What was the impetus to support parents in Workforce Training Academies?
It actually started with our college president, Dr. Erika Endrijonas! LAVC is so lucky to have a president who looks at all our students holistically – she thinks about their lives outside of academics and how that can determine their college success.
In October of 2016, we were at an Aspen Institute Ascend event, ThinkXChange, where innovative ideas and models to move families forward are shared with our Network. A presentation sparked her visionary thinking, and by the time it was over, she had connected the college’s FRC and Workforce Training (WFT) Departments by way of an email introduction with the edict, “figure out how to work together…it’s good for families!” Basically, Dr. Endrijonas asked us to use what we’ve learned about student parents, and apply it to people who are going through workforce training academies.
How did you implement activities between the two departments?
We were extremely excited to make this happen! Our first task was for the two departments to get to know each other and understand each other’s offerings for the purpose of identifying gaps in services. The major gap that we discovered is that student parents who were connected with FRC, did not receive enough help while preparing for, and gaining employment. We know we can do a better job of helping in this way. In addition, we learned that the staff in the WFT department often felt ill equipped to help participants sort out their family issues – often barriers to completing training programs. Issues such as: family stress, marital problems, children with special needs, housing insecurity, food insecurity, and general lack of knowledge regarding community resources left WFT staffing feeling at a loss as to how to help these folks. These issues posed very large barriers, often preventing participants from completing training, from searching for jobs and from retaining jobs.
The FRC has been working with student parents for some time, and has developed strategies for supporting them during times of crisis. Although the problems, issues and barriers are viewed as global, each participant has his or her own unique set of challenges. We recognized that the clients of WFT might face some of the same challenges and barriers.
Since this realization, the FRC and the Workforce Training Department have developed a strong collaboration through Strengthening Working Families (SWF). SWF addresses the need for supporting workforce-training participants holistically by assisting with family and mental health issues that are often roadblocks to success. Our first effort together was to pilot a 2Gen cohesive system to coordinate workforce-training academies imbedded with family support.
How do you get people to use your services?
There are a few different ways that people seek our services. As described above, we now recognize the importance of cross-referring. When someone seeks services in one department, we inform them of other services provided be other departments. We will even take it a step further and take them by the hand to walk through the different departments and offerings, ensuring there is full knowledge of the spectrum of services.
How does the 2Gen philosophy work in WFT?
Working backward from graduation, it is evident that the entire family is involved in the training process. Families are at graduation to celebrate their loved ones success, and they’ve also been there for the journey that took them there. We learned that when a participant shows up for training, they are including shadows of family members and personal lives. The success of the participant is tied closely to the well being of both participant and their families.
This was evident at an academy graduation. One participant caught our eye…he seemed so proud when he was honored as a Veteran. He was with his wife and very young son who were cheering him on. Through our survey we subsequently found out this family had been homeless and that because they kept moving around; their son hadn’t received consistent services for his autism.
The need to support workforce participants holistically was so clear. How could this man take care of his family and himself, and complete a demanding training…all at the same time? We later found out this man’s story was not so unique - 46% of participants going through workforce training have children.