcome back to our Building Your Best IEP Goals series where we are attempting to tackle the wide world of IEP goals category by category, share some baseline ideas, and show some examples of how base IEP goal ideas can be customized to fit your individual student’s needs and/or goals. 

We are going one category at a time in this series, and all of our categories are based off of our free IEP Goal Idea banks, which include all the base ideas as well as a slightly more in depth primer on individualizing goals. 

This week we are focusing on Vocational Skills, but you can also check out parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 if you are interested in other categories, and our goal banks are always available in the AGU store for free! 

So let’s dive into vocational skills, why we might want them in our students’ IEPs, and the ways our different subcategories of vocational skills can help with meeting job related and independent living goals. 

Why Vocational Skills?

Vocational skills by necessity covers a wide range of types of skills that could apply across a variety of workplaces, and as workplaces and work cultures continue to evolve over time it can be a challenge to anticipate what kinds of skills will be most helpful for a person to have. While this can make it more complicated to figure out what IEP goal a given person might benefit most from, the silver lining is that this reality strongly incentivizes taking a closer look at each individual’s goals and needs and inform the way you prioritize different IEP goal options accordingly. 

Ultimately the more we can draw the direct connection between a specific goal and the way it benefits the student in question while making sure we and the student in question are on the same page, the more we can understand the goal’s role as a stepping stone to something greater rather than an arbitrary box to check. 

Customizing a Goal Suggestion

As a quick reminder before we dive into goal suggestions and sample individualized goals, here is the broad template we use to individualize goal ideas: 


If you are interested in diving a little deeper into this topic you can find more on individualization cover it more closely in part 1 of this series and go into even more detail in each of our free goal banks

Vocational Skills Categories

Our work skill categories are broken down into a variety of generalized skills that might prove valuable in the workplace, from the ability to learn on the job, to following specific procedures, to honing specific skills that apply across a wide variety of work. As with many of our subcategories, you may feel there is some overlap or that a particular goal idea could fit equally well in another category, and that is OK! 

If you feel there is a better framing for a specific goal idea that better helps you customize it for your specific student, then that is absolutely the path we recommend taking. Fundamentally these goal ideas are meant to be helpful guideposts, places where you can see details that you recognize and can refine to fit the specifics of a given situation. The most important thing is establishing goals that you, other stakeholders, and most importantly your student can get behind. 

Soft Skills/Broadly Transferable Skills

Soft skills can feel like it has an amorphous definition based on the context in which it is used, but for our purposes we are broadly talking about the types of skills one can work on that tend to apply across the vast majority of jobs that involve some degree of teamwork and communication. 

That is in contrast to “harder” skills, which might cover a complex technical aspect of a specific type of job but doesn’t so easily transfer to a job in another field. So something like your teamwork skills might reasonably be filed under “soft” skills, while your knowledge about the inner workings of nuclear reactors might reasonably be filed under “hard” skills. 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:

Critical thinking

  • Collaboration with team members on a project


  • Demonstrate reliability and dependability (show up to work on schedule, meet deadlines, work on projects and tasks assigned)
  • Demonstrate integrity
  • Self-monitoring (all of the above, plus attire and hygiene)


  • Respects workplace property
  • Respects supervisors and coworkers
  • Communicates boundaries with others


  • Express self clearly related to work tasks and needs
  • Convey and pull information from supervisor and coworkers
  • Customer service
  • Understand what is being asked
  • Communicate written and verbal


  • Listen to feedback and incorporate into work
  • Know and practice work responsibilities
  • Delegate information to others
  • Communicate strengths and needs
  • Follow up with updates, concerns, and needs
  • Initiate communication and work tasks

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Teamwork - Collaboration with team members on a project 

“By 10/15, with support from an instructor or helper, June will complete a team based project with at least 4 teammates and 3 in class working sessions, complete her portion of the group assignment, and complete an evaluation form sharing positives and challenges from working in such a setting.” 

Example 2: Leadership - Listen to feedback and incorporate into work 

“By 11/1, with the help of the instructor, Liam will sit in for feedback on at least 5 different writing assignments and share at least 1 strategy per session on how he will use the feedback to try to improve.” 

Job Site/Community-Based Instruction

Job site and community-based instruction goals tend to revolve around the way a given student specifically navigates on the job instructions as part of an out of school learning experience. Depending on your school’s circumstances, such instruction might be a regularly part of learning or an uncommon opportunity. Either way you can adjust your goals related to this topic to fit the reality of what is doable under your school’s schedule constraints.

