Employability assessment is the process of identifying the strengths and resources that a family can bring to achieving their employment goals. Assessing a client's employment potential provides the basis for helping them develop a realistic, achievable employment plan. It involves gathering information on their work history, education and training, skills, and occupational interests. Clients also provide information on their family and life situation as a base for supporting successful participation in employment.
This information is critical in developing the Family Self-Sufficiency Plan. The FSSP must set an employment goal, intermediate goals and steps to achieve them that are derived from an accurate evaluation of the person's current employability, and what it will take for them to achieve the employment goal.
The initial assessment will determine if an individual:
Must take part in Temporary Assistance work activities; or
Has good cause for not complying with an assigned work activity.
All clients must develop a plan, even if the assessment determines that they are excused from work activities or have good cause for not participating in work activities.
An initial assessment of the employability, strengths, skills, prior work experience, training, and other characteristics affecting the client's ability to work is required for each individual who is:
Age 18 or older; or
Under age 18, without a high school diploma or GED, and not attending secondary school.
In a two-parent family both parents must have an employability assessment.
The case manager reviews the employment planning information for clarity and completeness, and discusses with the individual any responses indicating a need for more information.
Employability assessment is a process, not a one-time event. It begins at application and continues throughout a family's participation in the Work Services.
Intake. Applicants must complete an initial employability assessment no later than 30 days after the determination of Temporary Assistance eligibility. Generally, individuals provide initial information as a part of the application process by completing the Employability Planning Information (EPI) form (ATAP 5). As an alternative, clients can supply this information from existing similar sources such as partner agency records.
Initial Job Search. During the initial application process, clients are expected to actively look for a job and take part in any job search skill building they need to increase their potential for employment. The results of these activities provide valuable information on the client's employability and can pinpoint strengths to build on or skills the client needs to enhance.
Extended Work Services. For clients that do not find immediate employment, further assessment may be needed to identify what steps are needed to increase their potential for employment. Case managers may want to refer clients for additional assessments or follow-up on information gained in intake and initial work search.
A skillful employability assessment should be based upon several guiding principles:
While a crisis or a series of crises may prompt the family to apply for Temporary Assistance, the potential for resolving those crises and preventing future crises lies with the family. Effective planning will contribute to the family's understanding of the dynamics of these crises and how effective actions can promote independence. This understanding should foster ownership in the process of becoming self-supporting.
Families in crisis often find it difficult to recognize that they possess any strengths. A strengths-based assessment can help families recognize and build on those skills and abilities.
Further, the assessment and planning process should be based on the belief that the family has the ability to identify and pursue solutions. Some families may need more time and assistance than others to identify their employability strengths and to develop the confidence necessary to pursue and achieve self-sufficiency. Your support of their efforts to accept this responsibility must begin during the assessment and planning process. Success in recognizing their strengths can enhance self-esteem and ultimately lead to increased motivation.
The employability assessment must reflect the importance of the family's role in the development of the FSSP. You must ensure that family members clearly understand their responsibilities in developing their self-sufficiency plan. It is critical that you continually encourage the family to communicate and participate throughout the assessment and planning process.
Accurately determining an individual's readiness for employment is a critical component of self-sufficiency planning. Determining if the client has specific skills and abilities necessary to ensure a successful job search and job retention is of primary importance.
Some families are adept at finding employment but have difficulty maintaining employment due to a lack of "workplace skills" such as the ability to organize time, resolve conflicts with a supervisor or co-worker, etc.
Others demonstrate difficulty conducting a successful job search due to the absence of job seeking and interviewing skills.
The employability assessment process should inform both Work Services staff and the family of existing job-seeking and job-keeping skills. The initial assessment of the client's ability to complete the following tasks may be evaluated during their initial job search efforts. When identified early, this allows the client a chance to learn the skills they need to prevent them from having repeated failures and becoming discouraged. Some of these competencies are:
Complete a Job Application. Complete a job application accurately, which includes an accurate work history and references.
