Making the Most of NENA’s Annual National Training Conference

August 19, 2021 9:30 AM | NENA Admin (Administrator)

By Rachel Hoffman, NENA Director
Ticket to Work Manager, The Choice Group

It was 3 years ago that I first joined NENA. New to my Ticket to Work role, I decided to jump in with both feet by attending NENA’s Annual National Training Conference. My colleagues were well established in NENA and effortlessly floated in and out of discussions around payment, portals, and program requirements. I, on the other hand, had neither seen a portal nor collected a payment and I was only starting to become familiar with Ticket Program requirements. 

Many of you have experienced the steep learning curve of becoming an Employment Network or implementing Ticket to Work Programs into your organization. Having been in that position very recently myself, I want to share what I learned at my first NENA training conference and why I love being a part of this group. 

If you are on the fence about attending the NENA conference – just go!

I learned more from my first conference than I had learned in a full year of working in my role. The NENA conference gave me the jumpstart I needed to grow in my understanding of the Ticket Program. If you need to come up to speed quickly, the NENA conference will allow you to do that.

Make NENA connections

The Annual National Training Conference is a great place to meet other people who you can collaborate with and learn from. I’ve been to many conferences, but few where the participants are so eager to interact with and help each other. Lean into your time at the conference: attend as many sessions as you can and participate in the networking and social opportunities. You will have a great time and beyond that you will find unexpected treasures among our membership!

At my first conference I met:

  • Creative EN owners who shared ideas for marketing
  • Benefits counselors who helped me understand the goals of the Ticket to Work Program
  • Payment pros who taught me how to increase revenue
  • Ticket Program Manager staff who helped me answer technical questions
  • A database expert who gave me high tech ideas to improve our program efficiency
  • And a few other newcomers who were delightful to share stories with over dinner

Energize your program

The atmosphere and energy of the NENA conference are contagious. People are eager to interact, share best practices and even mix and mingle outside of sessions. I gain valuable momentum at each conference and use that momentum to drive our program forward.

Stay connected

You will meet people at this conference who you will want to stay connected with year-round. Collect business cards and don’t be shy about reaching out. As SSA sends out updates about program requirements and initiatives, the NENA committee meetings provide a great space to stay connected, ask your questions and get practical answers.  

It all started because I took the leap and attended one conference. I challenge you to take the leap with me this year. With a virtual platform and reduced conference cost, you may even want to invite additional members of your team. I may know more now about Ticket to Work than I did at my first conference, but I am still learning, and I will never outgrow my need for this community.    

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The National Employment Network Association (NENA) serves Employment Networks (ENs), American Job Centers (AJCs), State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies (SVRAs) and other Stakeholders involved in the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program.

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