Supported Employment provides a path for individuals with disabilities entering or re-entering the workforce. I frequently write for this blog, and wanted to learn more about the program, so I spent a day shadowing one of PRIDE Industries’ Job Developers, Caryl Balko.
I expected to find a formula. To my surprise, there is no one approach. Following is a recap of my day with PRIDE. To protect the privacy of those I observed, I will not use real names. But their stories had a very real impact on me.
THE INTAKE INTERVIEW
The day started with a new client intake interview, the first formality in the getting started process. I met a young man, “Dave” and his father, “Dan.” Caryl asked a series of questions about Dave’s employment history, job interests, and basic personal information. The sum o f Dave’s employment history was volunteering at a family friends’ auto shop. Dave was very motivated to work and become more independent; landing a paid position would be Dave’s first job. Prior to the meeting, Caryl spoke with Dan to schedule an External Situational Assessment (ESA) for the following week.
An ESA is a paid two-week trial work period, which evaluates an individual’s readiness for working in the community. During the ESA period, a PRIDE Job Coach will oversee, assess, and evaluate the individual’s acceptance of directions, capabilities, and performance on the job, among other skills. The assessment helps to evaluate the strengths and abilities of an individual to ensure a good match for the employee and the employer.
The intake meeting took about one hour; Dave was excited to participate in the ESA and earn his first paycheck, hopefully on the road to full time employment.
THE JOB CLUB
Wherever available, Job Clubs provide a great opportunity for individuals to gain hands-on interviewing and job seeking practice. This includes job etiquette skills, a roadmap of the do’s and don’ts of job searching, and other employment related training.
Individuals that Caryl serves through the Supported Employment Program meet with their job developers on a weekly basis. Caryl and her group meet on Tuesdays. The group includes people of various ages, backgrounds and obstacles to employment – each with their unique story.
My visit provided an opportunity for additional practice. When I walked in, I saw a room with all seats full of well-dressed individuals, sported beaming smiles. We role modeled. I pretended to be the hiring manager. One by one, we shook hands, made eye contact, and they stated the position they were applying for. I thought they did perfectly! Call me a sucker, but if I could, I’d hire every single one of them! Unbeknownst to me, the group had recently discussed the importance of making a great first impression. They all passed with flying colors!
Some people come to Job Club seeking their first-ever employment. For others, this is a re-entry stepping stone to a second career after a disability diagnosis.
It doesn’t happen immediately. Some individuals “spark” as Caryl says – sooner than others. One woman, in particular, really stood out. Until this day, she had apparently attended – but not really engaged -with the group. She recently met a manager at a local store that she would love to work at; she introduced herself – and while she did not get the job, something in that opportunity inspired her to take control over her future. She arrived completely motivated to continue pursuing her goal of total independence.
As a job developer, Caryl attributes her success with job placement to on-going networking. She is a member of local chambers and other organizations. On the day of my visit, Caryl had a chamber luncheon to attend, so I joined. Attending these types of events provides Caryl with an opportunity to share PRIDE’s mission with local business owners and community leaders. It also provides an opportunity for placement! Later, Caryl explained that several individuals on her caseload are employed at the senior center where the chamber luncheon took place and are doing great on the job!
THE EXIT INTERVIEW
After the networking event, we rushed back to the office to observe an exit External Situational Assessment (ESA) meeting. This is a review of the two-week trial work period conducted with the individual, their coach and their Department of Rehabilitation case manager.
Here, I met “Larry,” and his mother, “Rose,” and several other individuals – Shanna Welch, PRIDE Industries Assessor/Job Coach and Larry’s DOR Case Manager.
During the meeting, Larry’s DOR Case Manager discussed the assessment, detailing job tasks, strengths and weaknesses from the trial work period. Prior to the ESA, Larry had gone through ten interviews without landing a job. Eventually he landed one, but the experience was awful. The ESA was exactly what Larry needed. Rose described Larry’s experience as “night and day”; it changed him. The ESA restored his self-confidence, motivating him to pursue long-term community employment. Larry’s DOR Case Manager will create a personalized plan. It includes the roadmap to community employment.
This is where each person’s path becomes highly unique.
The plan can suggest additional improvements such as vocational training, or learning to navigate the public transportation system. The plan is tailored to the individuals’ capabilities and goals. PRIDE’s Job Coaches are available to answer any questions and guide the individual on their journey. But each journey is different.
WHERE I ARRIVED
When I set out to do primary research for this post, I wanted to know the specific path traveled by PRIDE Industries’ Supported Employment Program participants.
To my surprise, there is no one-way. Each individual’s plan and path is custom-tailored to serve their unique needs. Each path includes skills assessment, identification of suitable employment matches, professional development, training, and on-going job coaching – but each journey is highly individual. No assembly line here.
Like everyone else, people with disabilities want a job, because employment opportunities provide increased self-esteem, sense of purpose, pride, and the dignity that come with a paycheck.
PRIDE Industries Supported Employment Services is currently serving more than 600 individuals with services available throughout Northern California including Auburn, Grass Valley, Placerville, Roseville, Sacramento, South Sacramento, Woodland, Yuba City, Fairfield, and Modesto locations.
To learn more about PRIDE’s programs, click here.