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Detroit Partners for Customized Employment:
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
- Champions who truly saw the value of this effort and were invested in systems change were necessary at all organizational levels and within all partner programs.
- Customized Support Teams were an effective practice for serving customers with barriers to employment.
- Quality assurance measures were pivotal to success.
- Redefining the roles and responsibilities of WIA case managers and job developers enhanced outcomes for all customers with barriers to employment.
Customization of Standard Workforce Practices
The Detroit Partners for Customized Employment project has significantly influenced the standard, generic activities and services of the One-Stop on both the direct service and systemic levels.
On the service level, customers with disabilities are now completely integrated into the WIA orientation process. Pre-application and employment training information has been modified to include disability services and the availability of AT and support services. Customers with disabilities receive employability skills training, GED and WIA services in conjunction with Customized Employment services. Not only has the Detroit Partners for Customization brochure been published and disseminated to One-Stop Career Centers and non-mandated community partners, but also all general One-Stop literature and handout materials have been enhanced to include disability services information. A participant manual was developed to inform customers of the Customized Employment process and help shape expectations for service delivery.
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. UCP, in partnership with Employment for All, created a "Tools of Customization" curriculum that includes an introduction to Customized Employment; the discovery process and personal profiles; conducting a profile meeting; budgeting and planning; creating a portfolio; and job development (carving, creation, and negotiation). Powerpoint presentations, handouts, and forms were developed for case managers, career specialists, job developers, and providers. Non-mandated partners were also informed about disability and disability-related issues, the Ticket to Work, transportation, and support services. In addition, the One-Stops have added disability training to the monthly training services provided to their contractors. As a result, customers with disabilities receive services by staff competent in meeting their needs.
Six system navigators and case managers were funded through the project and housed at six One-Stop Career Centers. These system navigators worked with industry experts on disability-related issues for a Disability Awareness Training Series. Navigators held monthly meetings with case managers to discuss customers currently being served under the Customized Employment project, operating procedures, areas of concern, case record and information management, partner outreach, tools of customization, training initiatives, statistical data management, and operating procedures. A comprehensive navigator/case manager manual was created that included project referral policies and procedures, the selection committee, case records, WIA certification, Social Security/Ticket to Work, Customized Employment services, service delivery teams, hiring of providers, advocacy, assistive technology, support services, transportation, and intensive case management.
The project developed a customer flow chart to illustrate congruent services in WIA and Customized Employment, including core and intensive services as well as Individual Training Accounts (ITAs) and other referral services within WIA. The ITAs are managed by Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit. In addition to more typical ITA usage, some job seekers have since accessed the on-the-job training ("OJT") dollars in some cases, allowing the system to provide individualized, nontraditional job training including job coaching, paid work experience, training modalities outside of typical classroom settings, and so on, to demonstrate the effectiveness of alternative training methods.
Customers enrolled in WIA made a significant number of requests for Customized Employment services. To further expand the capacity of the One-Stops, two positions were created to provide Customized Employment services for those WIA customers who were not actually participating in the project, due to maximum enrollment. An additional position at Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit was also created to begin Customized Employment services within the organization as they transitioned customers from sheltered employment, day programs, and work evaluations into customized community-based employment.
In response to an assistive technology consultation provided by the Disability Network, adaptive equipment was placed in One-Stop resource rooms, and Employment Central is now designed to accommodate job seekers of all ages and all disability types. One-Stop Career Center resource rooms and computer labs house Braille printers and software designed to print word documents in Braille.
The One-Stops implemented Customized Employment practices primarily by establishing Customized Support Teams. This wraparound approach includes the braiding of funds and resources to serve customers and improve employment outcomes. After initial meetings between the navigator and customer, during which individualized resource mapping occurs, a Customized Support Team meeting is held. Participants are determined on a case-by-case basis according to the customer's resources, relationships, and preferences. Core support team participants always include the customer and may also include a mix of both internal and external providers, a system navigator, family members, the One-Stop case manager, Michigan Rehabilitation Services staff, and business services representative (see Service Delivery Team Flow Chart). Additional members may include a benefits planner, faith-based organization staff, MR/DD representative, or school personnel, to name a few.
