By Concha Cordova, Associate Director, Youth Development, Inc.
As the economy has changed, so too have the needs of participants in workforce development programs. Gone are the days when program participants came to organizations solely for job assistance; these days, most individuals are in need of a job in addition to other services to remove barriers to employment, such as a past criminal record, bankruptcy, undocumented status, health issues, lack of housing, substance problems or mental health challenges, and low educational skills. To be able to provide these individuals with all the services they need, organizations like Youth Development Inc. (YDI), now find themselves engaging more in fundraising and partnership building, beyond simply hiring a job developer. Participants need to be provided with a holistic approach to serve all their needs and this requires more resources, which means more fundraising and better sustainability planning for the organization.
However, the current economic landscape also means that fundraising is not as easy as it once was. Funders want to fund innovative program models that provide everything to the individuals – not just a job. This means that leveraging funding for programs has become more important than ever and leveraged resources can no longer be just about leveraging money. It needs to extend to other assets and innovative practices that help the organization create a “package deal” of resources that makes the participants and programs successful.
As a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) youth services provider, YDI has been able to successfully integrate its services throughout the Business and Career Centers in Central New Mexico. This integration benefits all partners under the system in utilizing combined resources and expertise to effectively serve clients and meet desired outcomes and performance measures as a whole. Organizations that do not have WIA funding can find it challenging to integrate services, but YDI has outlined strategies below to integrate services and leverage resources to provide the full “package deal” to your participants:
Co-location at your One-Stop Center:
YDI, a non-profit community-based organization, is physically co-located in the Central Area Business and Career Center (also known as One-Stop Center). This co-location provides many benefits to program participants as they are able to access available services in a culturally and linguistically sensitive environment. Therefore, YDI does not have to invest added resources to offer more services to a greater amount of individuals, because certain job readiness services are easily available, such as:
- Access to employment workshops like: resume builders, computer skills, labor market information, career planning, interviewing skills, and customer service
- Access to the resource room with the ability to job search online, apply online, and regularly monitor job opening posted by the Business Unit
Staff professional development and cross training
Co-location at the one-stop center has provided YDI staff with the opportunity to get cross-trained on existing systems used by the one-stop center. Trainings include database management, job developer training, working with clients with multiple employment barriers, and clients with disabilities. All of these trainings are provided at no cost to staff working under WIA contracts and partner organizations. Cross-training for all staff within the building means that all staff are equipped with transferable skills which can be applied to other programs developed by partner organizations. Developing transferable skills decreases the need to lay-off staff when funding patterns change because it is easier to move them to another project where their skills can still be utilized. Cross training also helps staff develop professionally making them more competitive within your organization and in the workforce system.
Consistent referral process
No organization can provide all the resources and help needed by an individual. Certain funding guidelines and lack of staff and resources make it difficult to offer all things to everyone. Additionally, as organizations try to do everything and apply for all the funding available, the organizational staff begins to be pulled in multiple directions and risks the possibility of diluting their organizational focus. Therefore, developing a comprehensive referral process between partner agencies, employers, educational providers, and other workforce development stakeholders is essential in effectively managing and providing the services to meet the needs of each program participant.
The first step in this process is to develop a standard and universal referral form across all sites. This referral form should be agreed upon by all partner organizations in order to provide consistency and alleviate the time staff spends deciphering multiple referrals forms that often don’t provide the information necessary to properly address a client’s need. A good referral form must collect as much information as necessary so all partners don’t need to follow up with the organization or try to find the case manager that referred the client. An example of such a referral form at minimum should collect data on:
- Date of referral
- Name and contact information of referring agency
- Client’s name, age, and contact information
- Services requested
- Name and contact information of the referred agency
- Any identifying barriers that will need to be considered for new services, i.e. transportation, child care, etc.
- Supportive services currently being offered by referring site
- Benchmarks and timeline of services of referring site
- Contact information and emergency contact of client
- Outcome of referral with date
- Misc. notes section
To fully integrate services and provide completely holistic approaches, organizations will need to engage in advocacy efforts to bring upon change in workforce development systems. But your organization can begin to show that integration within partner agencies and workforce development stake holders is possible if all partners are committed to successfully helping clients and addressing all of their barriers to employment. Integrated systems and meaningful workforce development partnerships can lead to successful outcomes and wide opportunities for all participants and most importantly to the community at-large.
Youth Development, Inc., (YDI) was founded 42 years ago as a result of a personal tragedy and followed by a community driven effort to create positive change. Today, over 65 different services throughout 50 various locations in New Mexico make up YDI. YDI’s mission is to “help children, youth, and families achieve their full potential”. Services offered include early intervention and prevention to highly structured, intensive, residential, education, and workforce services to nearly 15,000 youth per year.