by Lauren Parker, NENA Director
Senior Director, Ticket to Work Program
The SkillSource Group, Inc. | Virginia Career Works – Northern Region
We are full swing into NENA’s annual membership drive, and I thought this would be a perfect time to reflect on what my NENA membership means to me. I immediately thought of the first Annual National Training Conference I attended. It was 2016 and that year we were in New Orleans. It was my first time to the city. As you can imagine, I was blown away by the amazing food and incredible musicians. I was also amazed at the Ticket camaraderie I found at the conference. I remember being struck by how wonderful it felt to have so many people I could talk Ticket with, and they understood! Up until that year, I had been left relatively on my own to run a Ticket program for our local Workforce Development Board. And while I had (and still have) a great group of colleagues who supported me and believed in the goals and mission of Ticket to Work, it was hard sometimes.
Since then, our Ticket program has grown, and I work alongside three other dedicated Ticket staff. I’ve had the opportunity to attend additional conferences and the current honor of serving on the NENA Board. But so often our Ticket programs are but one line of business among several other programs and priorities our companies and agencies tackle. Often the person overseeing Ticket is doing so on their own or juggling it, among other duties. What I took away that first year at the conference was more than the great tools and best practices for running an Employment Network (EN). It was the new network of individuals who work in this field and believe in its purpose. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I had a community!
NENA strives to help Employment Networks, and Vocational Rehabilitation agencies (VRs) succeed and grow their Ticket programs through training, technical assistance, advocacy, and networking opportunities. As a member, you have access to an exclusive network of over 200 professionals representing ENs, VRs and other Ticket stakeholders across the country. There are so many reasons to join, renew, and stay active in your NENA community! Learn about new ways to engage your clients, grow your Ticket program and revenue, streamline your payment processes, and get paid quicker. If you work for a VR agency, learn about new tools and resources to manage and streamline your Ticket services, connect your consumers with pre-enrollment and post-closure employment services, and stay in touch with Ticket rule changes.
Not a member? NENA offers different membership options, allowing for the wider Ticket community to engage. All memberships are based on the individual, and the type of membership available to you will depend on your organization’s connection to Ticket to Work. Full Memberships are available to individuals who work for organizations currently serving as ENs. VRs and American Job Centers (AJCs) serving as ENs are also included in this group. Each organization is limited to one full membership. If you are exploring or taking steps to become an EN, a Provisional Membership can provide access to information and resources to help you navigate the process. A final category of membership, Ticket Partner, is for non-Ticket providers considered stakeholders in Social Security Disability programs. Associate memberships are available to individuals within any organization who already has either a Full, Provisional, or Ticket Partner member within their organization.
Not sure if you can join? Here are some commonly asked membership questions:
- I work for a State VR operating through Ticket to Work and cost-reimbursement. Can I join? Yes! Once your agency has a Full Member, you can join as an Associate Member.
- I work for a State VR that only participates in cost-reimbursement. Can I join? Yes! Ticket Partner Membership is available to you as a stakeholder in Social Security Disability programs. Once your agency has a Ticket Partner Member, you can join as an Associate Member.
- The organization I work for is in the process of becoming an Employment Network. Can I join? Yes! With a Provisional Membership, you’ll have access to information and resources to help navigate the steps to becoming an Employment Network. Provisional Memberships convert to Full Memberships upon Ticket Program Agreement (TPA) award.
- I work for an American Job Center that is also a Workforce Employment Network. Can I join? Yes! Once your agency has a Full Member, you can join as an Associate Member.
- I work for a Workforce Planning and Assistance (WIPA) project. Can I join? Yes! Ticket Partner Membership is available to you as a stakeholder in Social Security Disability programs. If your agency already has a Ticket Partner Member, you can join as an Associate Member.
When thinking back on my first NENA conference, I knew I had found something good. I made connections with others doing the same work I was doing. I had access to expertise specific to my daily work. I had a voice to share my experience and help others. That’s what membership means to me. The opportunity to connect, learn, and share. Become a NENA member today and add your voice! As co-chair of NENA’s Membership Committee, I look forward to welcoming you.