United Way of Thurston County/Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council
Human Service Organization Outreach Project
In February 2017, the United Way of Thurston County was asked by Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council to partner with Career Path Services for the purpose of improving the connections between WorkSource and human service organizations to better serve long-term unemployed and other difficult to employ populations.
The approach was simple - arrange for face-to-face, working meetings between human service organization managers and front line staff and employment practitioners with WorkSource specializing in the federal Adult and Dislocated Worker programs. To increase the project’s footprint, the United Way of Thurston County reached out to its sister organizations in Lewis and Mason Counties to arrange meetings with human services organizations in those counties.
Six meetings were held mostly in the greater Olympia area but also in Shelton (Mason County) and Chehalis (Lewis County).
The Career Path Services manager and staff embraced this project from the start. While Shannon Benton, an employment practitioner with Career Path Services, served as the program’s project lead, all the staff, including Jaclyn Gilley, who manages the program, participated in the meetings. At the Chehalis/Lewis County meeting, Cat Santana, who handles Adult and Dislocated Worker program enrollees in Lewis County for Career Path Services, conducted the presentation and facilitated the conversation. At the Shelton meeting, Dana Weatherly, who handles the program enrollees in Mason, actively participated.
To launch these meetings, Career Path Services staff prepared a draft “referral” sheet and a brief presentation describing the services provided by WorkSource and the criteria to look for in clients to determine eligibility for more intensive services.
At each meeting, questions were encouraged and a discussion ensued on how to improve the referral tool and increase the likelihood of referrals. Also, Career Path Services explored whether any of the agencies might offer work experience opportunities for their clients.
In several cases, these initial meetings led to follow up conversations and meetings as original participants invited employment practitioners to forge a closer relationship with their organization or program.
Prior to this project, virtually no relationship existed between these human service organizations and WorkSource, except in a couple of isolated instances.
Meetings began in the second week of March and by April 21, Katherine Congleton, who handles intake, reported that she was “receiving referrals every day from various providers (Community Action Council, BHR, Thurston County Food Bank, Quixote Village).”
Our follow up survey with participants at these meetings revealed almost uniform surprise about the range and depth of services available through WorkSource. Many were pleased to learn of and to be able to comment on the referral process. Some of the human service organization staff were familiar with Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and were under the impression that their clients would experience waits similar DVR clients. Everyone who responded to the survey indicated they were likely to refer clients to WorkSource in the future. Detailed responses to the survey is contained later in this report.
Lessons Learned and Follow up Actions
While these relationships are still very young, some themes have emerged.
- The Value of an Enthusiastic Partner - From the very first meeting with Career Path Services staff, United Way of Thurston County experienced a strong motivation on the part of the manager and her staff to build better relations with the human service community. While this effort would require taking on extra work, the staff not only accepted the added responsibility but embraced the mission of the project. This will prove essential as sustaining these nascent relationships will require consistent follow up.
- A Receptive Audience - Many of the human service organizations greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet with WorkSource representatives. The Thurston County Food Bank director indicated that connecting with workforce development resources was on his workplan for the year. At Behavioral Health Resources, the conversation with the clinical manager (Joe Contris) was only two minutes long when he immediately recognized the potential and scheduled Shannon Benton to attend his next all-staff meeting. There is fertile ground for a partnership between WorkSource and the human service community.
- A Need for Promotional Material - Many in the human service community requested printed materials that could be handed out to clients or placed on information racks in their lobbies. In the era of widespread Internet connectivity, it is easy to forget the value of a piece of paper with basic information and instructions on how to make contact. Informational pieces for both line-staff and clients are needed.
- The Value of a Warm Hand Off – Referral success breeds repeat business. Front line staff wanted some assurance that if they referred a client to WorkSource that there would be follow up. The use of the referral sheet (available in computer form) and a commitment to make contact back to the referring party within two business days launched this program with a promise designed to nurture trust. Maintaining and building that trust will depend on the ability of employment practitioners to provide feedback on client referrals. Developing, improving and distributing the referral sheet was an important product of this project.
