Employment Unit, Fountain House
Recently, interested parties from around Fountain House went on a half-day retreat to focus on employment - where we are now and what we can do better. Yesterday, I wrote about how to put the “support” in Supported Employment. Today, I’m going to relay some of the ideas we came up with for developing new Supported Employment opportunities for our community.
Between now and next summer, the first priority at Fountain House will be to develop 100 new Supported Employment positions for our members. This is clearly an ambitious goal, but we know that there’s demand for these jobs. Helping members find fulfilling employment is an integral part of the mission of Fountain House, and we must direct our efforts, resources, creativity, and connections to this effort.
Every job seeker is different, in terms of his/her needs, background, skills, and interests. Many members ask for help finding jobs as they near the end their educational careers. Others have worked several temporary jobs through our employment program and are ready for the next step. Some members “just want to work” and are not particular about the type of job they land. Others want to put their extensive work history, education and high level of skill to its best use. We want to create employment opportunities that address the full range of individual needs.
How exactly can we do that? We plan to better use the network Fountain House is connected with through our Board, Fountain Gallery, donors and current employers. When we meet with prospective employers, we’ll work with them to initiate the type of program that fits them best, whether it’s Transitional Employment (TE), Supported Employment (SE), or a combination, like the one I described yesterday. We feel that this third option, which includes a “trial” period with heavier staff support, may appeal to employers who are hesitant to work with “a program” but want to hold on to a good employee. This helps to eliminate stigma and may create incentives for these companies to develop multiple opportunities.
The Employment Unit will focus its efforts on assessing which types of permanent employment our job seekers desire: (1) entry-level work with no interview required or (2) work that requires past employment or history, interview necessary.
For the first group, we hope to create low-stress, basic, yet fulfilling opportunities at companies that respect and understand our mission. We will put all of our efforts into creating opportunities where members can try a job temporarily and stay on permanently if the experience is agreeable to both member and employer.
For the second group, we will seek to develop internship opportunities during the non-summer months (when college students are not flooding the market) with companies interested in giving our program a try. We believe that the companies who agree to these partnerships will experience their Fountain House employees in the same way our long-standing corporate partners companies do – they will be impressed by the experience, enthusiasm, and commitment our members bring to their jobs and will offer to hire them permanently.