Career Development Forum – PWDA

Instructions:  A customer makes an appointment with you to find work. The individual needs assistance with housing and meals.

Answer these questions:

1. To whom in your local area do you refer them for this assistance?

2. What techniques have you found especially helpful to use in an intake interview to discover barriers that a customer might be facing? Describe 1-2 techniques you use that work well for you.

Make one original post and then respond to 1 team member’s post. You will make a total of two posts. For your original post, responds in a paragraph or two for the 2 questions. For your 2nd post, respond in several sentences.

Remember that our learning group works in a full-value environment: We treat our colleagues with respect and professionalism. Our comments should reflect this culture.

16 thoughts on “Career Development Forum – PWDA”

  1. Marisol Rodriguez says:

    1. I would need to ask a few questions to determine what services this individual tapped into. Is the individual homeless, unemployed and and/or receiving any state assistance. Depending on the actual needs. We work closely with shelters, Department of Social Services for TANF, SNAP or medical assistance. We work well with local food pantries and churches to provide a client with immediate meals. We work with local workforce agencies and other employers within the community.
    2. We use the Economic Resilient Measurement Tool to assess barriers in varies areas and to track clients progress towards economic resiliency. Additionally, it is important to develop good communication with the client and strong community partnerships.

    1. shellen says:

      Hello Marisol,
      Your approach to offering the range of services an individual has accessed is an essential first step. You can tailor your support effectively by clarifying whether the person is facing homelessness, joblessness, or requires state assistance. Your close connections with shelters, the Department of Social Services, local food banks, and partnerships with churches for immediate meal provision demonstrate a thorough and responsive network that can meet immediate and ongoing needs. Additionally, collaborating with local workforce agencies and employers is a proactive approach to providing for today’s needs and paving the way toward long-term stability and employment.

      The implementation of the Economic Resilient Measurement Tool is something I have taken note of, as it offers a structured approach to identifying and overcoming barriers, and it also tracks the individual’s journey toward economic stability, providing valuable metrics for both the individual and your organization.

    2. ajefferson says:

      I think it’s awesome that you use the Economic Resilient Measurement Tool to assess barriers in various answers. I have to admit that before reading your post, I had no idea of what this tool was because I’ve never heard of it. But, after conducting research about it, I’m impressed with the information it provides.
      I totally agree that it’s very important to develop good communication with the client and strong community partnerships. Developing good communication with the clients enable us to better serve them. And although the organization I’m employed with provides so many services, it doesn’t have resources for everything. I’m proud to say that I’ve developed strong relationships with many other community partners to refer my clients to when they’re in need of something my organization doesn’t provide. This helps to alleviate any discouragement I would otherwise feel for turning a client away because we were unable to assist them. It’s a great feeling knowing that they could still possibly get the help they need. It feels great when a client gets help elsewhere, but are still thankful to you for the referral. I attend community events and meetings continuously to learn about the new and various resources which could greatly benefit our clients beyond what we could provide.

    3. shea.zwerver says:

      Marisol, do you have a link to the Economic Resilient Measurement Tool? That sounds really interesting.

  2. shellen says:

    1. To whom in your local area do you refer them for this assistance?

    Referrals for Assistance:
    – Local Government Social Services: The individual should be referred to the county assistance office run by the Department of Human Services within Carbon, Monroe, Pike, and Wayne County. These offices can provide access to various programs such as emergency housing assistance, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and other critical welfare services.

    – Local Non-Profit Organizations: There are various non-profit organizations across these counties that can offer help. For instance: In Carbon County, an organization like Family Promise of Carbon County provides shelter and meals to homeless families. Monroe County might have organizations like Pocono Services for Families and Children, which offers a range of services including food pantries. Wayne and Pike counties may have regional branches of organizations like United Way, which can connect individuals to local food banks and housing services.

    – Faith-Based Organizations: Churches and other faith groups in these areas often have programs for the needy. For example, a local church might host a weekly meal service or a temporary shelter. The Salvation Army, often present in many counties, is a faith-oriented group that provides comprehensive assistance with both food and shelter.

