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Transition Adjustment Career Education:
Partnership and Collaborative Efforts
Grant number, name, and location: Transition Adjustment Career Education (TACE), El Paso TX, #E-994-2-0091
Grant recipient: Upper Rio Grande Workforce Development Board, Inc. (Workforce Investment Board)
Project lead: The contract shifted from El Paso Community College to the One-Stop operator, SERCO on September 30, 2005.
Subcontractors: Consultant Joseph Skiba, effective October 1, 2005
El Paso County is the fifth poorest jurisdiction in the U.S. The city of El Paso is situated at the U.S./Mexico border, making it--with its sister city, Juarez, Mexico--the largest border community in the world. Spanish the primary language in El Paso. The majority of workers cross the border to their places of employment, both from Mexico to El Paso and vice versa.
- Establishing a cohesive and committed team through identifying a shared vision and mutual benefits is instrumental in creating change to better meet the employment needs of the community.
- Clearly defining partners' roles and tasks as the project evolves can aid continued commitment and engagement.
- Braiding funds for mutual customers, when done well, promotes further collaboration and the sustainability of these efforts.
At the onset of planning, the project established a partner consortium comprised of a number of community constituents committed to the employment of people with disabilities. Upper Rio Grande @ Work (the One-Stop Career Center) continued to recruit new members that could bring resources to the table to support Customized Employment services within the system. At the end of the funding period, the consortium had over 20 community partners seeking to enhance employment outcomes for their job seekers with disabilities. Key partnerships included:
Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Division for Rehabilitation Services
The state's vocational rehabilitation program, the division assists people with disabilities to participate in their communities by achieving employment of choice, living as independently as possible, and accessing high quality services.
Volar Center for Independent Living
An organization of and for people with disabilities advocating human and civil rights, community options, empowering people to live the lives they choose. Volar is also the Benefits Planning, Assistance & Outreach (BPAO) project in El Paso.
Goodwill Industries of El Paso
Serves individuals with workplace disadvantages and disabilities by providing job training, employment services, job placement, and post-employment support.
A nonprofit corporation funded by the United States Congress to protect and advocate for the legal rights of people with disabilities in Texas.
DARS Division for Blind Services (DBS)
Assists blind or visually impaired individuals and their families. Depending upon a person's goals and needs, DBS offers services to help regain independence or find a job.
El Paso Mental Health/Mental Retardation (MHMR)
A community-based mental health and mental retardation center, MHMR offers assistance to adults with a disability who want to work, have a home, and be contributing members of the community.
El Paso Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Strives to eliminate communication barriers and achieve access for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Among the more newly developed collaborations are:
Disabled Veteran Outreach Program
Through the Texas Workforce Commission, personnel are located in Texas Workforce Centers and provide labor exchange and intensive services to veterans and other eligible persons.
An approved DARS provider that offers employment services, including Customized Employment.
St. Pius Catholic Church
Provides social services, including food, clothing, and transportation. These services may be made available to prospective Customized Employment participants.
The role and function of the consortium evolved over time. The consortium began by providing education to the Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and partners on disability issues and initiatives. Later, the consortium offered expertise infusing Customized Employment efforts into service delivery, and began to braid services for co-enrolled customers. Later still, the group morphed into subgroups functioning as the integration task force and disability subcommittee to the WIB.
The integration task force consisted of a subgroup of consortium members that had the specific role of shifting Customized Employment services from the previous subcontractor (El Paso Community College), to the One-Stop operator (SERCO). The three primary areas of focus were service delivery, community resources and linkages, and marketing. The task force provided support to the new Customized Employment team, identified which partners could offer resources to support these efforts, and modified operator case management and testing/assessment policies (Further description of this effort is in the El Paso, Policy and Systemic Influences report).
To sustain the accomplishments of the project and maintain disability as a priority, the WIB was establishing a disability subcommittee to offer advise on the Customized Employment project; program service sustainability; and employment issues such as recruiting, hiring, and training opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The WIB envisioned this disability council as being comprised of members of the consortium. The group would potentially target areas such as ensuring equal opportunity and access to the system; developing relevant policies (e.g., accommodations); and identifying new or ongoing community initiatives for the employment of job seekers with disabilities.