All participants played an active role in service provision--from the discovery process to negotiating employment opportunities with employers based on their skills and areas of expertise. An action plan and budget was also developed at the Customized Support Team meeting. A profile meeting, at which the vocational profile was completed and specific employers identified, followed the support team meeting.
Braided services--those provided through the shared responsibilities of various internal and external One-Stop partners--included an array of job search tasks. These included the job seeker exploration/discovery process; the development of personal profiles; job site analysis; job development, including such strategies as carving, creating, and negotiating jobs; and job coaching and individualized training (work evaluations, paid work experience, on-the-job training). Tutoring for GED attainment and the use of assistive technology (JAWS, Wivik, ZoomText, etc.) was also provided. Additionally, project participants received WIA core and intensive services, and benefits planning. Ideally, the staff person who facilitated the process of discovery, profile development, and the personal profile meeting also performed the necessary job carving, negotiation, and/or creation.
The project established a uniform pricing agreement between Goodwill Industries and approved Customized Employment providers, as well as provider standards for project participants. This uniform pricing agreement demonstrated its effectiveness and should be generalized to the larger systems. Determining uniformity with respect to services to persons with disabilities across systems--such as Michigan Rehabilitation Services, the Customized Employment project, the One-Stop system, Michigan Commission for the Blind, and Deaf Options--would also promote a truly customer-driven choice of providers.
Both in-kind contributions and fee-for-service agreements have been used to braid services. To date, One-Stop services have been entirely in-kind contributions, encompassing the full range of those provided with the exception of job coaching.
For true sustainability, it would be necessary to permanently redefine the roles and responsibilities of One-Stop staff. For example, the system would need to allow flexibility of case manager and job developer roles for community visits to conduct the discovery process. The business services unit could conduct more individualized representation to employers, utilizing job carving, job negotiation, and job creation with an increased emphasis on job tasks, conditions, contributions, and preferences. Currently, the One-Stop Career Center has designated two job developers to be trained in customization, participate in the discovery process, and provide some job development services. The One-Stop case manager role has been expanded to include some community outings and minimal job development, but time constraints and system expectations have imposed limits on involvement.
The development of Individual Accounts allowed customers choice regarding how funds were spent on their behalf. Through the dedicated funding allotments through the project, and funds from Michigan Rehabilitation Services and Community Mental Health Services, customers could choose their service provider. Only those service providers that received training and oversight were approved for participation, and the providers were paid only after the customer had expressed satisfaction in the services that they received.
It is important to note that Customized Employment is a new way of providing employment services. With great demands on both internal and external partners of the workforce system, it is likely that staff and systems may settle back into the typical way of doing business. For this reason, it is imperative that quality assurance checks be in place. In Detroit, project management invested time in conducting case record audits with providers to monitor service provision by the array of internal and external providers. Sanctions were issued if customers were not receiving Customized Employment services as outlined in provider agreements.
Case manager reporting software was modified to capture information on disability, Customized Employment services, vendors/providers delivering services, cost of service, and utilization of individual budgets. The KidSmart software company provided technical assistance to One-Stop staff and Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit on these software modifications. One-Stop case managers and the project manager also provided ongoing technical assistance to the vendors/service providers. Monthly meetings were held to discuss policy and procedure issues, continuing education in customization, and direct customer service.
All six One-Stop Career Centers completed process mapping. At these sessions, frontline staff from partner programs outlined the current delivery system and the gaps, redundancies, and opportunities to improve it. Participants gained insight into the array of services provided within the system and the processes involved. A redesign proposal was presented to the City of Detroit executive team that would establish a more seamless system by creating a "triage" system at the reception area and physically grouping staff by function versus program affiliation. However, although the plan was accepted for implementation, to date project funding cuts and restrictions have prevented follow-through.
The Detroit Workforce Development Department has been pivotal to the system-level changes realized by the project. Their investment in enhancing their system has been invaluable. One demonstration of this commitment is in the modifications to the Request for Proposal for One-Stop operators, which now includes language regarding the use of Customized Employment strategies and plans for One-Stop redesign efforts addressing physical and service restructuring. The Detroit Workforce Development Disability Council continues to advise the Workforce Investment Board on the established policies, goals, and program services that encourage private sector employers to recruit, hire, retain, and provide career development opportunities for people with disabilities.