Research Job Opportunities. Identify job openings that match the client's particular skills and interest. This requires the client to know where to look for job openings (Alaska Job Bank, Workplace Alaska, etc.) and to identify their skills acquired through work experience or life situations that can be transferred to a new or different work setting.
Demonstrate Interviewing Skills. Participate in an interview and show appropriate demeanor, the ability to respond to an employer's questions, and ask questions regarding job requirements, the work environment and other pertinent issues.
Demonstrate Appropriate Interview Attire/Behavior. Demonstrate appropriate attire and behavior to conduct a job interview.
Determine the highest grade completed in school. If the client's educational skill level is not equivalent to the skill level required by the job, additional assessment to find the person's educational level and identify strategies to upgrade those skills may be a part of the FSSP.
When developing the FSSP, it is critical that the client establishes realistic employment goals for their Temporary Assistance FSSP. The employment goal takes into account time limits, work requirements and available resources. Among other things, the employability assessment process should reveal if the client:
Has sufficient knowledge of the occupation in which he or she has expressed an interest;
Understands what skills are required to perform the job;
Has the skills needed to perform the job;
Is knowledgeable about the job opportunities in the local labor market;
Knows about career ladders or job progression opportunities that lead to self-sufficiency in jobs being considered; and,
Is aware of any training required to prepare for their desired job/occupation.
Case managers use a number of tools to assess employability, including the Employability Planning Information (EPI) form (ATAP 5), evaluation of the results of the initial job search efforts and, in some cases, standardized tests. Regardless of the method used, additional assessments should be selected based on what best meets the needs of the family. Clients who have a strong work history and are clear about occupational interests probably do not require the same level of assessment or job preparation as individuals with little or no prior job experience.
As information is gathered, documentation of client history, preferences, challenges and lessons learned during job search allows case managers to use this information to assist the client. This not only allows for effective planning, but helps the client build on their skills and avoid repeating unsuccessful strategies for finding employment.
Applicants complete an EPI form as part of the Temporary Assistance application process. This must be done before developing the FSSP. Generally, it is preferable for the client to complete the EPI. How the client completes the form can reveal information about their skills and self-image. The EPI provides some basic information on work history and family strengths. Work Services staff use this information to conduct the initial assessment and to guide job referrals and selection for services such as job club or various workshops to build job search skills.
The EPI gathers information about:
Work history (paid and volunteer);
Education and training history;
Need for supportive services and other employment-related services; and,
Personal information related to employability.
A "real-world" assessment of a client's employability takes place during their initial work search. Clients are expected to actively look for a job and to take part in any job search skill building they need to increase their potential for employment as soon as they apply for assistance. If a client obtains employment during this time, they have obviously demonstrated employability.
Clients that find a job during initial work search receive extended Work Services to help them retain and advance in employment. (Case managers work with employed clients not only to support them, but also to assess their ability to retain a job and identify strategies to improve their chances in retaining employment.)
Not getting a job does not necessarily mean the person has low employability. A lack of jobs in the local labor market can prevent even well qualified individuals from securing employment. However, the results of a client's job search provides valuable information on where the client could increase their employability, such as improving their resume, interviewing skills, appearance, or follow-up.
For clients that did not find a job during the application process, Job Club coordinators or the Work Services staff monitoring the client's job search documents what was learned during the initial job search about the client's employability and provides the client's case manager with suggested next steps.
Look at the range of jobs they considered. If a client's job search focused on a certain type of work, they may need to expand their job search to other occupations or more entry-level work to get hired.
Check their job search skills. Monitoring of client follow-through on job referrals, success in interviews, and appropriate follow-up with employers after interviews may indicate a need for coaching through the job search process or assistance with interviewing skills.
Compare the client's skills to the job market. Motivated clients who haven't been hired may have few job skills, or a presentation and communication style that is a poor match for the local labor market. These clients may benefit from workshops or need training.