- A Physical Presence – Several agencies, including the Thurston County Food Bank, the Community Action Council, Behavioral Health Resources and human service organizations in Lewis and Mason counties, requested that WorkSource provide a presence on a routine basis in their organizations and communities. The Providence Community Care Center has offered space for a regular presence to do orientations downtown when they open this summer. This “circuit rider” would make it possible for referrers to encourage prospective clients to appear at a familiar location and make a face-to-face contact with WorkSource. In most cases, this virtual, temporary “retail” space is available through these organizations at no cost.
- Repetition, follow-up and feed Back – In addition to providing a reassuring presence to potential clients, routine staff hours at key human service organizations has the potential for growing the relationship as case managers are able to consult with the WorkSource employment practitioner, getting answers to questions about client eligibility and refining referrals.
- Services are more important than programs – For most referring personnel, it is enough to know the range of employment services available and to understand that certain characteristics of potential clients (veteran, poverty, laid off, etc.) will elevate the level of service received. Distinctions between various federal and state employment programs are less relevant. Therefore, the referral sheet should emphasize the criteria that a referrer should look for and remove any reference to specific workforce development program. See Referral Sheet suggestion below.
- Connection – As with WorkSource employment practitioners, the line staff and case managers with human service organizations care deeply about their mission and their clients. While very much an intangible, the ability to speak the language of the social worker, to show empathy and understanding goes a long way toward building relationships. To that end, Career Path Services chose an excellent lead, Shannon Benton, to establish a strong first impression for the WorkSource system.
- Resource – Outreach is a commitment of time. Maintaining these relationships will require repeated outreach and meetings with these programs, particularly as turnover occurs. In our follow up survey, many respondents listed continued communication, particularly when there are relevant changes or opportunities, as essential to maintaining the relationship. However, since outreach success breeds more referrals—creating more case work, WorkSource should be careful to not over reach beyond its ability to provide quality service.
Meetings and Follow Up
The United Way of Thurston County, working with its sister organizations in Lewis and Mason Counties, arranged meetings between human service organizations and WorkSource staff. Additional meetings were arranged by WorkSource staff with contacts made at these meetings. For instance, Shannon Benton did follow up meetings with the staffs of the Weatherization and Women, Infants and Children Food and Nutrition programs affiliated with the Community Action Council. Further follow up is needed with organizations in Lewis and Mason Counties.
Meetings Organized by United Way of Thurston County
March 10, 2017
Thurston County Food Bank network
March 21, 2017
Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason & Thurston
March 29, 2017
United Way of Mason County and invited organizations (Shelton)
April 5 & 11, 2017
Behavioral Health Services
April 14, 2017
Housing Hub – 14 organizations
April 19, 2017
United Way of Lewis County & invited organizations (Chehalis)
At every meeting, a referral sheet was shared and at almost every meeting feedback was provided to perfect the tool. We suspect this process will continue going forward. This project focused on generating referrals to the federal Adult and Dislocated Worker programs of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. However, with this project ending, it may be useful to make this referral sheet more general—since not all referrals receiving employment services will end up in these programs. Further, our understanding is that WorkSource would like to minimize the distinction between its various funding sources and brand its full array of services under one name
To that end, we recommend removing references to WIOA Adult & Dislocated Worker from the referral sheet.
For instance, the headline could read “WorkSource Employment Services” instead of WIOA Adult and Dislocated Worker.
The slogan “Getting People Back to Work” could stand alone without reference to any program.
The criteria check boxes need not be sorted by program but consolidated under “Relevant Criteria that May Raise the Level of Services Available.”
We think this will simplify the form and reduce the likelihood that a particular program is promised as a result of the referral.
Feedback from Participants
Shortly after the round of meetings with WorkSource staff, a survey was sent to participants asking for feedback. About 35 percent of the participants responded to the survey. We asked “what did you learn or discover about WorkSource that made you more interested in doing business with WorkSource?”
Here are the unedited responses:
- The target populations, parameters of the program, how it was a good fit for some of the folks we work with and how our existing operations could benefit.
- Referral process including referral form.
- The Individual Plan and working with client quickly, instead of taking a year or more like DVR. I was very impressed with the presentation given to our organization.