    2. What techniques have you found especially helpful to use in an intake interview to discover barriers that a customer might be facing? Describe 1-2 techniques you use that work well for you.

    In an intake interview, especially when dealing with sensitive issues like housing and food insecurity, using a combination of initial intake questionnaires, followed by both open-ended and closed-ended questions, can be effective.

    Initial Intake Questionnaires:

    I start with a structured intake questionnaire to gather basic information. This form should include questions about the individual’s personal information, current living situation, employment status, family composition, health status, and any immediate needs they have.

    The questionnaire can also include checkboxes for various needs such as “Immediate Shelter,” “Food Assistance,” “Employment Assistance,” “Health Services,” etc., which can quickly identify primary concerns.

    – Open-Ended Questions: After reviewing the completed questionnaire, follow up with open-ended questions to understand the context and depth of the individual’s situation.
    – Closed-Ended Questions: Closed-ended questions are useful for clarifying specific details or when you need to gather factual or yes/no information.
    – Follow-Up Questions: Depending on the responses, you might need follow-up questions to dive deeper into certain areas.

    By using this combination of question types, one can better understand the full scope of the individual’s circumstances and more effectively connect them to the appropriate services in the Poconos. It is crucial that during this process, the individual feels heard and that their responses guide the next steps towards assistance.

    1. mbyrd says:

      Faith based organizations are a good start. I think some of these programs are better than the government or state funded programs because not too much personal information needs to be shared to get this assistance and it happens faster. I agree with your input and how you laid out the steps that you would take to help get this customer’s needs met. It’s not easy working with the public and it is not easy working with other organizations sometimes either so it’s best to ask as many questions as possible to get down to the point of what your customer needs so you can send them to the right place knowing that they will really be helped.

  3. mbyrd says:

    1. To whom in your local area do you refer them for this assistance?
    The good thing about Lancaster County, PA is we do have a few good resources for people who need meals that don’t require too much personal information to be shared to get access to the meal kits etc. The first place I would send my client/customer is the Lancaster County Food Hub. You are allowed to get free groceries and clothing from this organization. Each family or person can come once per month or 12 times per year. Only need ID or birth certificate for children. The salvation army is okay, but they require so much information so maybe talking with my client first to find out what documents they must provide would be helpful when sending them out somewhere. The last thing I would want to do is stress my client out by sending them somewhere that is going to give them a hard time. There are many places to call for housing assistance but depending on the documents and how urgent the need for housing will determine where I send them. If they flat out need a bed or beds for their family that same night, I will refer them to, The Welcome Place at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Lime Street in Lancaster. They need to call ahead and schedule or reserve the bed or beds ahead of time. If the need is not urgent then I would call the CAO to see what funds they have for my client to help, get a downpayment on a new apartment or maybe get help preventing eviction. I am not too sure what the housing need is so it’s hard to determine or get it narrowed down to a main solution.
    2. What techniques have you found especially helpful to use in an intake interview to discover barriers that a customer might be facing? Describe 1-2 techniques you use that work well for you.
    The first technique that would benefit would be to ask open-ended questions and find out more information about the barriers that this customer/client might be facing. Once I find out all the information I can then more on the next which be finding out what goals we can set for this customer to help hold them accountable for the next steps. I think the goal setting techniques we did in the in-person classes and in week 1 where we made charts and created different lists of ways each customer can follow the path of setting goals. This process or technique will help me build a relationship with the customer and will develop a better understanding of all barriers like maybe basic reading and writing not just barriers such as transportation and employment.

    1. shea.zwerver says:

      Thanks for sharing! It is helpful to hear from others the resources available in the different communities. There should be an entire PA depository!

  4. ajefferson says:

    1. To whom in your local area do you refer them for assistance?

    Well, fortunately for me, the organization I work for is a one-stop service center. We have a SNAP coordinator who’s able to sign clients up for all types of welfare benefits besides food stamps, such as medical, child care, TANF, and LIHEAP. My organization is also the first point of contact for individuals in the county facing homelessness. We’re able to refer them to various shelters, and in certain circumstances temporarily place families going through crises in hotels/motels. We also offer rental assistance for individuals who fall behind in their rent/mortgage, and help individuals with move-in costs by paying a one-month security deposit. If the individual who needs assistance is a Veteran, we also have a special program designed to help them as well.

