Vulnerable job seekers are those adults and young people who desire employment, but who are less competitive in the labour market as a result of barriers they may face. At HWTC we work with vulnerable jobseekers who experience systemic barriers to employment, including individuals on Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Supports Program recipients, newcomers to Canada, NEET Youth and individuals who are homeless/at risk of homelessness.
In working exclusively with Toronto’s most vulnerable jobseekers, we have learned that individuals experiencing barriers to employment often need a range of additional supports before they are able to participate fully in the labour market. We have come to understand that targeted, demand-driven vocational training may not be enough to shift our most vulnerable jobseekers from unemployment to employment. To overcome the challenges associated with unemployment and poverty, and to help jobseekers achieve their full potential in the labour market, a “life-wide” intervention is necessary.
Wraparound services can make a difference
Wraparound supports are services individuals and families may need before, during or after accessing a social service program, if they are to achieve their full potential.
The need for wraparound services within workforce development initiatives is supported by research. Studies of workforce development programs in the U.S., U.K. and Australia have identified that wraparound services contribute greatly to better outcomes for jobseekers with multiple barriers.
Furthermore, evaluations of these training programs highlight wraparound supports such as post-program career coaching as a significant contribution to greater retention and advancement rates for vulnerable workers.
Positive results were also uncovered in a systematic review of welfare-to-work programs serving close to 70,000 participants in the United States. The review demonstrated conclusively that the degree of personalized case management is one of the most important predictors of program success, especially post-employment.
Case management in practice
HWTC has invested in the development of a case-management system that helps us identify and address the personal and social needs of our participants that may impact their transition to employment. Our case-management system includes:
- Intensive intake wraparound service needs assessment after program enrolment, to best identify participants’ service needs and inform holistic, individualized service planning. This includes identifying any issues that may impact the individual’s ability to successfully participate in training and transition to employment, including: housing insecurity, childcare challenges, food insecurity, personal safety concerns, mental health and or addictions issues, literacy and/or learning disabilities, transportation challenges and conflict with the law.
- Ongoing one-on-one coaching with each training participant to identify and address needs as they emerge or change.
- Sourcing and co-ordinating of additional wraparound supports such as transportation, childcare, literacy training, English skills and other social service needs that are beyond the scope of direct HWTC services.
We have invested in critical staff to oversee our case-management process, including our in-house counsellor, who coordinates case conference meetings and holds our team accountable for service plan outcomes. The counsellor is also responsible for identifying community resources and service partners, and for co-ordinating access to these services for our participants through referrals and formal service agreements.
Supporting the counsellor is a job coach, who works with participants post-training to identify any necessary supports to secure employment and support retention. The job coach also works directly with employer partners to address performance issues that may impact employment retention.
For HWTC, the investment in a structured and accountable case-management system has been instrumental in supporting positive outcomes for our program graduates. Eighty percent of our graduates attain employment within eight weeks of program completion. They report improved confidence, engagement and well-being. The case-management system has effectively enabled HWTC to reach well beyond our scope of expertise in hospitality vocational training to better serve our participants and meet our mandate of a strong and vibrant hospitality industry.