State Agency to Provide One-On-One Job Coaching for Arkansas PROMISE

Cyndi Saucier worked at Outdoor Images in Siloam Springs last summer. She later received the 2015 Diana Tucker Outstanding Youth Award for her work through the PROMISE project.
Photo credit: Heidi Stambuck

Cyndi Saucier worked at Outdoor Images in Siloam Springs last summer. She later received the 2015 Diana Tucker Outstanding Youth Award for her work through the PROMISE project.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas officials with Arkansas PROMISE have established a partnership with Arkansas Rehabilitation Services through a memorandum of understanding that can provide each teen in the project a job coach this year.

“Not every PROMISE participant will need one-on-one job coaching support; but, for the ones who do, those services have been arranged,” said Brent Thomas Williams, principal investigator of the $35.7 million federally funded project based at the University of Arkansas. Williams is an associate professor of rehabilitation education and research in the College of Education and Health Professions. Philip Adams directs the day-to-day operations of the project.

PROMISE is an acronym for “Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income.” In September 2013, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the five-year grant to the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Education to fund the Arkansas PROMISE project. Its goal is to improve the career and education outcomes of low-income teenagers with disabilities.

The PROMISE project relies on multiple partner agencies to operate. Arkansas Rehabilitation Services is a division of the Arkansas Department of Career Education with the mission of providing opportunities for Arkansans with disabilities to lead productive and independent lives.

The recently passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act requires that Arkansas Rehabilitation Services serve more clients who are making the transition from high school to further education or work and more clients with moderate to severe disabilities. The majority of PROMISE youth meet both these criteria.

“This particular partner will braid resources in such a way that youth with disabilities will be better served while enabling PROMISE and Arkansas Rehabilitation Services to more effectively meet their respective program objectives,” Williams said.

Carl Daughtery, chief of field services for Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, called the memorandum of understanding a wonderful opportunity for the agency to build a stronger partnership with the kindergarten through 12th grade education system and work in collaboration with business and industry to prepare youth with disabilities for the 2020 workforce.

“Arkansas Rehabilitation Services will focus heavily on transition services by providing job exploration counseling, work base learning experiences, post-secondary training, job readiness skills and self-advocacy,” Daughtery said. “ARS has built a strong relationship with the University of Arkansas, and the agency is very excited about the MOU with PROMISE and looks forward to a very productive 2016.”

As of Jan. 22, PROMISE has recruited 1,765 teens with disabilities to participate in the project. The project is more than 85 percent toward its goal of enrolling 2,000 teens by April. The teens are enrolled and then divided into two groups with half of them receiving the additional training and paid work experiences, and the other half receiving only the usual services provided to teens with disabilities.

Each teen in the group receiving the additional training will do two 200-hour work experiences during the five-year program. The experiences of the teens in this group will be compared to the experiences of the 1,000 teens in the group who do not receive the additional services through PROMISE. Based on the results of the program, four federal agencies may use the PROMISE program as a model for future programs.

The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services develops jobs for teens and places them with employers based on interests and abilities.

“All of our children deserve a chance to achieve their educational and career goals,” said Darryl Bassett, director of the department. “And the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, along with our regional workforce development partners have led the way by providing paid summer job opportunities – 278 in summer 2015 – for our children of promise. As the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services continues our work to support students with disabilities, so that they can focus on their education and a brighter future, we are excited about the possibilities this increase in resources offers to the PROMISE collaboration.”

According to the memorandum of understanding between the university and Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, PROMISE will refer youth to Arkansas Rehabilitation Services for individual job coaching, assisting Arkansas Rehabilitation Services to better meet the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act mandates to serve youth with disabilities in school-to-work transition. PROMISE also will continue to provide an integrated resource team that includes a connector who works for PROMISE to ensure the teen’s needs are met at school and at the workplace, a transition specialist who works for Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, a benefits counselor available through Sources for Community Independent Living Services in Fayetteville and a career development counselor who works for a local Workforce Development Board.

summer 2015 work experiences

Last summer, 278 youth in the PROMISE project worked a total of 44,817 hours. A total of 324 employers participated at 202 unique worksites in 55 cities and 25 counties.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson offered his thanks in a video message to businesses that participated and encouraged more businesses to consider employing a PROMISE participant this summer.

“It’s a win-win,” Hutchinson said in the video. “Employers get a hard worker and kids get a chance. Local businesses are the foundations of Arkansas’ communities. I ask them to join me in supporting Arkansas teens with disabilities.”

The Department of Workforce Services reported to the governor’s office recently that a PROMISE participant working at Southern Arkansas University Tech in Camden learned graphic design skills, including building web pages, and that his supervisor said it was a joy to have him there. Another PROMISE participant worked with a nonprofit organization whose founder described him as respectful and a hard worker who cares about the children with which the organization works. The PROMISE teen is continuing as a mentor with the organization.

About Arkansas PROMISE: The PROMISE project is a joint initiative of four federal agencies: the departments of education, health and human services, labor and the Social Security Administration. Its underlying premise is that improved coordination between services can improve outcomes for youth and their families. Its goals also include decreasing reliance on SSI and reducing the cost to the federal government. The grant was submitted through a partnership between the university, the Arkansas Department of Education and other state agencies. Other partners are the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, Arkansas Workforce Centers, Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas Department of Higher Education, Sources for Community Independent Living Services, the Clinton Foundation, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, U of A CURRENTS, Partners for Inclusive Communities and Arkansas Research Center.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Contacts

Brent Thomas Williams, associate professor of rehabilitation education and research
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-8696, btwilli@uark.edu

Philip Adams, director
Arkansas PROMISE project
479-575-5214, stephena@uark.edu

Heidi Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, heidisw@uark.edu

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