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A Developmental Approach to Work-Readiness

1 January 2013


Outside In (OI) is a social service agency in Portland, Oregon working to address the changing needs of homeless youth and other low-income and marginalized persons. It is estimated that in the state of Oregon that there are24,000 to 25,000 youth that fall under the homeless continuum (Oregon Homeless and Runaway Youth Work Group, 2005). Of which, 1,500-2,000 of homeless youth reside in metropolitan area of Portland. Youth end up on the street for multiple reasons including family poverty, violence, mental and physical illness in their families, sexual minority issues, unemployment, domestic violence, sexual abuse and abandonment. OI provides both medial and support services for this population including supported housing, education, employment, counseling and recreation. (Outside In, 2009)

Supported employment programs are implemented within the Education Resource Center (ERC). The ERC runs two options for youth seeking resources: Job Club and Job Readiness Training (JRT). Job Club is a drop in service that provides support with job seeking and resume development. JRT is a 2 ½ week class designed to prepare youth for a short- term goal job and plan for post secondary education. Youth who complete JRT receive post course support in multiple facets from bus passes, appropriate clothing and professional support.

In partnership with Outside In, Pacific University School of Occupation Therapy and 2 students identified youth within the ERC who could benefit from occupational therapy services. The occupational therapy students participated in the Job Club and JRT sessions to conduct a needs assessment and develop an Innovative Practice Project (IPP) that enhances the current services offered at the ERC.

Through a need assessment conducted through observation and interviews with ERC staff and participants, the Pacific University occupational therapy students identified a segment population that is failing to thrive despite the outstanding resources they receive from OI. This population was identified as those who have a higher need of support to obtain and maintain successful employment. These persons are the youth who have not been able to complete JRT, who have completed JRT and have not been able to move forward from the ERC, or have been participating in Job Club for an extended period of time and are not making any gains towards employment. It was determined by the occupational therapy students that additional barriers may be preventing this grouping of youth from meeting their goals and additional factors may need to be addressed before they would be able to move towards self-sustaining roles.

Using the developmental model as the basis for rational, the occupational therapy students developed activity modules to be implemented in conjunction with the Education Resource Center at Outside In to facilitate a holistic approach to job exploration and job acquisition skills that meets youth participants at their development level. The cornerstones of development into adulthood include acquiring a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and power. The foundation of skill development, such as effective communication, time management and developing positive relationships, promote future outcomes for these youth in the transition to adulthood. The purpose of these modules will be to identity youth participants strengths, challenges, and interests and build the skills needed obtain and maintain a successful working position.


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