Benton-Franklin Customized Employment Project:
Grant number, name, and location: Benton-Franklin Customized Employment Grant, Kennewick, WA, SGA 02-13
Grant recipient: Benton-Franklin Workforce Development Board
Project lead: Three Workforce Development boards: Benton-Franklin, Eastern Washington Partnership, and South Central Workforce Council (formerly Tri-County Workforce Development Council)
Subcontractors: Washington Workforce Association; Institute for Community Inclusion/UMass Boston; the following community-based providers: Provident/Horizon Services (Yakima, WA), Elmview (Ellensburg, WA), Palouse Industries (Pullman, WA), and Rural Resources (Colville, WA)
Partners: The primary partners in this grant are the three Workforce Investment Boards responsible for service delivery of WIA and other workforce and economic development services in the great majority of eastern Washington (except for the Greater Spokane metropolitan area). The Benton-Franklin Workforce Development Council (WDC) served as the grant's lead agency, fiscal agent, and applicant. The council subcontracted grant activities to two other WDCs-- South Central and Eastern Washington Partnership. The Benton-Franklin WorkSource (One-Stop Center) began developing and piloting the project in year one. At the end of year one, the project was implemented within the other two WDCs. Each WDC had the flexibility to implement the grant according to local priorities and partnerships.
- State Disability Navigator efforts and connections to disability providers can be good resources for the One-Stop. However, caution needs to be taken that these resources are not seen as the sole source of services for people with disabilities.
- The local workforce system must incorporate accessibility compliance into their contract and compliance processes for success, rather than relying on state-level mandates for accessibility review.
- Coordinating front desk services to "triage" and connect people with appropriate services contributes to seamless service and creates a collaborative relationship around the customer.
The Benton-Franklin Workforce Development Council identified a greeter role as being an important function to assist individuals who might not be able to use self-directed services as independently. Initially this function was circulated through all staff, but then the council contracted for guest services with Career Path via an RFP. Career Path staff covered the front desk, assisted individuals to complete forms, and responded to questions. This "on the spot" interaction allowed staff to identify potential referral and support needs. Creating this new staff role resulted in more committed and professional interactions, since greeter staff viewed this as their primary function and not a distraction from their "real jobs" as had been the case in the past. The council also introduced measurable performance goals for the greeters, including customer and staff satisfaction data.
Self-Directed Informational Material
During the origin of the project, grant staff met with special education directors, Department of Developmental Disabilities and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) case managers, the Arc, and Father's Network. Representatives from these entities were concerned that One-Stop services would not be appropriate for individuals with significant disabilities. To ease the process of accessing these services, it was suggested that individuals with disabilities and their family members receive training about the system and how to use it; they could not ask the right questions if they didn't understand what services were offered. One parent went so far as suggesting the creation of a step-by-step written guide for parents to understand how everyone fits into the picture, which would allow parents to approach the process logically.
In order to ensure that information was delivered in the most effective manner, grant staff decided to produce an interactive CD that could be distributed at transition fairs and to a wider audience, including One-Stops. Pooling funds from the Customized Employment grant, REAL Choice grant, and the Yakima County Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) office, they produced an interactive CD, called "You Choose. It's Your Life." The CD allowed the user to develop a "futures plan," identify their circle of support, and learn about various funding and service providers. Embedded links allowed the user to visit other sites for more information and to learn about eligibility criteria of each funder/program. The computer architecture allowed for easy customization to local resources. The final product was available in January 2005. All South Central area WorkSource Centers, DVR counselors, DDD case managers, and special education transition classes received copies to distribute and use with participants. Continued modifications were being made, including a Mac version and translation into Spanish.
In addition, Elmview and Horizon (community providers) partnered to develop a multimedia marketing package to recruit people with disabilities to use the One-Stop for their employment needs. Called "Go to the Source," the educational campaign targeted people with disabilities, community rehabilitation providers, and employers to entice them to use the WorkSource. At the time of this writing, additional funding to implement this campaign was being sought.
Outreach to Employers
At the request of the Yakima WorkSource director, grant staff sponsored a business roundtable to begin discussing what employers needed to hire persons with disabilities and how WorkSource might respond. Top management, personnel managers, and economic development personnel were invited to attend. Due to Eastern Washington's agricultural base and seasonal nature of employment, it was not uncommon for the Yakima area to witness 14% unemployment rates. This discussion with employers identified problems in employer development and satisfaction with One-Stop services. While not specifically related to employment for individuals with disabilities, these efforts of the grant assisted in identifying barriers within the system, which the WDC then began to address.
One step in engaging employers was the implementation of Disability Mentoring Day. The Yakima Valley Human Resource Association and Provident, a community rehabilitation provider, coordinated this effort over the past three years. Disability Mentoring Day is a federal initiative that "promotes career development for students with disabilities through hands-on career exploration." Participation in this local event increased over the course of the grant.
Local Policy Implementation
Grant staff created a Workforce Integration Committee, which was charged with looking at policy, pathways, staff training, technology, and marketing. The committee was meant to identify and recommend actions regarding policies, procedures, and practices necessary to effectively integrate services to customers with disabilities into the daily operations and service delivery of the workforce system and WorkSource Centers. Committee members were WIA contractors (adult and youth), Educational Service District 105 staff, One-Stop staff, disability providers, and DVR.
Due to the policy issues being dealt with and the impact these issues had or would have on the local workforce system as a whole, the Workforce Integration Committee became a permanent subcommittee of the WorkSource Oversight Committee to provide universal monitoring of accessibility in all the One-Stops (click here for more information). As of this writing, the partners were in the process of going through each site evaluation and recommending actions. In addition, committee members have developed a written policy and procedure regarding the provision of accommodations within the One-Stop system. A general fund was being set up to pay for accommodations, as was a system to track accommodation requests within the WorkSource Centers.