Detroit Partners for Customized Employment:
Partnership and Collaborative Efforts
Grant number, name, and location: Detroit Partners for Customized Employment, Detroit MI, # E-9-4-2-0094
Grant recipient: City of Detroit Employment & Training Department
Project lead: Patricia Chatman, Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit
Subcontractors: United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), Employment for All, Michigan Protection & Advocacy, the Disability Network, and the KidSmart Software Company
- Build on the accomplishments/relationships of previous initiatives/activities.
- Establish clear project organizational structure that incorporates multiple constituents on various relevant planning committees, management groups and work groups, with stated visions and missions.
- Use the expertise and experience of team members effectively.
Core Project Contractors
The Detroit Workforce Development Department (formerly the City of Detroit Employment and Training Department) was the grant recipient and fiscal agent responsible for administering the grant and overseeing operations. Detroit's Work Place operates two One-Stops and therefore administers and runs the Customized Employment project through the West Fort Street and West Milwaukee locations. The Detroit Workforce Network operates the Samaritan Center, also targeted for Customized Employment implementation.
Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit was contracted to implement the project. Goodwill coordinated all training and technical assistance consultation, strategic planning, Customized Employment service provision, and quality assurance. While initially more engaged in service delivery, the project director later focused primarily on providing technical assistance and quality assurance checks.
United Cerebral Palsy of Metropolitan Detroit (UCP) was the training arm of the project. An initial task of UCP was to develop training modules, in collaboration with Melinda Mast of Mark Gold & Associates, related to person-centered approaches, alternate assessments, personal budgets, Customized Employment, etc. Subsequently, trainings were provided in conjunction with Goodwill for all project staff, One-Stop personnel, required partners, and project navigators.
Employment for All was the technical assistance consulting agency for the project. They began working with Goodwill Industries Customized Employment toward the end of the first year of the project. Employment for All worked very closely with the project lead and played a pivotal role in driving the organizational and systems change processes.
In addition to the operations (Goodwill Industries), training (UCP) and technical assistance (Employment for All) arms, which comprised the foundation of the project, the project established key partnerships by starting the Consortium of Partners for Customized Employment which had representatives from Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), Employment Central (the Wagner Peyser/Labor Exchange Employment Service), Detroit public schools, Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, American Society of Employees, Detroit's Work Place, and UCP. This later morphed into the project steering committee, charged with examining major policy, resource and planning issues, as well as the systemic implications for the City of Detroit Department of Employment and Training.
The Disability Network, an assistive technology (AT) center in Detroit, conducted assistive technology needs assessments for the Detroit's Work Place One-Stops. Additional equipment was purchased as a result of the assessment results. Four One-Stops now have the assistive technology to support people with various disabilities in employment services. Detroit Partners for Customized Employment also implemented a Customized Employment system-wide awareness project. This project aimed to provide the partners with the tools and strategies to support outreach efforts, awareness training, and implementation of Customized Employment within the One-Stop system.
Michigan Protection & Advocacy conducted a baseline policy analysis of five One-Stop Career Centers. This analysis reviewed, created, and disseminated policy recommendations that addressed the linkage of people with disabilities to Customized Employment opportunities within the workforce development system. The agency also reviewed and analyzed the WIA and disability policies and systems to determine ways that current policy helped or hindered service delivery to customers with disabilities. A number of recommendations were provided on the policy, operational, and direct service/practice levels, which were subsequently addressed through relevant committees or work groups. Recommendations included:
- Develop a policy requiring coordination of services and funding
- Develop a shared information system
- Devise a method to track referrals, services, and outcomes for customers with disabilities
- Develop an outreach plan to individuals with disabilities
- Develop a policy regarding training for new staff
- Establish criteria and a process for appropriate MRS referrals
Final recommendations have been reviewed by the Detroit Workforce Development Department and One-Stop Career Center operators. They have begun to implement a number of recommendations: Electronic tracking systems are being investigated, outreach to disability organizations has occurred, and coordinated service delivery is being systematized through Customized Support Teams. The system is invested in continuing to enhance linkages and access to the system, and will work through the Disability Advisory Council to continue to implement the needed changes.
KidSmart was the pre-existing case management program used by the workforce system, which was modified for use in conjunction with the Customized Employment project. The program maintains data concerning people with disabilities served under the One-Stop system, in both youth and adult categories. KidSmart Software Company was contracted to modify the existing system to include and record information specific to participants with disabilities. The overall data system for Michigan is called "AWARE."
A significant strength of this project has been the efforts to expand the number and degree of collaborations with entities both within and external to the One-Stop system. The project established partnerships and collaborations with a number of community stakeholders, including MRS, Michigan Commission for the Blind, Detroit Wayne County Community Mental Health Sub-Contractors, UCP, Detroit Public Schools, Detroit Entrepreneurship Institute, TANF Providers, Social Security Administration, Family Independence Agency and other community partners. Some of these relationships already existed as a result of the youth project, and were maintained in a way that capitalized on the strength of the individuals involved. Many of these partners have participated in joint service delivery/blended services for customers. (Described in detail in Detroit CEP Service Provision report.)
