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Tennessee Olmstead WorkFORCE:
Grant number, name, and location: Tennessee Olmstead WorkFORCE, Nashville TN, # E-9-4-3-0072
Grant recipient: The Arc of Tennessee
Project lead: The Arc of Tennessee
- TN Department of Labor and Workforce Development
- TN Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS)
- TN Division of Mental Retardation Services (DMRS)
- TN Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (DMHDD)
- TN Division of Special Education
- TN Benefits Planning, Assistance and Outreach projects (BPAO)
- TN Technology Access Project
Subcontractors: Workforce Connections (local Workforce Investment Board for Knoxville), the University of Tennessee Center on Disability and Employment, and TransCen, Inc.
The Tennessee Olmstead WorkFORCE project was designed to expand the Tennessee Customized Employment Partnership (TCEP) from the Tennessee Career Center in Knoxville to other One-Stops across the state. As part of this replication effort, the Tennessee Olmstead WorkFORCE Grant funded TCEP hubs in Tennessee Career Centers in Chattanooga, Johnson City, and Columbia.
The project expanded and documented the capability of individuals transitioning from segregated environments to community employment using customized strategies to increase their earnings and economic power through participation in employment. This allowed people served by the Tennessee Olmstead WorkFORCE Grant to and live, work and fully participate in their communities. Another accomplishment of the grant was an employment campaign that served to heighten support among the Governor's cabinet, elected officials, employers, consumers, families, and the public.
- The state Employment First Initiative by DRMS resulted in employment being the first service of consideration for job seekers who wanted to leave restricted settings.
- The project's best practices translated into developing and applying Customized Employment services to other populations such as dislocated workers, youth, welfare-to-work recipients, and older workers.
- One-Stop staff and community partners have the skill and ability to deliver quality Customized Employment services.
Integrating Services with One-Stops
Each hub (replication site) provided a full range of Customized Employment services. They integrated elements of the self-determination/discovery process into the regular schedule of workshops at the One-Stops. This class was designed for individuals with disabilities in the project but expanded to include any interested One-Stop customer. The class was well received by attendees.
The project influenced the One-Stops and their local Workforce Investment Boards on numerous levels. From changing policies such as on-the-job training (OJT), to integrating elements such as self-determination into other curricula, the hubs had a significant impact on the way services were delivered at the One-Stops. Another project outcome was to develop the capacity of some partner community rehabilitation providers (CRPs). When entering into Letters of Understanding (LOUs), some of the partner CRPs had either a very limited employment program or none at all. By entering into a joint LOU with the One-Stop, these CRPs could provide quality services while generating revenue that would allow them to expand staffing.
The Chattanooga local Workforce Investment Board revised its OJT policy to expand services beyond full-time to part-time workers. This decision was driven primarily by the desire to add flexibility for people with disabilities for whom full-time work might not be possible. Neither WIA nor the act's regulations state that customers must be employed full-time in order to be eligible for OJT. Many customers sought less than full-time employment. In order to enhance OJT employment opportunities for those customers, the Southeast Tennessee Workforce Board authorized OJT agreements for fewer than full-time hours in those instances where it would be in the best interests of the job seeker. These customers could include but were not limited to older workers, youth, and people with disabilities.
Integrating Customized Employment
Each hub had a Customized Employment navigator to deliver services such as case management, self-determination, person-centered planning, job development, and initial job coaching. Job coaching and extended supports were delivered by designated CRPs that the One-Stop established as eligible training providers. The hubs negotiated funding arrangements with their CRP partners.
The Clarksville TN One-Stop was very interested in learning Customized Employment strategies. They participated in a transition work group with their school system, DRS, and DRMS services to integrate systems at the point of transition for exiting youth. One project goal was to expand the capacity and collaboration of the state's One-Stop Career Centers, Workforce Investment Boards, and local partners to include disability service partners and employers to create WorkFORCE hubs to deliver Customized Employment to job seekers with significant disabilities in restricted settings. A start-up implementation kit developed for each of the hubs could be used by other One-Stops interested in replicating project activities. The kit covered a wide range of topics, including sections on management and service delivery to aid in the implementation of Customized Employment. In addition, it contained the TCEP Customized Employment video and the Institute for Community Inclusion's Access for All manual.
There continued to be concern regarding WIA funding and proposed budget cuts at the federal level. State staff questioned the degree to which the hubs could support ongoing elements of Customized Employment. Lack of certainty regarding WIA allocations made budget planning difficult in all sites. Each hub was working on a sustainability plan, and technical assistance staff provided tools to help the hubs make revenue and cost projections and to assess the availability of various funding resources to help sustain their services.