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:

Safety on site 

  • Learn about, identify, and follow safety needs at a job/CBI site

Use transportation to get to job/CBI site and back (travel training) 

  • Identify types of transportation
  • Identify most appropriate transportation for a given work site (bus route, type of transportation)
  • Read bus schedule and route, coordinate transportation
  • Learn about transportation expectations, etiquette, and safety needs
  • Navigate the selected type of transportation

Use transferable skills across work sites (critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, professionalism, respect, communication, and/or leadership)

Job training 

  • Receive specific training on the job, practice, and hands-on learning
  • Reflect on skills and learning before and after each CBI session

Job responsibilities 

  • Learn about job responsibilities, complete during each session
  • Complete # step directions (smaller to bigger and multiple tasks)
  • Follow a daily routine and schedule
  • Time management (use clock/watch to check the time, determine time left)

Job coach support 

  • Meet with and incorporate feedback from job coach
  • Meet previously set expectations from job coach
  • Seek out job coach for help, questions, and feedback 


  • Fill out a timesheet according to job hours or work tasks
  • Work on or off campus job for {#} minutes/hours, (#} times a week

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Job training - Receive specific training on the job, practice, and hands on learning. 

“By 12/15, with at least 3 hour long sessions with the job site instructor, Gretchen will be able to make popcorn out of the popcorn machine with limited supervision and intervention.” 

Example 2: Logistics - Fill out a timesheet according to job hours or work tasks 

“By 2/1, given at least 3 opportunities to work onsite and no more than two prompts from the job coach, Josh will accurately fill out his time card including “clock in” time, “clock out” time, and total hours worked with at least 80% accuracy.” 

Student-Led Enterprises

Student-led enterprise skills are skills that one can develop in conjunction with a student-led enterprise project. Such skills can apply in the workplace but can also be valuable life skills! Skills related to everything from budgeting to customer-facing communication to goal setting and planning can fit here, and the great part about student-led enterprises is that it can be an incredibly helpful context for finding ways to quantify student progress in a given area. 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:


  • Learn about, receive training, and take on different roles and responsibilities related to the enterprise
  • Collaborate with peers
  • Make decisions with the group


  • Provide customer service (selling a product, communicating with the customer, providing the product/good)
  • Communicate with team members, leader, and supervisor
  • Share ideas of what is working, what are the challenges, and what to work on next
  • Create a business plan/presentation to share the main ideas of the enterprise, goals, and audience
  • Develop and implement marketing plans and strategies


  • Use critical thinking and creativity to approach problems as they arise (predetermined or spontaneous problems)
  • Create and implement a strategy to address problems with the team

Financial Awareness 

  • Set and follow a budget
  • Track money, cash flow, and costs of running the enterprise
  • Count and track money based on each purchase
  • Keep stock and inventory of products/goods

Goal-Setting and Planning 

  • Identify and establish goals with the team and individually
  • Plan activities based on goals
  • Track progress towards goals, adjust activities and goals as needed

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Financial Awareness - Count and track money based on each purchase 

“By 11/15, given at least two chances to review with instructor and unlimited chances to review with peers, Kevin will accurately document all income and expenditures from the October Candy Drive to within 10% of the correct total.” 

Example 2: Goal-Setting and Planning - Plan activities based on goals 

“By 3/1, given the class’s stated goal of reaching $500 in doughnut sales, Candace will share at least 3 ideas for ways the class can try to sell more doughnuts to reach their goal.” 

Work-Based Learning Experiences

On the surface Work-Based Learning Experiences might sound similar to On Site Learning, but the distinction we are making in this case is that while On Site Learning specifically refers to goals one might meet at a particular job training program, Work-Based Learning Experiences is more about the general process of career exploration and taking the next big steps in reaching different types of goals. 

So a student learning that the career they are most interested in will likely require going to graduate school might fall under the category of Work-Based Learning Experiences while a student learning how to keep a specific space prepped according to site protocol almost certainly falls under On Site Learning. 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:

Career exploration 

  • Learn about potential interests in careers based on strengths, interests, preferences, needs, and challenges
  • Complete transition assessments and job interest surveys/inventories
  • Research results from assessments and surveys/inventories
  • Prepare for and attend job fair

Job shadowing 

  • Follow along with an employee in a given career interest to learn job responsibilities, about an organization, certain behaviors or competencies important to the job

Career mentorship 

  • Meet with and seek guidance and feedback from a mentor

Informational interviews 

  • Have informal conversations with someone working in a career area/job of interest
  • Read books, watch videos about day in the life of the job, examine job descriptions, and reflect on interests 

Internships (Paid, Non-Paid) – These are temporary positions 

  • Develop specific job-related skills related to a career area/job of interest 

Service learning 

  • Complete community service with classroom instruction and reflection 

Simulated workplace experience 

  • Practice competencies, skills, and job responsibilities 

Competitive work experience (Paid, Non-Paid, on-/off-campus job) 

  • Get a job and learn through first-hand exposure to the workplace  


  • Complete job tasks that directly or indirectly benefit others without being paid

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Career Exploration - Learn about potential interests in careers based on strengths, interests, preferences, needs, and challenges 

“By 10/15, with instructor support, Joaquim will write down a list of his personal strengths and interests, a list of at least 3 careers he might be interested in, and at least 3 statements connecting a personal strength or preference to a potential career he is interested in.” 

Example 2: Career mentorship - Meet with and seek guidance and feedback from a mentor 

“By 2/1, with the help of the instructor-assigned career mentor, Lisa will create a career plan outlining the steps she needs to take after high school to reach her stated career goals. Plan should include at least two concrete milestones (such as attend college or land an internship) as well as at least 3 skills she can work on as part of her plan.”

