Nanette Cohen: Director, Individualized Employment Development, Jewish Vocational Service
What are the essential elements of a successful Supported Employment program?
"Serving the needs of the individual is the center of it all. It's about quality of services and client satisfaction as well as the satisfaction of their stakeholders-parents, guardians, and referral sources.
Serving needs and talking to everyone involved is essential to success. We observe people in different environments and ask questions in different ways while exposing people to different things before pursuing a vocational direction. It's important to talk to clients and have them connect the dots to make sure it's the right path they are going down".
What are some of the challenges of employment service provision?
"The most challenging part is getting everyone on the same page. Sometimes clients say something different in a group situation than they do in a one on one session with an employment specialist. Sometimes the individual job seeker is not the only one that needs attention in helping to meet goals. "
What do you do when you see a different vision from stakeholders during the discovery or job development process?
"We let the individual job seeker run as much of the meeting as possible. We need to hear their voice in some way. We also bring in outside individuals-an employer who has provided a job shadow or mock interview. An outside expert reduces us -vs- them situations"
How do you help staff build industry knowledge?
"Lots of training and community meetings. Our style is not for managers to find answers but to encourage and support employees to solve their own challenges. We provide background information, examples of what has worked before and act as mentors
We also utilize staff from different programs to guide and support employees. We have an opportunity for formal mentorship from a variety of different departments. People can identify a match and do a formal interview before committing".
Can you offer advice to a new program manager?
"Look outside into your community and reach out and talk to people at different organizations. Share documents and information."
How do you recommend using data collection for improvement?
"Look at what data you are gathering on a monthly basis-how do you analyze it to see what you can do better? Spot trends before they become an obstacle. We use data at every level. Direct service staff has access to everything managers do. We collect: demographic info, service timeframes, and amount of each service, date of intake to placement, retention information for 1 year and where referrals come from. Employer data includes where we get leads, who is providing mock interviews, how long job seekers are staying at employment sites and industries outreach and outlook. Data informs job development and relationship building.
Explore ways to use the data across all levels of your organization. This broad data collection and usage has cut down on administrative time and created more time to spend with clients. JVS Supervisors use data during every supervision session-it helps document and track progress. This strategic streamlining has increased efficiency. For billing purposes, staff submit spreadsheets to managers, they verify and then submit to finance. Monthly reports are also generated from this system-the half day it usually took to do billing has been greatly reduced."