Pathway to Employment is a program designed to help people explore community employment possibilities and develop skills leading to employment success. ACHIEVA developed this program to give people more possibilities to develop skills that will help them to make greater contributions to their communities and experience the benefits that come with increased participation. Pathway to Employment is designed to expand CHOICES and OPPORTUNITIES for community contribution and participation.
Pathway to Employment focuses on the skills that help people to get along with others, adjust to the work environment and culture, and increase their overall effectiveness when it comes to the kinds of social and communication skills that are crucial to employment success in a variety of settings. Some of those skills include:
Soft Skills Focus
- Problem Solving
- Teamwork/Interpersonal Skills
- Professionalism/Work Ethic
Pathway to Employment Curriculum
The program's curriculum was developed to align with the PA Career Education and Work Standards.The curriculum is 16-weeks and covers topics related to career preparation, personal awareness of strengths and support needs, personal marketing, and career success principles. The program is designed so groups are following the same curriculum topics at the same time. Every16-week a new curriculum is introduced. Pathway participants are able to visit each topic and further develop their understanding and increase their ability to apply the information to help them achieve their employment goals.
The features of the program include:
- Job Clubs
- Next Step Groups
- Peer Leaders
A facilitated peer-support group that meets on a weekly basis at all of ACHIEVA’s vocational locations (Strip District, Wilkinsburg, Bridgeville, West Mifflin, and Greensburg). Participants learn about and practice various soft skills. These groups meet for one half-hour to two hours each week (depending on the location) and engage in discussions on employment-related topics and activities designed to help people improve their understanding and application of different soft skills. The focus for the week is introduced in Job Club.
Next Step Group
Groups of less than 8 people. Groups meet on a daily basis at each of ACHIEVA’s pre-vocational programs and are facilitated by an ACHIEVA Community Employment team member. These groups visit community employment partner sites on regularly to gain knowledge and experience in community settings. Group interactions are coordinated with the weekly Job Club. After the focus for the week is introduces it is further developed in the next four Next Step Group sessions.
Peer Leaders engage in a systematic Discovery process with their Employment Specialists. In Discovery, the Employment Specialists get to know the person as an individual community member and gather information to create a better match between the individual and an employment opportunity.
As part of that process, Peer Leaders participate in several unpaid community employment opportunities as well. These experiences are called Community-based Assessments (CBAs). A CBA is an opportunity for an individual to experience what is it like to do a real community job for a brief amount of time, usually several hours at a time. By experiencing different tasks, work environments, coworkers, and customers, individuals and their Employment Specialists gain a greater understanding of strengths, work skills and interests that will help the individual to choose and achieve his or her employment goals.
When a Peer Leader has developed a clear-enough idea of what kinds of community jobs make the most sense to pursue, the Peer Leader, Employment Specialist, and the members of their support team work together to develop a paid position in the community.
The Pathway to Employment is open to anyone who is interested in working in the community who is participating in an ACHIEVA pre-vocational program. The individual must also be eligible for funding to provide adequate supports for a community employment outcome. The amount of funding needed to achieve a successful long-term community employment outcome is determined on a case-by-case basis on consultation with the individual’s support team.
School to Work Transition
The Pathway to Employment is specifically designed to help students who can benefit from a peer support model and individualized community employment supports to achieve a community employment outcome before graduation. Students must be at least 18 years old to participate in the program.
Most people who participate in the Pathway to Employment will use a combination of third-party funding sources including Medicaid Waiver Funding (P/FDs or Consolidated), County Base Funding, and Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) funding. School to Work Transition students will usually be funded through individual service agreements with the student’s educational entity. Private pay contracts are available as well.
Fading of Supports
The ultimate goal of ACHIEVA’s Pathway to Employment is for each individual to have the choice and the opportunity to experience community employment success without the need for ongoing paid professional supports. Natural supports in the community are what make this possible. Natural supports are the people and systems (that are not a part of disability service systems) that surround an individual to help him or her live his or her life as a fully-participating member of the community.
Different people need different kinds of supports to succeed in community employment. Some people are able to utilize natural supports and reduce (fade) their use of paid professional supports very quickly. Others may need more time to have their paid professional supports faded. There are other people who may not have sufficient natural supports at their job site to experience significant fading of ongoing professional supports over the course of their careers.
While it is our goal to help people achieve the greatest freedom to maximize their contributions to their communities and to experience the benefits of community participation, we also recognize that most organizations and communities are not yet sufficiently developed to fully support individuals with more complex support needs. For people with complex support needs we will do our best to provide the professional ongoing community-based employment supports according to individual need and funding authorization.
Community Employment and Pre-vocational Program Participation
Many people who participate in ACHIEVA’s Pathway to Employment are interested in working part-time in community employment and wish to continue attending in their pre-vocational program on a part-time basis as well. If people reduce their time or leave their community jobs, they may increase their participation in the pre-vocational program again.
To get started, we need to know the individual’s name, date of birth, and contact information. If making a referral on someone else’s behalf, a release of information form must be completed.
For more information, please contact the ACHIEVA Pathway to Employment Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.