By Margo Scoble, NENA Director
CWIC, Program Director, Managed Career Solutions, Inc.
It is truly an honor to be back on the National Employment Network Association Board of Directors. I look forward to continuing to work with our members. Partnering with your American Job Center is more important than ever. This partnership will be beneficial to both parties as the Ticket to Work program continues to evolve. Having partner agencies can be a great resource for both you and your job seekers. Partnering can be informal or formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). A local EN might want to partner with an American Job Center (AJC), your local Workforce Development Board (WDB), or the operating agencies of the American Job Centers. The more people you can access who are potential ticket holders, the more people you might touch and eventually sign up.
The process may seem daunting and can lead to questions such as, where do I start? What happens once I introduce myself and my organization? Starting at the beginning is always a good idea. Map your local area, thoroughly read the websites of your WDB and the operators of your nearest America’s Job Center. Contact those agencies, ask to attend an orientation and read their Mission and Vision statements. By doing so you might see an opportunity in which you may be of service to them, and ultimately, they can refer you to potential ticket holders who are ready to search for employment.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act states that persons with disabilities are to be served at the American Job Centers. Many AJCs simply have not engaged this population enough and would welcome your input and resources. This is an ideal time to pick up that phone and try to schedule a meeting with an Executive Director or Program Manager. The more you know about the AJC you are meeting with, the opportunity for a positive outcome will be higher. Starting small is ideal. At your first meeting, ask what services the agency you are meeting with provides, and share your services in turn. Through this two-way conversation, opportunities will appear. You also have the option to introduce your services at weekly AJC orientations, leave printed materials in their resource centers, and attend a staff orientation to provide an overview of your services. Once the relationship solidifies, an MOU may be developed between your organizations.
American Job Centers are required to engage with local businesses and serve them. This includes posting job leads, hosting on-site recruitments and ideally, consistent job fairs. The AJC Business Services teams offer these terrific opportunities for your clients to obtain solid, timely resources that may lead to employment. As ENs, we are gaining more employer openings through 503, and the AJCs all have ample local resources. Also, the AJCs do have training dollars and you might be able to request some spots to be reserved for PWD, to which your ticket holders would be a great fit. You may co-enroll your beneficiaries, as co-case management is proven to often lead to more positive outcomes.
Another benefit of partnering is to plant seeds for long term growth of your business. There are grants and Requests for Proposals announced for a variety of programs from different funding streams. Partnering, subcontracting and letters of support are at times necessary to secure finding. Having partners a phone call away can be enormous if you are writing a proposal to increase your chances of securing funding, or to open opportunities for your EN to be involved in new grants or grant cycles from your partners.
I am pleased to offer insight into the dynamic potential of partnership between workforce programs for persons with disabilities. The success of ENs which are already closely involved with their local workforce development system highlight the synergy that these types of partnerships create. It is important to know that partnerships will always evolve, so even if you have not both figured every part out, there is no harm in initiating collaborative efforts with your new partner today.