Analyze client job search for effort. Clients with poor attendance or follow-through may need screening or additional assessments to identify potential challenges to employment.
Clients that do not find immediate employment require on-going assessment to determine the reason they are not successful in obtaining employment. Does the problem lie with the lack of jobs in the labor market, or does the client face other challenges that are hampering employment? Developing successful strategies hinges in large part on the accuracy of assessment of the client's employability -- otherwise the client uses resources and months on ineffective activities.
Vocational counseling can be very helpful for clients that are undecided about their occupational goals. DOL's vocational counselors can conduct various occupational interest and aptitude tests that help clients identify occupations for which they are best suited. This allows clients to better focus their job search and promotes job retention, as employees tend to stay in jobs that fit their interests and skills.
When a client appears stalled in their efforts at finding work, screening and additional assessments may be needed.
Use the EPI to begin documenting the employability of the client.
Use the Client Notes (CANO) feature in the CMS to update employability information through contact wit the client, up-front staff, job club staff and others.
Job logs, job referrals and other documentation of job search should be kept in the case management file.
Successful self-sufficiency planning includes ongoing assessment of an individual's employability throughout the client's experiences in seeking and retaining employment. Assessment is not a one-time event. While this is part of every interaction between the case manager and the client, some changes in the family's situation may indicate the need for a more comprehensive assessment of the individual's employability. Some indicators of this include:
Progress in completing FSSP assignments;
A change in the individual's circumstances or excuse from participation in work activities;
Significant changes in the strengths the individual brings to their ability to find and retain unsubsidized employment.
Information gathered when developing the client's initial Family Self Sufficiency Plan may become outdated as the client progresses through the steps in their plan. Ongoing assessment insures that assigned activities assist the client toward self-sufficiency by reflecting the client's current skill levels, abilities, and needs.
Ongoing assessment takes place during contacts with DPA, Work Services providers, other organizations providing services to the client, partner agencies, and with the client. Monitoring the client's progress toward successful completion of activities provides important information about the client's:
Level of job skills and other basic skills required for employment;
Grasp of employer expectations and work ethics;
Communication and other personal skills;
Understanding of performance expectations; and,
Need for community referrals and supportive services.
In conducting an employability assessment it is important to notice indicators of problems that are not obvious, but which might affect employability. Issues such as depression, substance abuse and domestic violence, may surface during initial or on-going employability assessments
In some cases, observation and monitoring of progress may not provide all the information needed about a client's employability. There are numerous situations that may prompt the need for additional, specialized assessments.
Clients who job search and find employment which offers wages and work hours likely to lead to independence from Temporary Assistance generally need further assessment only if they experience problems retaining employment.
Clients who find employment with low wages or limited work hours with no prospect of improvement may need further assessment to determine how they can build upon this work experience to achieve self-sufficiency.
Clients who are unable to find any paid employment following initial employability assessment and job search may need further assessment to determine what strengths they have upon which to build a plan for self-sufficiency.
If difficulties in formulating an effective self-sufficiency plan, or poor progress in carrying out a plan, point to the need for more in-depth assessment, you may refer clients for specialized services. Services which may assist in assessing a client's employability include:
Literacy and other educational testing;
Learning disabilities screening and/or assessment;
Substance abuse screening and/or assessment;
Vocational, aptitude, or personality traits testing;
Domestic violence screening;
Mental health and/or assessment screening;
Physical health screening;
Vocational counseling; and,
Vocational rehabilitation services.
Information from screenings, assessments and other service providers are used to help the client to develop an effective FSSP, to identify services needed, assign meaningful activities, and to provide appropriate supports that promote and support the client's progress toward self-sufficiency and independence from Temporary Assistance.
During the employability assessment, the case manager may discover that the family's situation may allow them to be temporarily excused from the requirement to participate in Work Services activities, as explained in TA Manual Section 730-2. Regardless of whether or not they are excused from participating in activities, all clients are required to have to have an employability assessment and to complete an FSSP.