Disability Awareness Training
Under the grant, both mandated and non-mandated partners received training to build the community's capacity to provide Customized Employment services and increase disability awareness and expertise. A variety of resources, both national and local, were accessed to provide training. Training topics included disability awareness, Customized Employment, blending and braiding funds, expanding assessment options, customizing the business relationship, and using customized support teams as an alternative to the typical case management model. The consortium planned to continue providing training and seeking new resources to prolong and enhance the workforce system's capacity to serve customers with disabilities. While training can be a great method of sharing information and best practices, technical assistance and mentoring was also under way to demonstrate how to modify systems and practices to provide services differently.
The WIB procured experts to conduct employment resource mapping of the El Paso community. The process entailed convening an interagency team composed of key stakeholders. This team established a common vision and identified existing, duplicative resources and gaps in services and supports. Community employment providers, including consortium members, convened to identify the array of services available to job seekers with disabilities, program eligibility criteria, and how services may be accessed. The process resulted in a Strategic Action Plan to assist the team with working more collaboratively and efficiently, and to develop cost-sharing strategies such as braiding and blending funding around employment supports. This comprehensive picture of potential resources was meant to support the development of a system where each individual has a full complement of paid and natural supports that can contribute to competitive employment (click here to see the Resource Mapping Report).
Collaborative Service Delivery
Braiding funds and resources was critical to the Customized Employment project. Both financial and in-kind contributions led to successful employment outcomes for individuals served. Within the first two years of the project, grant monies were the primary source of funding for project participants, although the City of El Paso provided external funds for the discovery process (job seeker exploration) and internship opportunities. The El Paso Community Foundation, a WIA vendor, provided on-the-job training for five full-time positions.
The third year saw an increase in resource sharing. For example, the One-Stop operator participated on the selection committee and service provision team. El Paso Community College small business development resources contributed to the development of business plans for participants interested in microenterprise opportunities. DBS provided resources to plan a citywide conference on disability, and also participated on the management and service provision teams. El Paso Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing played an active role in the consortium and provided interpreter services for individual meetings and conferences. In addition to being active with the consortium, Volar's Benefits Planning project provided training and counseling supports on the impact that work may have for SSI/DI benefits recipients. El Paso school districts and Region XIX provided supports for students with disabilities who were transitioning to work.
Many project participants accessed the employment supports they needed from a variety of community resources. Case staffing meetings identified partner roles and individual supports needed. Partners such as DBS, Advocacy Inc., and DRS participated in these collaborative meetings, as did MHMR and other agencies as relevant to the individual job seeker. Initial employment exploration and planning services were conducted for dually enrolled clients, followed by job development services provided through project staff. Once an employment position was created by project staff, DARS might provide funds for initial job coaching services and CLASS (a community provider) could continue funding for longer-term job coaching.
Upper Rio Grande Workforce Development Board was also very committed to enhancing the systems capacity, and therefore invested resources in a grant liaison. Providing strong oversight to the project, the grant liaison worked closely with the project's technical assistance center and played a strong role in maintaining consortium relationships. The WIB integrated information to support job seekers with disabilities into all its conferences and job fairs.
At the time of this report, the WIB was working with the subcontractor to explore how to shift roles and functions of Customized Employment over to Lomaland One-Stop staff. To accomplish this, each phase of One-Stop service delivery would be examined for the most natural fit with each step in the Customized Employment process (e.g., case management expands functions to conduct coordinated service delivery; business services incorporates more individualized approaches with employers, including the potential for negotiations around specific candidates for a job; portfolio development becomes one option for job seekers within the resume writing services provided). Transferring the responsibility of facilitating case staffing teams to other primary members (e.g., consortium members, DRS, CLASS) would promote the sustainability of Customized Employment services. With this goal, the team has revised Memoranda of Understanding with Goodwill Industries of El Paso, Advocacy Inc, and Volar to enhance collaborative efforts and maximize resources available to job seekers.