- I learned more about the scope of services provided at WorkSource- I was not aware that WorkSource was a starting point to access the array of services provided, I'm sincerely impressed.
- A strong commitment to engaging in outreach activities and a stronger commitment to developing a dependable referral system.
- That there is internal support to assist with our clients who need extra assistance to be successful in the workplace. In addition, that there are pockets of financial resources based on specific situations, experiences, and needs.
- The amount of resources available through them. The excitement of the presenters about their program. The improved chances I will be able to great services for my clients.
- Individual help for clients with special needs related to Mental Health
- I learned about the wide variety of programs they have to help people become employed.
- That they have funds assist clients with removal of obstacles to employment, such as to obtain driver license or gas cards.
- All of the resources beyond just putting people to work
- Work with the client is an on-going process and follow up after employment begins helps the person succeed and grow.
- We all knew there were resources available, however, I am shocked of all the programs that are being offered. They will do everything they can to get someone employed, very impressed and confident they are taking care of all clients referred.
- I learned about the WIOA program for the first time. I think this program will be a great fit for most of my clients.
- I learned that people can work one on one with a career specialist.
- The staff at WorkSource were willing to create referral forms that the Energy Assistance staff at CACLMT are able to use to send clients who are unemployed over to their agency to seek employment skills and opportunity. We have since begun referring clients regularly.
- I learned about the WIOA program and the opportunities it provides many of our clients. The information was very well-presented.
- I learned the vast extent of what services WorkSource provides -- that it's far more comprehensive than I ever imagined and really seeks to place clients with appropriate opportunities rather than simply stuffing applicants into the next available minimum-wage jobs regardless of what it is.
- I discovered that clients are offered an array of services.
- I did not know the full range of assistance that they provide, and specifically the kind of help they can offer to our clients who struggle with employment and mental illness. Particularly the individual one-on-one work to help fill employment gaps, gain experience while waiting for a job were useful to learn. The knowledge and attention to each person was positive to see.
- There is a diversity of program opportunities for those looking for work or employment security. It isn't just for those looking for work, but those who are looking for career switches or to move to a better paying employment situation.
We also asked: “What can we do to make it more likely for your organization to make referrals and continue your relationship with WorkSource and its employment services?”
Here are the responses:
- Easy to share handouts, flyers, posters.
- Keep us in the loop with communication.
- Help find my clients training and jobs.
- Continue to provide services/support.
- Continue to develop a collaborative relationship based on mission alignment and relationship building.
- That we continue to collaborate through intermittent on-site presentations as you all did. It helps to place a face and live person to the services. Clinicians are more inclined to make referrals (as I've seen several go through), with the continued contact.
- Keep us updated. Come in and share new information.
- Provided updated information/changes.
- Keep us up to date on the programs offered by Worksource.
- Invite a WorkSource representative to speak without advocates at a staff meeting.
- We will continue to connect with WorkSource.
- I really like the referral form. Communication is the key.
- So far nothing, I really appreciate acknowledgement of receipt of referrals I send over.
- It might be a good idea for a representative to come speak at one of our resident meetings to let the residents know more about it! (Quixote Village).
- I would suggest reaching out to the CACLMT (Community Action Council) managers once every two years to remind them of the referral form that was created specifically for our agency in the unlikely chance that the information is not passed on during turnover.
- Continued periodic updates to remind us that the program is benefiting individuals like our clients, similar to the update recently received. It is always exciting to be aware of others' progress and success.
- The only reason I wouldn't refer someone to WorkSource would be if it completely slipped my mind.
- Sending outreach materials.
- Presentation and face to face visit was helpful. Keep in contact with us! Let us know you're here!
- More informational sessions.
United Way of Thurston County would like to thank the following people and organizations for their help in arranging and inviting participants to these meetings.
