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
- 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
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;
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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'
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
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
- 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
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:
- Authority figure
- Role model
- 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
- 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
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.