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Grant number, name, and location: Project Inclusion, Napa, CA, #E-9-4-1-0077
Grant recipient: Napa County and the North Bay Employment Connection (NBEC)
Project lead: Napa County and the North Bay Employment Connection (NBEC)
Subcontractors: Napa Valley Economic Development Corporation, Napa Valley College Small Business Development Corporation, and Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire
- Including competencies in serving customers with disabilities in job performance appraisals contributes to the institutionalization of new knowledge.
- Having COMPASS, a committee of local service providers, One-Stop Career Center (One Stop) staff, Disability Navigators, and project staff come together to share expertise, identify resources, train, and problem solve around individual cases was key to the project's success.
- Flexible funding allowed the project to bridge the gap between traditional service providers and the One-Stop. Although the vocational rehabilitation program was under an "order of selection" that can delay services, the grant's flexible funding made it possible for services to get started almost immediately and pay for some things traditional services could not.
Outreach and Marketing
As a result of its strategic-planning process, NBEC realized that One-Stops had not marketed their services adequately to community providers and individuals with disabilities. Only about half of the staff from community organizations had any experience with One-Stop centers, and those who were familiar with the One-Stop felt that:
- there was not enough support in the One-Stop to help customers who need more individualized attention to get the information and help they need
- information about One-Stop services should be marketed to placement professionals working with individuals with disabilities.
A marketing campaign directed to community-based agencies and case managers entitled "Working Together to Improve the Lives of People with Disabilities" was then launched. The message of this campaign was that a cooperative effort by a collection of agency representatives based on similar interests or focus could improve results for everyone. The focus was broad, including not only employment but also independent living skills, education services and support, and a variety of other tools defined as beneficial to improving lives of people with disabilities. A second marketing campaign was developed for persons with disabilities entitled "Help in Finding Well Paying Jobs." Together, these campaigns were very successful in bringing individuals with disabilities and staff who work for disability-related organizations into the One-Stops.
An orientation video that addressed what the One-Stops have to offer in the way of job seeker services, including accommodations for persons with disabilities, was produced. On-site partners continue to provide disability-related services at the One-Stop. Buckelew, an agency serving people with psychiatric disabilities, has scheduled additional hours to provide further outreach to job seekers with psychiatric disabilities and continues to provide a weekly on-site orientation and job club. Integrated Community Services, an employment agency serving all individuals with disabilities, continues to provide assistance and outreach services on a weekly basis.
NBEC staff, working with Sonoma County as the lead partner, designed and implemented the employer marketing strategy. The focus groups with employers found that Human Resource professionals saw employment and training service providers as essential in bringing them qualified employees. Most employers want employment agencies and placement services to work with them in providing jobs to individuals with disabilities. This includes working with employers to:
- Help in identifying job opportunities in their workplace
- Provide qualified people
- Prepare individuals for jobs through soft skills training (e.g., attitude and socialization) as well as job training
- When appropriate, provide a dedicated person onsite to help the applicant learn the tasks necessary to be successful and to achieve sustained employment
- Provide follow-up and check-up services: As the employee takes on new responsibilities or as his or her job changes, support by coaches trained in working with individuals with disabilities should be available
- Help the employee move forward. An individualized development plan that helps employees add to their capabilities and move forward in their careers as well as augment their contribution and value to the employer should be created for each individual.
- Educate management to address misperceptions concerning hiring individuals with disabilities. Managers often make the final hiring decisions, and unfounded fears, prejudices, and productivity concerns can negatively influence their decisions.
- Influence the attitude of corporate leaders to encourage the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the workplace. Redefine corporate culture as a truer representation of the community, which includes individuals with disabilities.
A detailed marketing plan was developed for employers, called "Discover the 'Quiet' Labor Pool." The idea behind the campaign is that a "quiet" labor pool already exists, is already being utilized by employers, and should be recognized as an asset to all employers.
Although tangible results were difficult to measure from some of the typical marketing strategies employed, i.e., brochures and other media, it was found that face-to-face, one-on-one contacts with employers were successful.
In an attempt to encourage a single point of contact with employers, the project also experimented with a Job Developers Association in which partners were encouraged to share job and employer leads at monthly meetings. It was not as helpful as envisioned, however, as partners were reluctant to share leads, citing difficulty in developing business relationships and credibility with employers as their reasons.
Coordination of services
The sharing of knowledge and experience among the local agencies serving the employment needs of persons with disabilities through the COMPASS model proved to be a key strategy. COMPASS, a committee of local service providers, One-Stop staff, Disability Navigators, and project staff, worked together to share expertise, identify resources, train, and problem solve around individual cases.
A core group representing seven agencies regularly attends the COMPASS meetings. The first half of a meeting is devoted to client discussion; issues of confidentiality still occasionally present difficulties. The second half has developed into a mini training opportunity, initially conceived of as a way of maximizing attendance. These mini training presentations have increased attendance, and agency representatives have expressed their appreciation of the format. They allow representatives an opportunity to meet contact persons from a variety of organizations, to ask questions, obtain business cards, and to "put a name to the face," facilitating interactions between agencies on future occasions.
COMPASS helped this community begin its coordination of services. A Disability Navigator organizes the process and acts as a service broker. In addition, he or she leads the Universal Access Workgroups at each site to ensure access to products and services for all customers, to create sharing agreements with all relevant partners, and to develop deep expertise on the employment-support resources available to people with disabilities. To address barriers for people with disabilities, the Disability Navigator counsels customers about resource options and ramifications of employment on cash or medical benefits for informed choice, leads the One-Stop system in purchasing appropriate adaptive equipment, provides training and support to One-Stop staff and partners in utilizing adaptive equipment, and creates a consumer panel to determine ongoing requirements of people with disabilities.
Napa county obtained a Work Incentive Grant (WIG) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Training Administration (ETA) to buy equipment, software, and other forms of accommodation for the One-Stops, and to partly fund the Navigator position at the One-Stops themselves.
The director of the Napa Valley College Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has worked with Project Inclusion to review the business plans of enrollees. The SBDC was interested in contracting with Napa County/INCLUSION to modify an existing curriculum for starting and operating a small business or self-employment for people with disabilities enrolled in the INCLUSION project. The contract would also entail providing mentoring and applying their "Rx for Business" program to help ensure the longevity of new businesses. Goodwill committed to being a co-located partner and a regular presence. In addition, Goodwill has stationed staff with expertise in small-business development and micro-loans in the One-Stops.