    2. What techniques have you found especially helpful to use in an intake interview to discover barriers that a customer might be facing? Describe 1-2 techniques you use that work well for you.
    First and foremost, I treat all clients in a warm and welcoming way in an effort to gain their trust. Even though I’ve struggled with active listening in the past, I now truly recognize its importance. As learned in Chapter One, being a good listener is at the core of effective communication; therefore, I’m in the process of perfecting this craft. And just to make sure that I’m gaining a true understanding of my client’s needs, I’ve begun applying the reflecting technique which is beneficial for both the client and myself. It’s fulfilling to witness the sigh of relief a client feels when he/she has someone who understands their situation and what their needs are. It’s also gratifying for me because it means that my listening skills are improving, and I can be of better service to my clients.
    Questioning is also a great technique because probing for answers is vital for gaining more information about the individuals and their situations. This is necessary to determine the best course of action necessary to better serve your clientele. This course has prompted me to dig a little deeper in my line of questioning to gain a more thorough knowledge of a client and his/her situation. Therefore; I’ve incorporated the technique of asking more open-ended questions. This ultimately generates more of a conversation and makes the interaction feel less of the standard questionnaire-typed interview. For me, it’s been helping to build trust and a great rapport earlier in the process.

    1. lisamarie.benavides says:

      Having a SNAP coordinator on site is awesome! We’ve been in talks with co-locating with additional partners, and maybe even looking to the county to get a Social Worker on site to support our customers. I think it’s amazing your location is already doing this, having multiple social services in a central location is optimal for customers. That way, they only need to figure out transportation and logistics to get to one location, instead of multiple offices.

  5. shea.zwerver says:

    For shelter and meals, the easiest resource is PA 211. The YWCA in Harrisburg is helpful for women looking for shelter, also the Capitol Area Coalition on Homelessness or Dauphin County Assistance Office, which is through the state Department of Human Services. Seeing that our company is across 9 states I have tried to start pulling together a depository of resources in each state and locality. That way, when an employee calls and expresses a specific struggle, we can direct them to appropriate resources.

    We are currently in the process of revamping our interview process to include more open-ended questions; this can help us better identify whether candidates will be a good fit for the role. When working with candidates that have been referred through a partner organization we like to ask about their social support system since we know people with support systems tend to adapt better to changes. We also use the Self-Sufficiency & Well-Being Matrix to help determine where people are on the continuum from crisis to thriving; this also helps us, as an employer identify domains of self-sufficiency we can help with. See:

    1. ldube-scherr says:

      Thank you for sharing the link to the Self-Sufficiency & Well-Being matrix. As I noted in my post, with college students it can be challenging to identify when they are in crisis and need additional support beyond the classroom. If they do not self-identify, then it typically takes a few weeks for us to identify students who may need additional support academically, emotionally, socially, or in some other capacity. Utilizing a matrix such as the one you noted during our summer orientation, could help us have a more thorough understanding of our students. We know that for students to succeed academically, all their other needs must be met so we must continue to look at students individually and holistically. I look forward to exploring the matrix you provided.

    2. jwalter says:

      The matrix your shared is a great tool! A few years ago we moved some of our workforce programs to this type of assessment (crisis to thriving) and plan to move our Community Action programs to this process. This tool helps individuals identify immediate needs and assists staff in helping the customer prioritize needs.

  6. ldube-scherr says:

    The college where I work is just starting to develop our workforce development initiatives. We have do have counselors onsite who are available to our students (and faculty and staff) for mental health counseling. They are contracted through Christiana Health Services so they can make further referrals if necessary. Like all private colleges, we also offer accommodations in compliance with Title III of the ADA. Additionally, we also provide our students with academic support through their advisors and tutoring through our Writers’ Studio.

