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Employment and Training Program Resources - Welfare to Work Vouchers

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Developing a Job Training Program

Job readiness training provides an essential first step to help unemployed or low-income individuals make the transition from public assistance to self-sufficiency. Such training focuses on life skills such as time management, conflict resolution, problem solving, professional dress and demeanor, and communication skills. Nationally, employers have stressed the importance of job readiness in successful recruitment for entry-level positions.

This section provides a 13-step approach to the design and delivery of a job readiness program.

 -   1. Choose and organize an effective job readiness training program for residents.
 -   2. Communicate to staff and clients the importance of job readiness training
 -   3. Involve employers in the training
 -   4. Establish relationships with local job placement providers
 -   5. Identify and evaluate employment strengths and barriers of the target population
 -   6. Create a mission statement and training goals
 -   7. Establish individual participation rules
 -   8. Assess the job readiness levels of the target population
 -   9. Design the job readiness training
 -   10. Build staff capacity in training
 -   11. Evaluate the trainers
 -   12. Measure outcomes
 -   13. Provide Case Management Support

Step 1: Choose and Organize an Effective Job Readiness Training Program for Residents.

Three choices for choosing a program:

  • Use housing authority staff and/or volunteers to deliver the training. This option may be your least expensive. But if you are already understaffed and don't anticipate additional hiring, you should consider another option.

  • Contract with a nonprofit or for-profit training vendor. This option may permit you to begin your training most quickly because you don't have to train housing authority staff. Using training providers that have established relationships with employers will increase the likelihood of job placements for graduates.

  • Partner with a local public sector provider. These include:

    • Local Private Industry Council (PIC) or Workforce Development Boards
    • Local TANF agencies
    • Department of Human Services
    • Department of Labor
    • Local Chambers of Commerce
    • For-profit temporary employment agencies
    • The American Society for Training and Development's national database of training providers (phone: 703-683-8100)
    • Local service provider directories published in selected cities by the Welfare to Work Partnership (phone: 202-955-3005) in conjunction with The Enterprise Foundation and the United Way.

Many housing authorities have already established relationships with these agencies and have experienced varying levels of success. Consider contacting other housing authorities to discuss their experience.

Step 2: Communicate to Staff and Clients the Importance of Job Readiness Training.

Nationally, employers agree about one common factor in successful recruitment - people interviewing for entry-level jobs must have sufficient soft skills to get hired and remain employed. Soft skills are life skills such as:

  • A strong work ethic;
  • Reliability;
  • Punctuality; and
  • Good communication skills.

Communicating this employer "standard" to center staff and the resident population will accomplish the following:

  • Get residents to "buy in" to the training. Gaining resident acceptance of this employer requirement will motivate them to take the training seriously.

  • Emphasize the employment focus of the training. This begins the process of moving participants into an active job readiness training mode.

  • Make training participants more employer-focused. As job seekers become more sensitive to employer requirements, they focus more on achieving employment and self-sufficiency goals.

  • Ensure a more productive recruitment effort for the training. Staff's understanding and acceptance of the value of job readiness training will help them to communicate more effectively with residents as they begin the recruitment process.

Step 3: Involve Employers in the Training.

An intrinsic part of any successful job readiness training is the involvement and participation of local employers, particularly those who are actively seeking job-ready, entry-level employees. Encourage employers to help in the design and delivery of the training. This type of employer involvement is important for several reasons.

  • Ensures that the training meets the employer's needs and standards. Employers need certain job skills and set minimum standards of knowledge, skill, or conduct. Employees are more likely to meet these requirements if the employer has articulated them during the training. An employer is also more likely to continue hiring program participants if past participants have successfully met these requirements.

  • Sends a message of hope to participants in the training. Employer involvement shows participants that there are real job opportunities after the training, and that there are employers interested in helping them to succeed.

  • Exposes participants to workplace culture. Participants begin to understand what it takes to get hired and promoted within a specific company.

  • Provides participants with the opportunity to speak with employers. Participants have the opportunity to ask questions about the company's policies and procedures. This interaction also builds self-esteem and confidence.

Housing authorities should conduct employer outreach and handle the scheduling of visits to the training site by employers, line supervisors, and human resource (HR) personnel. Encourage employers and HR personnel to bring job applications and to spend sufficient time answering all of the training participants' questions about the company. Staff should encourage visiting employers or HR officers to conduct on-site interviews of participants who are job ready. Be sure to set aside a private room for the interviews.

