In our summer newsletter, we talked about the exciting Employment Transition Program starting at Access Services. This rose out of a passion to serve our people better, in a way that could open employment for them. To make this possible, we needed someone who shared this passion to help fill the position of Employment Transition Coach. Jenna Hughes joined us in August!
Jenna was excited to share their progress so far “I am so incredibly excited to be on the team of people creating this employment transition program. It is going to be so cool to see how this program unlocks potential and changes lives for those in the day program, and anyone who is interested in seeking out employment. It’s a privilege to be able to create that space for individuals to learn job skills and to be thriving before they even start searching for employment.”
The program is rolling out in phases with small groups of individuals. Our Day program staff have been instrumental in helping to identify individuals who are interested in seeking employment already and helping others begin to recognize the opportunity for community-based employment. This program is open to anyone served in our ID/A programs who wants to put in the hard work and is excited about employment. As part of phase one, Jenna has been teaching at our day programs. She says it’s been amazing to start from the beginning and introduce them to the idea of working and what it can mean for them. Phase two includes on-site visits to jobs, including non-traditional employment options.
“On a recent field trip, two of our individuals from our Allentown Life program visited Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop in Bethlehem. This presented an opportunity to see peers in community-based employment. They left extremely excited about the potential to be able to have a job in a field that they had not thought of as a possibility.” Jenna shared.
It also includes a process to apply for OVR (Office of Vocational Rehabilitation). They will help with navigating the benefits with the individual and their support system. OVR may have denied their case in the past, in which case the team can reach out to the supports coordinator and ask them to work with the team to develop an employment goal for their ISP (Individualized Service Plan). Individuals can work with our Access Employment program or another provider from there. Jordan Pfsiter, who is currently serving in an advising role, will be providing the benefits counseling service by the beginning of the year to help round out the team.
“One of the big myths is that as soon as someone starts to work, they’ll lose their benefits. We work with each client to help them navigate this issue. This can be very person-specific, and we want to better serve each individual.” Jordan said.
Consistency is essential to seeing progress for our individuals. Starting small is important to maintain this. As capacity grows with new staff coming on and new connections in counties, the program can continue to grow. We are excited to see where it goes from here!