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Moving to Work (MTW) - PHA Stories - Keene Housing Authority Employment Retention Program

Project Description

A key element of the Keene Housing Authority's MTW program is strong case management and family support. The Resident Self Reliant (RSR) case management program, staffed with dedicated and committed employees, helps families identify barriers to self-sufficiency and remove or mitigate those barriers. Some facets of the RSR program are mandatory and others are optional. All families must meet with an RSR Coordinator regularly and the case managers are able to intervene quickly when issues arise that may endanger the family's self-sufficiency. One of Keene's more innovative RSR programs is the Employment Retention Program.

The Employment Retention Program has two focuses with the same goal - continued employment. To accomplish this, it is necessary to work with local employers to document the problems they experience and then identify missing skills. A second focus is working with the employees in gaining the skills that will aid them in job retention.

The Employment Retention Program combines workshops, support groups and employer training series to assist the target population, and incorporating several best practice strategies for supporting job retention:

  • Simulate the workplace stressing

    1. Punctuality

    2. Attendance

    3. Effort

  • Provide services that increase

    1. Soft skills

    2. Life skills

  • Provide support networks

    1. Coach employees through the first three months of employment

    2. Continue support as needed through first year of employment

  • Work with employer to

    1. Improve the quality of the workplace

    2. Capacity to manage low- wage earners


The 8 week, 40 hour program uses a simulated work environment. The participants receive work assignments and work in teams to complete the assignments. Hands on learning experiences combined with instruction, dialogue, self-assessment and exercises promote self-reflection and the development of technical and soft skills. Assignments are designed to be relevant to tasks and projects clients are likely to receive from employers. While completing assignments, clients are asked to practice and observe soft skills learned throughout the course. After each project milestone, participants will debrief and evaluate their performance individually and as a team in terms of quality of technical tasks, group dynamics, processes for solving problems and other soft skills.


  • Punctuality
  • Good attendance
  • Positive attitude and willingness to fully participate in activities
  • Team player

Soft Skills Development

  • Problem-solving
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Teamwork and group dynamics
  • Leadership
  • Diversity issues
  • Self-development

Technical Skills

  • Business writing
  • Portfolio design
  • Presentations
  • Public speaking
  • Career planning

Peer & Program Support

Monthly meetings focus on peer support. Facilitators lead the groups in discussion regarding workplace issues. Participants will have the opportunity to practice problem solving and teamwork skills.

Additionally, the close working relationship of the KHA Resident Self Reliance (RSR) program and the participants increase the success of this program. RSR Coordinators are experienced working with families to develop goals and assist them in meeting those goals in a case management format. This existing personal attention, commitment, and relationship of trust strengthens the Employment Retention Program. Considered by Bob Giloth, AECF Jobs Initiative Project Director & Susan Gewirtz, Assistant Project Director in their report Retaining Low-Income Residents in the Workforce: Lessons from the Annie E Casey Jobs Initiative, "Job projects that involve training help participants to establish relationships with case workers, trainers, and job developers. If they have problems on a job they are more likely to return to the program for help or re-placement assistance."

Employer Support Component

It is important to the success and sustaining the program to view employers as partners from inception. Employer experience is necessary in program and curriculum development. It has been noted that some programs have failed as they were to far removed from the business world to effectively provide services, this is a shortfall that is recognized and to be avoided. Additionally note has been taken of the need for employers and participants confidence and comfort with the program. The overall program is not designed as an employment liaison for participants, however shared information regarding trends benefits all.

The Employment Retention program will develop based on assessments conducted with employers to determine business and training needs to encourage retention. It is anticipated that the following topics will develop: assertive management, supervisory skills, aiding new employees in their acclimation to work environments, conflict resolution, leadership, and diversity issues.

Below is a brief description of the two main workshops of the employment retention program.

Career and Life Planning

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify personal barriers to career and life goals and identify solutions to those barriers.
  • Increase self-knowledge identifying skills, values and goals.
  • Explore job options to reach career and life goals.
  • Develop an action plan to reach life and career goals.
  • Create a portfolio of your life's work to use on job interviews.

Leadership Series

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify the characteristics of high performing teams and how group members support or inhibit team growth.
  • Assess individual team player styles and its impact on the group process.
  • Explore impact of cultural identity and how it shapes interactions in the workplace.
  • Build leadership skills that promote teamwork and high performance.

Interpersonal Skills

  • Develop skills to communicate effectively with customers, co-workers and supervisors.
  • Identify sources of conflict in the workplace by distinguishing between interests and positions.
  • Learn and practice effective conflict resolution and problem-solving techniques.
  • Learn and practice effective methods for providing feedback.