Step 4: Establish Relationships with Local Job Placement Providers.

Encourage service providers who do job placement to participate in the training and to meet with prospective job seekers. The participation of job placement specialists adds credibility to the training and sends a message to participants that they will receive ample opportunities for getting jobs if they complete the training.

The curriculum should incorporate site visits by job placement specialists. The visits should provide an opportunity for the specialist to meet each participant individually. Be sure to obtain an agreement from the placement provider that it will furnish post-training employment outcome data on all of your referrals.

Step 5: Identify and Evaluate Employment Strengths and Barriers of the Target Population.

  • Assess barriers. Identify the barriers to employment for each training participant, such as transportation, child or elder care, and substance abuse.

  • Assess skills, aptitudes, and preferences. This assessment should include academic testing of reading, writing, and math skills as well as English proficiency and aptitude. A job seeker's preferences are also very important to identify since an individual's desire to work in a specific field or occupation affects job retention.

This data becomes especially important as the target population moves into the job placement phase. Organize this information into a database that can be used by case managers as they provide support and assistance to individuals through the job readiness training and placement process. There are commercially available software programs specifically designed for client service, tracking, and reporting.

Step 6: Create a Mission Statement and Training Goals.

Both staff and students need an effective mission statement for the training to help them establish and achieve goals. Training goals are often specific targets tailored to individual participants. Trainers often encourage participants to create their own goals for the training and strategies to achieve them. Goals may include the resolution of barriers or a change in specific behaviors. For example, a participant who is chronically late for appointments can set punctuality as a goal. Specific goals also help individuals assume responsibility and take ownership of their future.

Step 7: Establish Individual Participation Rules.

Individual participation rules help participants modify negative behaviors. Basic rules should include:

  • Prohibition of alcohol or drug use.
  • Punctuality - showing up on time.
  • Consistent attendance.
  • Positive attitude.

Participants must understand that the rules for the training are the same as those in the workplace. Those who are chronically late for work or absent will be fired, without exception. At the outset, inform participants that if they violate any of the rules, they will be expelled from the training cycle.

Establish a fixed number of permissible absences and late arrivals. Expel participants who go beyond the maximum number and allow them to start again in a new training cycle. Generally, two unexcused absences or three late arrivals to the class provide sufficient grounds for removal. Staff should also decide what constitutes a permissible excuse and communicate those rules orally and in writing to all participants.

Step 8: Assess the Job Readiness Levels of the Target Population.

Categorize the target population into levels of job readiness. The levels should vary by the participants' strengths, weaknesses, and issues that pose barriers to employment.

  • Job Readiness Level I - Individuals with a recent work history, no health problems or obvious employment barriers, and motivated to find a job.
  • Job Readiness Level II - Individuals with no employment history; who are physically and mentally able to work but have various employment barriers, such as child care, transportation, domestic abuse, or low self-esteem.

Depending on available staff resources, it may be more effective to develop two different training models based on the participants' job readiness.

Step 9: Design the Job Readiness Training.

The job readiness training curriculum, format, and length must be designed with the participants' job readiness level in mind.

Job Readiness Level I
Length of training: 7 to 10 days.
Format: In-class instruction and outside job interviews.

Orientation day: Schedule an orientation day before the first day of training to explain the goals, objectives, curriculum, and rules that participants must abide by in order to graduate from the training. Participants will then have time to decide whether they are ready to take the training. The orientation will help screen out those who are feeling ambivalent about the program or who lack the necessary motivation to complete it. Training should begin promptly at the scheduled time.

Curriculum: Focus on the subject areas described below.

  • Goals. Participants should have personal goals and objectives that they want to achieve, including the type of job that they want. Goal setting provides participants with choices about their lives and encourages them to take responsibility.

  • Communication skills. This is an essential soft skill that every entry-level job seeker needs in order to get hired and keep a job. Most employers and human resource officers acknowledge that this is often the most important quality on which hiring decisions are made. Encourage participants to present their goals to the class. This exercise improves communication skills and boosts confidence.

  • Interview techniques. As part of the communication skills segment, participants should work on eye contact, posture, body language, a firm handshake, and interview skills. The most effective job readiness training courses use video cameras to record participants in mock interviews. This is an important learning device and should be included, budget permitting.