Getting a Job

While the way that we do our job is important, for many people one of the greatest challenges of working is finding a job in the first place! From the search to finding the right match, creating a resume to crafting the right cover letter, there are so many little intricacies to finding a job that you may not realize you need until you are actually out looking for a job! 

It’s therefore a great idea for teachers to think about some ways of working job search skills into IEP goals, as our other work related skills simply aren’t as helpful when we can’t find work! 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:

Job Search 

  • Research and learn about a variety of job search sites available online
  • Research job listings to identify the components of a job listing description (pay, job responsibilities, work experience requirements, job application information)
  • Learn about and apply critical thinking to understand the implicit language of a job listing description 

Job Match 

  • Identify job options based on preferences and results from transition assessments, inventories, previous work experience, and transportation options

Job Application 

  • Identify components of a job application, following directions, and important information
  • Create a list of common information needed for a job application:
    • # References and their contact information, Emergency contact name(s) and phone number(s), Work history or work-related experience, Personal information (address, phone number)
  • Fill out or type in responses for a job application  


  • Learn about the components of a resume and what each section means
  • Create a resume, adjust resume based on work experience and type of job


  • Learn about the components of a job interview
  • Practice responses through a role play interview 


  • Learn about and select disability supports and accommodations offered in the workplace 

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Job search - Learn about and apply critical thinking to understand the implicit language of a job listing description 

“By 12/1, with assistance from the instructor, Jody will perform the following exercise at least 2 times based on 2 unique job listings: pull important keywords from the job description as they related to the job in question, update her master resume for the specific job by including those keywords in relevant locations, and writing a cover letter that includes at least 50% of identified keywords.” 

Example 2: Job Application - Identify components of a job application, following directions, and important information.

“By 10/15, with a reference document and instructor assistance through 2 practice sessions, Javier will be able to fill out the following components of a job application on his own: Name, address, date of birth, social security number, work history, and emergency contacts.” 

On the Job

Unlike goals related to On Site Training, On the Job vocational skills are all about the little things you do to make sure you stay on top of the job you have, maintain your job security, advance in your career, and ensure that your needs are being met in a sustainable way. 

It can cover everything from deciphering and navigating the etiquette or culture of a specific company, learning some broad work etiquette concepts that can help with decision making in future job situations, making sure your pay aligns with what you were promised, and strategies for staying on top of one’s responsibilities. 

Sample goal ideas and subcategories:

Work schedule 

  • Learn about, identify, and demonstrate job expectations and responsibilities over the course of the day/shift
  • Follow a daily routine and schedule
    Time management (use clock/watch to check the time, determine time left)
  • Learn about the components of a timesheet, complete a timesheet
  • Follow a schedule by checking clock/watch
  • Learn about, identify, and problem solve scenarios around missing work, being late, leaving early, outside appointments, and more scheduling challenges


  • Read and identify different parts of pay stubs
  • Track pay (hourly, weekly, and monthly)


  • Learn and identify clothing options across job settings (casual, uniform, business)
  • Identify and select clothing that is the best fit for the job

Job Expectations and Responsibilities 

  • Learn about job responsibilities, complete each day
  • Learn about and identify job expectations, etiquette, and safety needs
  • Learn about ethical standards in the workplace and practice problem-solving and decision-making
  • Learn where and how to ask for help and clarification


  • Learn about and select disability supports and accommodations offered in the workplace 

Use transferable skills on the job (critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, professionalism, respect, communication, and/or leadership)

Individualizing goal ideas:

Example 1: Attire - Identity and select clothing that is the best fit for the job. 

“By 1/15, given an instructional worksheet and at least 2 sessions to practice with the instructor, Jessica will correctly match different attire choices to the job that is the “best fit” on a provided quiz with at least 80% accuracy.” 

Example 2: Accommodations - Learn about and select disability supports and accommodations offered in the workplace

“By 11/1, with support from an instructor or helper, Yusuf will create a script for requesting his needed accommodations in a workplace that clearly outlines his needs, what constitutes a suitable accommodation for each need, and his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.” 


The workplace is an ever evolving context that can change based on the industry, the organization, or even just general workforce trends. It can be daunting to approach such a complex situation even with all the possible skills at one’s disposal, and more daunting still to have to choose which skills are most worth working on to give a person the best chance at succeeding in meeting their own goals. The good news is that while we cannot predict the future or know exactly what the most important thing will be, we can take the context of the student we are working with and develop a pretty good idea of what will be most helpful in taking the next steps toward the future they want. 

Every IEP goal bank we share is written with individualization in mind, but job skills in particular are a great space to really hone in on some specifics, even if your student doesn’t know exactly what career they might want to pursue in the moment. If you’d like to share some of your experiences with working on job skills or writing IEP goals related to job skills then we would love to hear from you! Just drop us a line at and we will be back next week to talk about some social skill IEP goals

Green squiggly line to mark the end of the blog post
Previous article Social Skills IEP Goal Ideas
Next article Behavior IEP Goal Ideas

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields