Screening and Assessment Basics from Strategies and Practices for Effectively Serving All One-Stop Customers
Under the programmatic regulations issued by ETA, One-Stop Centers and other organizations in the workforce investment system are required to provide each customer seeking services and supports with an initial assessment of his or her skill levels, aptitudes, abilities, and supportive services needs. This initial assessment may include the opportunity for the customer to be screened for non-apparent barriers to successful employment, and, if such a screening indicates that a non-apparent barrier may be present, to undergo a diagnostic assessment. Whether or not the customer chooses to undergo such screening, it may be useful for the customer to be referred for a formal vocational assessment.
The screening and assessment functions must be performed in a manner that is consistent with the nondiscrimination/equal opportunity regulations issued by CRC. For example, One-Stop Centers and other workforce organizations must make sure that customers with disabilities are not referred to separate, "special" staff or training providers for screening or assessment unless certain criteria are met. One-Stop Centers and other workforce organizations must also follow the rules governing disability-related inquiries and voluntary disclosure, confidentiality and privacy of information concerning disabilities, such as the obligation to inform each customer about his or rights relating to all these topics. In addition, customers with disabilities must be provided with reasonable accommodations and modifications for the screening and assessment processes.
The screening and assessment functions are intended to increase the likelihood that the individual customer receives necessary and appropriate services and supports that will enable him/her to achieve successful employment outcomes. Information received through this process can be very helpful to the customer in developing an employment plan. This section identifies specific examples of strategies and practices relating to screening and assessment that One-Stop Centers and other organizations in the workforce investment system have found useful and successful. These examples include strategies and practices relating to:
- Screening (Identification of possible non-apparent challenges and barriers to employment),
- Career development, exploration, and planning, and
- Formal Assessment.
Screening (Identification of Possible Non-Apparent Challenges and Barriers to Employment)
One-Stop Centers and other organizations in the workforce investment system have reported success in offering customers the opportunities to be screened for unique needs or non-apparent challenges and barriers to employment, such as illiteracy, limited English proficiency, learning disabilities, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This screening process is intended to enhance the employment outcomes of these customers (for example, to determine whether and which reasonable accommodations would help customers with disabilities benefit from a training program) and not as a way of identifying customers to whom services will be denied or who will be automatically referred elsewhere. Screening for non-apparent disabilities or medical conditions must not be offered to or performed for customers who are only seeking job referral services or by staff who are performing services similar to those performed by employment agencies.
Screening cannot by itself be used to diagnose whether a customer has a particular barrier to employment, such as a disability. Its suggested use is only to determine whether a customer is likely to have one or more non-apparent barriers to employment, including particular disabilities. If screening results indicate the possible presence of a disability or other barrier, the customer should be referred for a formal assessment, such as a diagnostic assessment. To be accurate and meaningful, such an assessment must be conducted by a professional practitioner with expertise to the particular barrier being identified. [See a discussion of "diagnostic assessment" later in this section.]
Before using screening tools, it is a good practice for One-Stop Center or provider staff to inform the customers of the purpose of the tool and the possible positive and negative consequences, so that the customer can decide whether or not to proceed. In addition, if the screening tool is designed to identify possible disabilities, One-Stop Center or provider staff must provide the customer with the information required by law before the customer answers any questions.29 This process is called obtaining the customer's informed consent.
Note: Think of screening for a possible non-apparent barrier to employment not as a single event or tool, but as a process. It can occur more than once and at any point during the customer's participation in the program, from intake on. Because some customers may be sensitive about disabilities and other challenges or potential challenges to employment, the screening process is more likely to identify such challenges if staff have built a relationship of trust with a customer.
Specific examples of practices related to screening that have proven successful include:
- Asking all customers who are seeking services other than job referral about possible employment barriers, such as low literacy skills, homelessness, skill gaps, etc. If these questions indicate that a customer may have such barriers, the One-Stop Center or other organization has a process in place to offer the customer further screening in order to understand the basis for these barriers and to help determine which interventions, if any, would best assist the customer to overcome the barriers and achieve employment success.
- Using a process to offer screening to persons who are seeking services other than job referral and who exhibit manifestations of a possible disability that has not yet been diagnosed.
- Making available appropriate resources to assist customers who are identified as potentially having non-apparent challenges or barriers to employment based on the screening process.
- Identifying clear steps that staff should take to refer customers for further formal/diagnostic assessment.
- Identifying clear steps that staff should take to provide customers with assistance documenting the existence of possible non-apparent challenges or barriers (such as a disability) for the purposes of determining eligibility for other services and/or for identifying appropriate accommodations.
- Training staff members so that they are knowledgeable about which funds may be used for formal assessment for diagnosing disabilities, such as VR, TANF, and/or Medicaid funds. Staff is also provided training about how to access these funds and coordinate the process of referral for diagnostic assessment.
- Training staff so that they are knowledgeable about the information that must be given to a customer before asking questions that may lead to disclosure of information about disability, and about the process of obtaining customers' informed consent before referring them for diagnostic assessment or further assessment of strengths and abilities.
To be responsive to employer demands and facilitate a good job fit between job seeker and job, as well as to help identify job seekers who might benefit from a customized employment approach to employment, the One-Stop Center and other organizations in the workforce investment system may want to adopt an array of universal strategies at the core and intensive levels of service to help all job seekers identify their skills and interests for the purposes of employment planning. Specific examples of practices related to career development, exploration, and planning that have proven successful include:
- Using interactive software programs in the resource room that allow customers with various learning styles to reflect on the many aspects of their lives that affect employment, especially their strengths, needs, and interests. The software incorporates the results in a narrative profile that captures critical information describing the job seeker, including his or her life complexities. Using the resulting profile to assist in further job seeker exploration and planning. Providing staff assistance, as needed, to job seeker customers using this software.
- Using existing peer groups of job seekers (such as job clubs, friendship groups, or groups of laid-off workers) to help customers to identify their strengths, interests, and preferences.
- Developing plans for employment based on One-Stop customers' individual strengths, needs, and interests (rather than focusing solely on a customer's deficits), since for job seekers with disabilities it is often the case that traditional job readiness evaluations are more accurate in identifying deficits rather than strengths.
- Using the strategy of positive, capacity-based exploration to facilitate strengths, interests, and skills identification for customers with barriers to employment who need such assistance. Exploring all facets of the individual's life results in the identification of a more expansive range of skills and competencies. Spending more time with job seekers, both in and beyond the One-Stop Center, to gain sufficient insight and information for possible customization of employment.
- Identifying a lead staff member to compile document a narrative profile report that captures the findings of the skill/interest exploration process. Developing an outline structure for the narrative profile document that includes areas of job seeker's strengths, needs, and interests, as well as their life complexities that might need to be accommodated, negotiated, or supported.
- Getting to know customers in various contexts to help with the assessment process. For example, having staff members spend time with job seekers in a variety of settings such as the One-Stop, home, community, and school, as appropriate. Using different techniques (such as structured interviews, informal conversations, life observations, records review, and/or employment profile development) to assist job seekers in their interest and skill exploration.
- Making available a variety of strategies to the customer for career exploration, including informational interviews, job shadowing opportunities, short-term job tryouts, group discovery classes, and education regarding barriers to employment and its impact on benefits, life routines, and responsibilities.
- Adjusting One-Stop staff schedules to allow for time during the week to assist customers with barriers to employment through the career exploration process by helping them examine all facets of their lives that might provide information about strengths, needs, and interests as they relate to employment. This is done in a positive way that emphasizes the personal abilities of job seekers rather than their limitations.
A variety of formal assessment tools may be used with customers to help them define their vocational strengths and interests. Such assessments are used to supplement, not supplant information obtained during a career exploration process. The formal assessment tools used by trained/qualified personnel should focus on competence and performance needs rather than deficits. As explained in the introduction to the screening and assessment function, to be accurate and meaningful, such an assessment must be conducted by a professional practitioner with expertise to the particular barrier being identified. Specific examples of practices related to formal assessment that have proven successful include:
- Ensuring the opportunity for customers to receive a comprehensive assessment conducted by qualified personnel using both in-house resources and referrals to community organizations. Have available a listing of potential assessment resources with corresponding funding sources that could pay for these services.
- Using an assessment process that facilitates the identification of customers in need of more intensive and/or customized services and supports. Staff members receive training on how to access these services.
- Providing assessment instruments in other languages for individuals with limited English proficiency.
- Selecting and administering tests based on their effectiveness in measuring a job seeker's ability to successfully participate in a program rather than measuring deficits. Assessment policies explicitly state that reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications must be provided to persons with disabilities who request them for the testing process.
- Creating opportunities to identify potential accommodation or support needs (e.g., a customer sits in on a class of interest being offered by a training provider). These observations for potential need are used for planning purposes and not for the purpose of restricting the customer's access to that or any other training provider.
- Allowing staff members to use sufficient flexibility to use a variety of assessment tools, approaches, and strategies for assessment and exploration of individual strengths and abilities, and select those that are most appropriate for the specific job seeker.
- Allowing staff, where legal and appropriate, to use data that was previously collected about a particular customer, rather than asking customers repeatedly for the same information.
- Using a broad range of mandated and non-mandated partners, based on the individual customer's needs, to participate in the interest and skills assessment process and for the subsequent use of the information obtained.