In 2013, The WorkPlace committed to scale the Platform to Employment (P2E) pilot program to Seattle, Washington in order to help the city prepare the long-term unemployed for re-entry into employment. The scaling will incorporate confidence building and emotional support programming as well as skills training for Seattle's workforce development partnerships and activities in order to eliminate the risk employers may face when hiring the long-term unemployed. The WorkPlace will provide tailored technical assistance for planning, program design and project management while meeting employers' need for skilled workers.
There are several keys to the success of P2E in a new market: changing the focus from increasing worker skills and placing people in jobs to solving problems faced by workers and businesses; avoiding approaches that are transactional in nature and, instead, focusing on partnerships that are relational and engaging; private investment enables P2E to operate outside traditional, government-funded systems; and the partnerships have a long-term orientation toward improving outcomes for individuals, businesses and the workforce system.
Scaling P2E requires collaboration between local officials, businesses and nonprofit stakeholders to coordinate resources that deal with the entire individual, including psychological supports. The state agency that oversees the workforce development system, including 18 education and training programs, released a recent project to develop strategies to encourage the hiring of long-term unemployed workers. It suggested coordinating outreach to unemployment insurance exhaustees, completing some market analysis of worker skills and work history, developing a service tool chest, and identifying points for referral.
The WorkPlace will build on this foundation to deliver future services that will improve social behavior and enhance personal recovery and growth, the key to re-employing the long-term unemployed. The WorkPlace will seek the support of community leaders to advocate for P2E in order to re-integrate this population into Seattle's business community.
July - September 2013
The WorkPlace will reach out to the Seattle community and approach potential program partners including the workforce system. Additionally, The WorkPlace will evaluate results of P2E pilot projects and identify opportunities to improve program effectiveness. Building upon prior successes it will be possible to demonstrate that P2E principles should be adopted on a larger scale going forward.
September - November 2013
Through the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations The WorkPlace raised private funds to test P2E and place 100 workers through a subsidized employment program. To bring the program to Seattle a similar effort will need to take place. This will require an awareness campaign with presentations to key stakeholders, opinion papers and the execution of a development plan.
One of the first tasks will be to identify local training partners. Essential are skilled trainers for the Career Edge program to help participants develop employment plans and deliver workshops on career readiness and motivation. Another key component is securing providers of behavior health services that understand the impacts of long-term unemployment on a family. Lastly we will recruit an instructor for financial counseling and credit rebuilding assistance, so participants are better equipped to face the financial challenges many families confront during extended periods of unemployment.
To solidify the community's commitment to P2E we will conduct a series of roundtable discussions with the long-term unemployed. Participants will include leaders from business, government, and nonprofit agencies; people in positions to take prompt action to address the plight of the long-term unemployed. Roundtables are exploratory and provide insight into necessary supports and services for the long term unemployed. Roundtable guests will hear first-hand from those who after two years without work had virtually exhausted their life savings, faced foreclosure, lost their self-confidence and self-esteem and with their families, had endured unimaginable stress.
With nearly 30 percent of our unemployed people out of work for 52 weeks, we must evaluate our approach to connecting unemployed workers with jobs. Today's workforce development programs were designed during a period of economic growth when most people returned to work within six months. Long-term employment today is different from any other time. Life for the long-term unemployed has become increasingly difficult: they often feel disconnected from their careers, they watch their skills become less relevant, and many choose to isolate themselves, which often leads to feelings of hopelessness and despair.
The WorkPlace developed Platform to Employment (P2E), an innovative program that addresses the unique needs of the long-term unemployed to return to work while providing employers a skilled workforce. The program gives businesses a risk-free opportunity to evaluate and consider hiring participants during an eight-week work experience program.
All P2E participants start with a five-week preparatory program that addresses the social, emotional and skill deficiencies caused by long term employment. Participants are then matched with open positions at local companies on an eight-week trial basis and their salary during the work experience is funded by The WorkPlace.
In Connecticut, P2E has been tested in multiple cohorts, including participants from urban and suburban communities. P2E has placed 80% of program participants into work experience programs, with nearly 90% of these individuals moving on to full-time employment.
The WorkPlace continues to provide hope to those who have not yet witnessed an economic recovery by steadily realigning our programs to lead workers into industries and occupations which demonstrate opportunity. P2E is expanding to include 10 pilot programs in cities across the country. These pilot locations will validate initial results and provide a framework for future scaling activities. The 10 locations will include an additional 40 veterans who are long-term unemployed. Through P2E, The WorkPlace has brought together organizations with a national presence to help address the obstacles that prevent hard working families from getting ahead. The WorkPlace seeks to expand the number of communities that incorporate building confidence, emotional supports and eliminating employer risk into their workforce development partnerships and activities. Specific means to engage community partners differ by community. The WorkPlace can provide technical assistance tailored to individual communities for planning, fundraising, program design, or project management.
P2E is seeking partnerships with service providers in Seattle, employer groups and other organizations concerned about the impacts of long-term unemployment on society. The WorkPlace has networked with the local workforce investment board. However, a successful program requires the collaboration of the business community and local service providers in areas such as behavioral health to family budgeting.
Private financial resources are essential to eliminate risk for employer and the success of P2E. The WorkPlace's existing fundraising networks have primarily supported projects in Connecticut. Networking with CGI partners would expedite development and implementation plans.
Overall success will be defined in several ways but essential elements of this social value proposition includes creating a force in the community that will grow support and services for the long-term unemployed and developing a source of hope for disenfranchised workers.
This commitment to action is intended to scale P2E's innovative workforce development approach to a new community. Seattle was selected for geographical diversity, high rate of long-term unemployment and institutional capacity. The objective is to enable Seattle to independently offer P2E and offer services in a manner that best meets their local needs.
The WorkPlace will provide extensive supports to help start and manage P2E. The WorkPlace will provide access to training, technical assistance for recruiting and assessing program applicants, curriculum development and communication tools tailored to the local market.
The WorkPlace will share best practices after thorough evaluation of its pilot projects and guidance on the new program elements that may enhance P2E. Lastly P2E has received extensive media coverage. The WorkPlace will share this experience for media support.