In the weeks before the COVID-19 outbreak, PPA talked with staff and partners of 14 of the 16 Michigan Works! agencies in order to bring to light the strengths of their efforts and to identify common needs. (We plan to speak with the remaining two regions in the coming months.) Among the agencies’ roles in workforce development is helping job seekers to overcome barriers to employment. The challenges faced can be individual or systemic, or both.
Our final report from the network scan will be ready in the summer. For now, we are sharing a small sampling of promising approaches agencies have been using to serve job seekers needing support to make it through to that new job along their chosen career path.
Addressing Transportation Barriers
A lack of transportation is a common barrier to obtaining and maintaining employment. To respond to this need in an area with insufficient public transportation, the Berrien-Cass-Van Buren Michigan Works! has brought a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training program into one of its American Job Centers, with the help of their partners and established on site the Bridge Academy for at-risk youth. These on-site services reduced the need to travel. The agency is also piloting a program to provide on-call van rides for PATH participants so they can get to training and other employment-related activities.
Clearing the Record
Any level of criminal record can stop a job seeker from getting hired. Michigan Works! Southwest has worked in partnership with the Kalamazoo Police Department and others to put on annual Expungement Fairs. These events assemble experts to screen, counsel, and help complete the necessary paperwork with individuals looking to move forward. This process assists those with low-level crime arrests and convictions.
Taking a New Approach to Case Management
Michigan Works! agencies are adjusting their case management approaches to better assist their customers’ success. Identifying needs early means there is less likelihood that a hurdle stops someone from reaching their goals. Starting in fall 2019, Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works! put a holistic case-management model into operation. Under this approach, case managers work proactively with customers to surface and attend to barriers to employment so that they can more easily enter or reenter the workforce. Southeast Michigan Community Alliance Michigan Works! career coaches are similarly placing more emphasis on goals and needs at intake, and Michigan Works! Southwest is implementing Goal for It, a behavioral-science-informed approach to case management.
For more information about the network scan or PPA’s services in this policy space, please contact David McConnell, Vice President and Director for Workforce Development Policy, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-335-0763.