Rebuilding The Wall –

Workforce Development Training

 

The Calvary Baptist Church is proposing the creation of Rebuilding the Wall (RtW) to provide training and employment services to hard-to-employ populations, particularly low income people with long histories of welfare receipt, offenders, and ex-offenders. The core philosophy of the program would be to provide a comprehensive set of services necessary for obtaining and retaining employment. These services would include intake/assessment, job readiness training, placement, and job retention. In addition, we would partner with other local community organizations to provide legal services, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and assistance in securing child care, housing, health care, and clothing.

Referral Process

Clients would be primarily referred to Rebuilding the Wall through the county’s welfare-to-work program or through the community correctional center. The remainder would be referred through a parole or probation officer, or self-referred. Rebuilding the Wall is proposing funding from the City of Ithaca and the New York State Department of Health.

 

SERVICES

Employment training and supportive services will be available to all clients of Rebuilding the Wall.

A comprehensive approach that addresses all areas that impede employment, particularly legal issues and problems associated with drug abuse and mental health, will be the key to the program’s success. Rebuilding the Wall will monitor and follow up on its clients, working to prevent situations that might cause the employee to be dismissed or to quit.

Intake/Assessment.

Clients will begin by completing an enrollment form, which covers work history, criminal history, child care and housing needs, and vocational goals. In addition, a diagnostic interview will be conducted to determine whether they are a good candidate for employment services. If substance abuse or mental health problems are identified, the client is determined not to be job ready and is referred to appropriate services. If the client is determined to be a good candidate for the program, the case worker administers a basic communication and written skills assessment along with a more in-depth vocational assessment. Finally, clients will be given a series of tests evaluating their attitude and ability to follow directions. If clients are not found to be job ready because of attitudinal or other employment-related issues, they will be referred to a week-long job readiness program.

Pre-Employment Services

Clients will participate in training activities three days a week for 6 to 8 weeks. The first 4 weeks will be devoted specifically to a job readiness and life skills workshop, which would address resume writing, dress, and interviewing skills. An important element of the workshop classes is a focus on attitudes toward work and development of a strong work ethic. During classes, students will be encouraged to develop an employment/vocational plan by examining their strengths, weaknesses, interests, and skills.  Job placements will be made during the first 4 weeks only if the instructor determines that the client is job ready.  After the workshop, students will take a variety of classes according to their needs, skills, and interests. Classes could include job survival, GED preparation, math, computer skills, and customer service. Rebuilding the Wall would partner with other local community organizations, like The Village at Ithaca and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center to tailor class offerings to match the skills employers are seeking. In fact, we would strive to work with employers who would actively participate in the development and implementation of all training programs through an established employer advisory board.

Job Placement

After a client completes job readiness training, the job search would begins Initially, the case worker would encourage the clients to take as much responsibility as possible for their own job search by identifying job leads or setting up interviews. During this process, clients would be in contact with their case worker on a weekly basis—usually through a face-to-face interview. At the same time, the case worker would locate potential job opportunities based on the skills and interests of the client. Through working with the members of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce that share the belief in the “Declaration of Shared Values,” Rebuilding the Wall would create a job data bank by receiving job orders from employers in the community. From this job bank, the case worker would locate two or three candidates for each job, meeting with them to determine the likelihood of a good match. The clients are then interviewed by the prospective employer. Clients would continue to be matched until they find a job that is suitable and are hired. It is expected that clients with a criminal record will have a more difficult time finding employment and may require about two or three more interviews than an average job-seeker to land a job. A key obstacle to employment for ex-offenders is that they are seen as a stereotype. That is, in hiring an ex-offender, employers are often concerned about theft or putting their other employees in harm’s way. Research has shown that employers are generally more open to hiring ex-offenders after a job interview. Clients would be marketed as individuals who are more likely to appreciate their job because they want to prove that they can succeed in society if given a fresh start. We are confident that clients who are determined to prove through work that they are rehabilitated stand an excellent chance of finding and keeping a job.

Post-Employment Services

Once the client is placed in a job, he or she would meet with his/her case worker to talk about the challenges faced in the workplace; the meeting would also allow the case worker to continue to follow the client’s progress on the job. Case workers might involve key family members as an additional means of monitoring the client’s progress. For example, a client’s mother may know that the client is leaving for work 15 minutes late every day and could advise the case worker of this problem. The case worker would then follow up with the client to address time management issues. Another reason for involving family members is that clients sometimes make a greater effort to keep their job if they are aware that this is important to a family member. Rebuilding the Wall would maintain a tracking database to help identify critical points at which clients may become discouraged or tempted to leave their job (e.g., after the first paycheck). With this knowledge, case workers can be prepared to provide extra intervention during these crucial fall-off points. Rebuilding the Wall’ case workers would intervene with ex-offenders by providing a brief but intensive and individualized strategy to address pre-employment attitudes and behaviors that could later interfere with employment. Administrators of the Rebuilding the Wall program believe that we will be successful in terms of moving people into employment because of Calvary Baptist Church’s long-standing presence and good reputation in the community. We believe it is important to develop a solid track record in satisfying employers because this strategy allows the program to be more selective about the jobs it accepts. We are equally committed to providing wrap-around services, which address all the aspects of a client’s life, as many of the extra services required by clients can be provided by already established relationships with other agencies in the community.

* Adapted from The Safer Foundation, Chicago, Illinois and Cleveland Works, Cleveland, Ohio