    Our Student Life team is the lead department on ensuring the wellbeing of our students with regards to shelter, transportation, and food. They have a network of organizations in Wilmington, DE they can refer students if necessary. The college also has a Student Emergency Fund which is available to students for a wide range of financial emergencies. This fund is readily accessible to students through an expedited process and is strictly confidential.

    As we develop and implement our career services and workforce development initiatives, we will certainly increase the list of local organizations and agencies available to our students. While we are aware of and know of several, any new organizations will be vetted to ensure they meet the standard of support our students need and can provide the assistance necessary before we begin referring students.

    Typically, we begin to identify barriers students may be facing during our summer Jumpstart program and/or during orientation. Students are encouraged to self-identify to us if they will need academic or residential accommodations and we further encourage them to begin that process before the academic year begins. Academic advisors and our Student Life team often become aware of any barriers students are facing quite quickly once the academic year is underway. We then work with the students by providing guidance, support, and resources depending on their willingness to engage with us. As young adults, they often feel that the barriers and challenges they faced academically, socially, or emotionally will magically disappear when they start college. We give these students the latitude they desire, but for those who need assistance, we are there to catch and support them when they recognize, or we gently let them know they need help.

  7. jwalter says:

    1. To whom in your local area do you refer them for this assistance?
    Customers are provided information and assistance in applying for TANF and SNAP benefits, local food pantries, housing authority, and other resources. We work closely with our local Community Action Agencies since they address both housing and food needs. We cover nine counties so staying up to date on resources can sometimes be a challenge, especially since many organizations have different eligibility requirements and programs can be time-limited based on the grant. Staff actively participate in county coalitions where community agencies meet to collaboratively discuss and address needs and services. They also review new programs, community events, food distributions, etc. We are fortunate that our agency is a Community Action Agency, however CAA services cover three of our nine counties (we work with partnering CAAs). We also have several funding sources to help with immediate needs for all of our customers.

    Addressing food and housing insecurities would be priority. If these needs are not crisis, staff would also begin job search assistance.

    2. What techniques have you found especially helpful to use in an intake interview to discover barriers that a customer might be facing? Describe 1-2 techniques you use that work well for you.
    Implementing a family needs assessment (FNA), similar to the matrix mentioned in a comment above, has been effective in helping customers address needs while also providing valuable insight into prioritizing them. The assessment has a rating 1-3 for various topics such as housing, food, childcare, financial literacy, utility bills, etc (Example: “I am unable to pay my utility bills and/or I am currently behind on payments”, “I can afford my utility bills with assistance”, “I am able to consistently pay my utility bills without assistance.” This assessment keeps meetings focused on goals, both long-term and short-term.

    I also use Motivational Interviewing when meeting with customers. Asking open-ended questions, listening, and guiding the discussion so that the customer is developing solutions/goals, puts ownership on the customers. Customers are more likely to follow through if they are the ones developing the goals rather than staff telling them what to do. MI also provides an opportunity for the customer to disclose more information.

  8. lisamarie.benavides says:

    For housing in Pittsburgh/Allegheny County, we typically referred clients to 211, Allegheny Link, or Action Housing. Unfortunately, this resource isn’t always the fastest resolution so we have been working with Partner4Work to identify additional partners. For meals, we have a stronger partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank where customers can be referred to for the food box pickup and SNAP sign ups. We have been trained by the Food Bank on ways to inquire about food insecurity in a way that is more open-ended to send more accurate for referrals. We have also started working with the Food Bank to see if PA CareerLink® could house a set amount of food boxes on site for immediate use. This is a work in progress but is certainly the ideal situation, if individuals facing food insecurity could leave with food in hand addressing their most pressing needs.

    The most important technique, in my experience, is selecting the appropriate environment. Customers who are sharing their vulnerabilities need to feel safe doing so, making sure the location of the interview is one that cannot be overheard by other staff or customers is critical. I also think it’s important to ask open-ended questions that require more than just a, “yes”, or “No” response. Paying attention to other cues the client gives as well, sometimes they will lead you to additional questions that will show a need for community resources.

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