- Kirsten York and Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason & Thurston Counties
- Joe Contris and Behavioral Health Services
- Robert Coit and Thurston County Food Bank
- Jill Esbeck and Phil Owen and Sidewalk
- Carrie Lemmon and the United Way of Mason County
- Debbie Campbell and the United Way of Lewis County
Appendix – Referral Sheet
Appendix – Participating Organizations
The following organizations participated in at least one of our meetings:
Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason, and Thurston
Thurston County Food Bank
Behavioral Health Services
Housing Coalition Meeting
Northwest Resources II
Community Youth Services
Thurston Chamber of Commerce
Providence Community Care Center
Senior Services for South Sound
Family Support Center of South Sound
Behavioral Health Services
City of Olympia
Thurston-Mason Behavioral Health Organization
Lewis County Meeting
Crime Victim Service Center
Catholic Community Services
Boy Scouts of America
Human Response Network
Lewis County Autism Coalition
Housing Resource Center
Lewis County Food Bank Coalition
Lewis County Legal Aid
United Way of Lewis County
Mason County Meeting
Peninsula Credit Union
Community Food Pantry - Mason
North Mason Resources
North Mason Coalition of Churches
United Way of Mason County
Senior Services of South Sound
Appendix – Minutes from meeting arranged by United Way of Mason County
March 29th, 2017 PUD #3, Johns Prairie Road
Welcome by Carrie- Reason we are here today and a few notes from Paul.
Welcome by Tim- Tim is working with Thurston County on a grant that has strict headlines. The WorkSource we have in the best in the Country. There is currently not a decent system working but we are here to hopefully create a better working relationship. The goal is for this to be sustainable and the agencies to trust in the referrals.
Shannon with Career Path Services-
Presentation on WIOA. The three parts are Youth, Adult and Displaced workers. WorkSource stated the individuals are the drivers in what they want to do, they will do the best to get them there. They offer career guidance
See presentation attached.
Questions from agencies on presentation.
They do offer programs for felons. Yes they do.
Do they have to be seeking full time employment? Will help anyone gain employment.
How long is the job training program? Minimum for on the job training is 50% of wages for 4 weeks to 3 months depending on the training.
Is the tuition assistance is it gender specific? It is not as long as they meet the eligibility requirements.
Agencies have undocumented clients and are their programs available? These are federal dollars so they need to be able to show they can legally work in the United States. Community Food Pantry stated there are several Guatemalans seeking work. WorkSource in Belfair stated “no one has come in seeking services from that population” A lot of these families are seen in the High School in North Mason.
What do you do about individuals that are not computer savvy? There is a resource room to assist with those individuals.
What do we do about individuals coming in not employable? There are several programs we have to get them the skills necessary.
Do you provide items for working? Boots, car maintenance, clothes. If they are enrolled within the programs they will look into any resources to help them.
Individuals need to purchase birth certificates would you pay for that? Anything needed to apply is possibly available.
Do you have a list of the companies you work with? There are no limits to who they work with. The job seeker can identify an employer they want to work with and they will contact them.
Is there programs available for individuals for young adults? Most of the programs are 18 and older but there is a WIOA youth program 14 plus.
What is the limit to your training? Pay for almost anything expect bachelors and masters
Ideas for helping Agencies
Spanish being the first language is a barrier in employment. OC had a course for English. Most of the men did not allow the women to attend and they saw they only got enough information to speak what they needed to in order to get by, not enough to properly communicate and get a job. Language is a barrier
Can someone from Career Path Services come to Belfair one day a week.
Food boxes in North Mason would like to put information in the boxes as these are mostly unemployed individuals.
Skype to Belfair once a week.
Have meetings within the agencies on a regular basis or hold a meeting for all agencies that refer to WorkSource to assure all needs are being met from the client to agency to WorkSource.
Child care and transportation is a barrier for individuals to gain employment
Individuals are not reaching out and making it to the meetings, we/they need to come to them.
For the agency that does food boxes to people’s homes it would be nice to place flyers/information in there.
Agencies would like to take a copy of the referral and keep it for their records.
Assessment of meeting:
Mason County agencies were shocked at the level of programs available to individuals through these programs.
Agencies were encouraged to provide not only the referrals but the follow up trust these individuals will be taken care of.
I believe referrals will be more often and they will ask the individuals about the referral.
Very encouraging for our community, and all agencies look forward to the follow up!
Meeting adjourned at 4 pm.