Much of the success of these partnerships was due to the effective utilization of the expertise offered, and the clear values and goals the project established. Teams and subcommittees clearly articulated vision and objectives and were very outcome-oriented. Activities include:
- The Customized Employment Management Team, which was comprised of over 20 key representatives with decision-making authority from a number of programs/partners listed above, including the Detroit Workforce Development Department, Detroit Workforce Network, and Detroit's Work Place. The operators' presence was pivotal to ensuring that the priority remained on changing the workforce development system. The management team focused on strategic planning issues such as outreach, data tracking, customer flow processes, policy issues, and employer engagement and provider strategies.
- The Workforce Development Board Disability Council was created to advise the Workforce Investment Board on both the Customized Employment project and the Detroit Overcoming Challenges project regarding policy and procedure review, program service sustainability, and employment issues such as recruiting, hiring, and training opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Ultimately, the project based its strategic plan on the findings of the Disability Council in conjunction with the Future Search Forum (described below). Policy review for various disability-related grants moved under governance of this Disability Council. At the Disability Council meeting, members recommended developing an oversight committee to ensure equal access to the system by customers with disabilities.
- The Strategic Planning Committee was formed with representation from Goodwill Industries, the Disability Council, City of Detroit Executive Team, MRS, system navigators, Detroit Wayne County Community Mental Health, Northeast Guidance Center, faith-based organizations, Michigan Commission for the Blind, Deaf Network, consumers, Detroit Public Schools, Family Independence Agency, Detroit Department of Transportation, and Detroit Housing Department. An outgrowth of this committee is the Future Search planning forums, described below.
- Future Search strategic planning forums were held with 85 participants to address critical areas of employment, training, and support for Detroit residents with disabilities. The charge of the group was to create a vision for Customized Employment across the city's workforce system and propose a set of strategic recommendations for improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities. The forums provided a framework to create a strategic plan and vision statement that encompassed all areas of life (i.e., employment, transportation, housing, education, and assistive technology) with input from a broad section of constituents.
In the first session, small groups addressed trends affecting people with disabilities. The second session focused on identifying the most critical issues and possible remedies, while the third session explored potential activities and progress over a five-year span. The results of these sessions included a broad range of recommendations for improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities. The final report was presented to the City of Detroit Workforce Development Board Disability Council and will continue to drive the work of the strategic planning work group, bringing the disability agenda "to scale" at the city and ultimately state level.
- Sustainability issues were addressed throughout every phase of the project, from planning to implementation. A sustainability think tank met for a series of working sessions to address service delivery architecture, employer and provider strategies, consumer and family involvement, and policy issues that hinder or foster sustainability. The group identified lessons from the project, benchmarks for progress, achievements that impacted people with disabilities; and strategies to sustain, refine, or create other approaches to implementation (click here to view the Detroit Partners for Customized Employment Sustainability Report).
Partnerships between Detroit Public Schools, Goodwill Industries, and the One-Stop Career Centers have strengthened since project inception. While further collaboration is still being pursued, the One-Stops now provide orientation sessions on employment services available within One-Stops to public school students between the ages of 14-26 who are transitioning from school to work. Project system navigators have expanded outreach with Detroit public schools to include educators and counselors in vocational training and special education. System navigators are also providing training to special education students on employability skills training and services available through the One-Stop Career Center. Outreach has also been conducted to parent-advocate groups encouraging organizations to use the One-Stop Career Center for parent meetings, trainings, and employment services for their children, family, and friends. Furthermore, the Detroit public school systems are a major focus of the AT action strategies that came out of the Future Search strategic planning group. Activities aim to promote a learning culture that fully embraces AT; develop AT skills and knowledge of teachers, families, and students; ensure access to AT by charter schools and students who are home-schooled; and redesign interagency supports for all students in transition.
Customized Support Teams
The project structured additional collaboration and set clear expectations through ongoing Customized Support Teams (CSTs). Operationally, the Detroit project has been well immersed within the workforce development system. CSTs have been integral to this process. CST participants are individually determined based on the resources, relationships, and preferences of the customer (click here for a sample CST design form). Core support team participants always include the customer and may also include a mix of both internal and external providers, system navigator, family member, One-Stop case manager, MRS staff, or business services representative. Additional members may include a Social Security benefits planner, faith-based organization staff, MR/DD representative, or school personnel, to name a few. All participants play an active role in service provision, from the discovery process to negotiating employment opportunities with employers based on their skills and areas of expertise.
Capacity to provide Customized Employment has been expanded to both internal partners (within the One-Stop system) and external (community providers) through intensive training. Subsequent service delivery was provided through in-kind contributions from these One-Stop partners as well as fee-for service arrangements and the braiding of funding and resources. More detail regarding this strategy is provided in the Detroit CEP Service Provision report).
Goals and objectives have been refined surrounding service provider (vendor) involvement. Service provider meetings were held monthly to ensure that performance measurements were defined clearly and interpreted properly. Project staff developed a comprehensive manual that included project design, customized staff roles and responsibilities, a sample customer agreement, provider guidelines, the Customized Employment process, and Customized Employment provider information (e.g., service agreement, forms, payment information, fees). Case managers have provided technical assistance to venders to foster sustainability of this joint service provision. Individualized budget guidelines have also been established to clearly define processes for requesting payment of service, acquiring AT, and training.