  • Effective resume. Regardless of the lack of prior work experience, a job seeker should understand the importance of a properly prepared resume and how to produce one. Even a resume listing basic biographical data about the applicant sends a positive message to the interviewer that the applicant is highly motivated to obtain a job and understands how the process works.

  • Dress for success. Professional dress can mean the difference between getting a job or not. Appropriate attire for a job interview is often different than what is appropriate to wear once a person is hired. Many programs provide proper interview attire for welfare recipients or low-income job seekers.

  • Employment application forms. Participants should have the opportunity to review many different job application forms, including those of employers with whom they will be interviewing. This will help to improve their confidence level as they prepare for the interview.

  • Job search and career options. The knowledge of how to find a job, how to network and how to arrange an interview is essential for those with the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency. The first job they get after training will not be their last. Participants should be prepared and encouraged to find better paying jobs with career potential.

Job Readiness Level II
Length of training: Three to four weeks (35-40 hours per week).
Format: In-class instruction and outside job interviews.

Orientation day: Schedule an orientation day before the first day of training to explain goals, objectives, curriculum, and rules of participation. (Same as described in Job Readiness Level I above.)

Curriculum: Focus on the issue areas listed in Job Readiness Level I in addition to the issues below.

  • Employment barrier resolution. As part of the curriculum, participants should work on barriers to employment. Trainers should discuss these issues with each participant throughout the course.

  • Self-esteem and confidence-building. This is an essential area of improvement for those participants without workplace experience or job skills.

  • Time and stress management. Help participants improve chronic punctuality problems and suggest strategies for dealing with the resulting stress caused
    by poor time management.

  • Money management and budgeting. This is a critical skill for participants who want to reorganize their lives and prepare for the eventual challenge of living without the aid of public assistance. This segment of the training typically includes how to open a checking or savings account and tips for balancing a checkbook.

  • Employer interviews. Participants in the longer pre-employment training cycle should be prepared and required to take a minimum of two to three actual job interviews to give them the experience and post-interview assessment.

Step 10: Build Staff Capacity in Training.

Successful soft skills training courses depend heavily on trainers who can deliver the curriculum in a credible and inspirational manner. Trainers of the most successful job readiness training models play different roles simultaneously. These roles include:

  • Teacher
  • Authority figure
  • Disciplinarian
  • Role model
  • Parent
  • Friend
  • Potential employer

Trainers must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, be sensitive, and have motivational training skills. They must also understand and be able to communicate employers' perceptions and point of view about hiring.

Housing authorities that decide to use in-house staff as trainers should explore "train the trainers" courses offered by many job readiness training vendors. If the training entity also provides job placement, the housing authority could try to negotiate an agreement to refer its job-ready graduates for job placement in exchange for a lower fee to train its trainers. Service providers are likely to agree to this because they are often looking for a reliable source of job-ready candidates.

Step 11: Evaluate the Trainers.

Reviewing and assessing trainers ensures the continued improvement and quality management of the training. An evaluation form should be prepared and completed by every participant on the last day of the training. The housing authority should assign other staff to periodically monitor the training and submit and review independent evaluations. Following the review, housing authority management staff should meet with the trainer to discuss findings and approaches for improving the next training cycle.

Step 12: Measure Outcomes.

Measuring outcomes is an essential requirement for any type of stand-alone training. Job readiness training is no exception. Housing authorities should assign a staff person to monitor the progress of program graduates. Measurement should focus on job placement or failure to obtain employment for each participant and on the percentage of program graduates still employed at 3-, 6-, and 9-month intervals following initial placement.

Compiling accurate performance measurement data is valuable in several ways.

  • It provides guidance on how to improve the training product.

  • The data provide a critical tool for raising funds from both the government and private foundations.

  • The data can be used to market the program to potential employer partners and participants.

Step 13: Provide Case Management Support.

Case management support for newly hired program graduates has a significant impact on job retention success. However, case management must be available prior to the training to help individuals develop the confidence that they need to make the transition from assistance to self-sufficiency.

One-on-one support is important to the client, but weekly support groups for those just making the transition into employment or for those still searching is a proven national Best Practice in case management. These support groups offer participants the opportunity to share achievements, frustrations, and problems encountered in their new jobs with fellow pre-employment training graduates. These support groups often provide new approaches and strategies for resolving problems and barriers to job success.

Content current as of 28 August 2001   Follow this link to go  Back to top   
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