If you already operate a co-ed pre-apprenticeship or are looking to start a program specifically for women, it is important to recognize that, not only will women face more barriers in the application process for apprenticeship, but they are likely to face additional personal challenges as well. Lack of financial resources to cover the costs associated with apprenticeship, unstable housing, unreliable childcare, lack of transportation, and opposition from friends and family members are all factors that limit a participant’s ability to meet the demands of a career in the trades. Certainly, when you screen applicants for the program, you are looking for those most ready to enter the industry, but it is often when support systems are tested that their weaknesses are revealed, and women, many of whom are more accustomed to playing the role of caretaker than relying on others for assistance, can find themselves overwhelmed by the additional demands on their time and attention. Moreover, entering the industry can be a frightening and discouraging experience for women. If they are rejected, do they believe they were assessed fairly, do they believe that they can succeed if they improve their qualifications, do they believe they can compete, enough to try again? If they are accepted, do they believe they will meet expectations, can they maintain this motivation strongly enough to overcome their challenges and fears? To be successful, your participants need to feel secure, prepared and confident and we strongly encourage programs to pay special attention to providing robust case management and support services to guide and encourage them as they prepare for enter construction careers.
Specific goals of CWIT’s case management program are:
- Increase client(s) competency in developing the skills necessary to become a viable candidates for apprenticeship programs.
- Empower client(s) to function as independently as possible.
- Link client(s) with essential resources using internal and external resources.
- Enhance client’s self confidence so she is better equipped to face the challenges of a career in the construction industry.
The above goals speak not only to what is provided, but how it is provided. Case management serves as a guide and a touchstone for participants, it facilitates planning, it helps with problem solving and resource identification, it encourages and motivates, but it is the participant herself that meets the challenges, makes progress on her plan and gains the confidence that comes with taking charge of her life and accomplishing goals.
Who is Eligible for Case Management Services?
- Training program participants
- Applicants preparing for admission to TOP
- Job ready applicants who do not require training to be competitive applicants.
- Program graduates
The primary recipients of case management services are program participants and, since these services extend well beyond the length of the training program to support their job search and retention, program graduates also comprise a good percentage of the caseload. The other function of case management is to provide support and guidance to women who are not yet qualified for TOP and those who do not need training to be competitive for apprenticeship program opportunities. Services to the latter two groups are less standardized and vary in intensity according to the needs of each participant, whether that is a referral to a math class or a connection to a tradeswoman mentor.
Individual Goal Setting & Career Planning
For all participants, service begins with the development of a career plan, outlining participants’ long and short-term goals, and identifying the activities, barriers and services needed to achieve these outcomes. For TOP students, these plans are created during the first required one-on-one case management meeting which is scheduled for the week after the goal setting workshop to provide participants with the tools to begin formulating goals and plans. The case manager, as an expert in the requirements of the industry and of individual apprenticeships, can provide essential guidance in helping students weigh the merits of various opportunities and create achievable career plans with realistic goals, timelines and activities.
From this point, the plan provides the framework to guide staff in supporting participants toward progress in meeting their goals. In addition to a consistent check-ins, participants are required to attend a second one-on-one during the last few weeks of class to re-evaluate the career plan and identify next steps toward apprenticeship.
Tracking & Follow-up
Case Management is also responsible for tracking program participants by facilitating the completion of bi-weekly, mid-term and final progress reports, links to which are found in the administrative section of the training page. These forms track performance on tests, submission of homework, and attendance, allowing case management to quickly identify and respond to any issues or progress reported. If the participant is not meeting requirements, case management initiates contact and works to identify and assist the participant in solving issues preventing her from attending class or focusing on her studies. This personal connection can also be essential to reengaging students who may be discouraged or distracted by other issues in their lives.
Another useful tool to assess class progress is the apprenticeship application status sheet, which case managers collect monthly to track applicants’ interest in and applications to apprenticeship programs. By recording this information, she can then follow-up with participants to remind them of application openings for programs they identified, invite them to study sessions for upcoming tests, support them in following through with applications and/or tests and interviews, and capture outcomes.
After graduation, follow-up should be based on the plan, including contact before they submit an application, before they take the test for that trade, after they test, before they interview, after notices are sent, and before and after they start work. The focus of these calls is encouragement and offers of assistance such as study sessions, tutoring, application fees, transportation assistance, other announcements etc. If a participant is not actively applying and testing for programs, case management initiates contact monthly for the first six months and quarterly thereafter if the participant is still committed to this career path.
It is especially critical to maintain contact with participants as they enter pre-apprenticeship or employment in the trades. In addition to the support they may require in adjusting to the requirements of these programs, this is also the point when their support systems, transportation, childcare etc., are challenged. Case management can continue to provide guidance and support as well as connections to tradeswomen mentors, trade specific support groups, skill-building classes, tutoring, financial assistance and referrals to support services.
Case management also works to connect participants with the internal and external resources they need to succeed which could be anything from housing to childcare to legal services. To help participants take charge of this process, staff provides participants with a resource booklet and works with them to access services. For the most part, support service needs are consistent with those of other low-income participants, though there is one important note. Entering an apprenticeship program can be very expensive, perhaps requiring participants to attend lengthy unpaid pre-apprenticeships or pay initiation fees prior to placement. Programs also typically charge a fee of $20 or so to complete an application. It is, therefore, important to consider how the program can provide financial subsidies to participants. CWIT spends upwards of $25,000 per year on essential support services directly related to entering apprenticeship, including stipends for attendance in unpaid pre-apprenticeship programs, union initiation fees, and other required expenses.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) provides supportive services at the local level. These are services that are necessary to enable an individual to participate in WIOA-authorized activities, including training, education, and job readiness. Supportive Services for Adults and Dislocated Workers may include:
- Transportation assistance
- Child care & dependent care
- Housing assistance
- Needs-related payments that are necessary to enable an individual to participate in activities authorized under WIA Title I
- Other supportive services as provided by the local board
Local boards must establish policies regarding the availability of supportive services and the coordination of resources within the area. Boards may establish limits, as well as procedures to grant exceptions to the limits, if they choose to do so.
Creating peer support networks is a critical component of the program design and, from the first day of class, students are encouraged to view themselves as a support network and provided with opportunities to connect to tradeswomen mentors and the larger community of tradeswomen. Once they join an apprenticeship, they are specifically introduced to women who are members of that union and can support them if they encounter issues on the job or in school. You can consider hosting monthly job clubs, social/networking events, support groups, volunteer activities, and social media sites to connect graduates to women who share the same goals and understand what it takes to be successful as a woman in the construction industry.