THE INDUSTRIAL ADJUSTMENT TRANSITIONAL TRAINING
The intent of this overview is to provide an idea of the general parameters of the transitional adjustment program intervention as it applies to redundant employees.
Mohawk College's Anne Hemsworth provided 10 stand alone modules that could be delivered to an individual losing their job through a redundancy. The modules delivered locally would give the employee a resonable job goal based on a significant understanding of the local existing job market and the skills and experience which they brought to that market. A second phase package of modules will be provided adding information in areas of resume preparation; applying for a job; and being interviewed for the job. The purpose of this visit by ms. Hemsworth is to leave materials that can be used immediately, with any group of individuals affected by unemployment; with the apppropriate commitment of time for the package delivery.
In the initial visit with the Regional Employment Center staff the topoics covered included the setting ; the group; and the critical characteristics of the coach. Discussion was held to explain the importance of the process and how things actually happen as opposed to simply describing what happens. Certain program aspects may not be immediately transferable to the Russian circumstance given the stage of development of vocational counselling materials. However Anne Hemsworth consultation will focus on identifying which aspects are immediately transferable based on the employment staffs assesssment of what is presented.
The basic process is called "Life Skills". It was developed in Northern Saskatchewan, Canada to assist with the transition to work of the areas Canadian Indian population, who were experiencing high unemployment and alcohol related problems. The program has evolved to be available to many other poopulations in the canadian context including senior management from major corporations. The premise is that there are certain skills that individuals need to learn in order to be successful in changing their current circumstances. These skills include self-management; communications; critical thinking; and the application of a very specific problem solving process and model.
The lifeskills process always takes place in a group setting, lead by a coach (instructor). The title of coach reflects the role of leader, motivator and facilitator in the process in which the people learn the skills of effective career or vocational change. It is important to understand that the coach is not the person with all the answers to a given problem, because of the diversity of the group. The individuals in the group bring a wealth of life and work experience to the group situation and one another (ie. there may be a wide age and experience difference present in the group - no one individual should be expected to have answers for all of those varied interests). The reality is such a program is only a short term intervention and developing individual work related coping strategies will be critical in the participants ability to function independently in the changing job market of the future. That is the programs goal, to provide redundant employees with the skills they need to function independenlty in the future job market. They'll know what to do ,and have the skills and knowledge to do it , on competion of the program.
The coaches role is to develop and encourage the acquisition of the skills needed through the provision of proper information. To provide the structure and opportunity to develop and practise the skills, providing support and feedback throughout the learning; and to develop the skills to to gain a practical application of the learned skills in the real work world , often through work placement, and ultimately the finding of a job.
In longer running programs or where follow up can occur it is seen as critical to the support of the participant and the effectiveness of future programs. An evaluation of the learning which has occurred, through the effective application of the skills to acquire a job is important to the client in maintaining their support network for the future.
Individuals are generally selected for the program , in the Canadian context as a result of the employee survey questionnaire where they have indicated a need for transitional counselling support and prefer a group process. They are then approved for the program by an employment counselling specialist who may often be co-located at the committees Action Centre. The candidates will then be sorted into relatively homogenous categories including: professional, youth, sole support parent etc.. It is important to have people with similar circumstances in a group, in order to be able to draw on experiences which are understandable to the members; and to provide effective support for oneanother because of the need to relate to the circumstance. In Laekens ,for example, the common element is the devastation of the job loss,, and the common plant connection which creates the groups homogeneity. In the case of the regular Employment Centre client, it is important that an appropriate amount of time is spent building group understanding based on shared information and the development of trust. The coaches role in facilitating and managing this phase is crtical in the ultimate effectiveness of that group.
The most important tool available to the coach is the development of their relationship with the individual members and the group. The coach is ideally a group member, and never requires a group member to carry out a task that they would not do themselves! The guideline is that it is not sufficient to say it, you must be willing to do it ! The role of the coach is to model the behaviour required . It is particularly important that the difficult client see the behaviours carried out in both a practical and a successful way.
The process should be a pleasant experience , recognizing the importance of the use of fun, and humour as valves to relief stress for the clients who come into such a program often upset, frightened, and with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. There are elements of the program which will be very difficult for some employees because of their level of depression over their circumstance, and the exercises emotional content. the coach must have the skill and expertise to deal with these crises when they arise , effectively using humour and interpersonal skills and sensitivity to assist the person who has a crisis. However, it is important that we understand that this process is not therapy. The goal is always employment, achieved through the effective use of a behavioral change model, as opposed to a medical model of intervention.
The process encourages the development of a group identity as both a support in the process and a future network for the individual members . They are encouraged to maintain that network well after the formal learning group has terminated. Follow up with group members is achieved through a graduation ceremony which calls all participants to receive a certificate and share their success. In some instances this graduation may be the first time the individual has successfully graduated from any program. They are recognized for the significance of their achievements and its importance to work; with the intent of reinforcing the permanence and usefulness of the life skills they have learned and demonstrated. The program carries out an ongoing statistical analysis on the results in order to identify those variables which continue to contribute to the succes of the clients in becoming gainfully employed.
Potential profiles for what a "Life Skills" coach looks like may be provided by examining the 25 full time staff that operate in that department at Mohawk College,in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. There are approximaely 20 different professional backgrounds represented in this population including: nurses, political scientist, historian, social workers, youth worker, hairdresser, truck driver, community literacy volunteer, and some former teachers. The staff are not professional psychologists. Interpersonal skills, warmth and empathy seem to be critical traits for the successful coach as opposed to possession of particular academic credentials. Often the traditionally trained teacher has difficulty changing their professional pedagogical training approach to effectively apply adult learning models in a group. They are too focused on working in a situation where they want to be in charge. It is often difficult to relinquish that power and allow the group to use their experience as the major learning tool. The coaches role is to pull out the employee's experience and to help the group to use it in order to gain the practise they may need to be comfortable using a specific skill on their own. Personally , many coaches are often successful in other creative endeavours such as accomplished musicians or artists.
A training program is offered for coaches through the community college system. the training is six (6) weeks long and effectively puts the potential coach through the same process he will be using to gain hands on experience. This type of experiential learning is fundamentally a first step to their applied learning which occurs on the job under the direction or support of an experienced life skills coach. There is an ongoing need for coaches to share experiences and information and this is achieved through the Association of Life Skills Coaches of Ontario (ALSCO). this organization meets regularly and through workshops and seminars shares new techniqes, successful experiences and support for one another.
What criteria is used in the selection of the coach in Canada?
- the first criteria is a demonstrated commitment to the client group with clear interest in helping people. This should be demonstrated through their work experience, life experience and education , ie. nurses , teachers, community involvement.
- demonstrated ability to work effectively in a group setting.
- demonstrated achievement of a leadership role in work or the community.
- demonstrated work experience in a field other than education. This is important to gain practical work experience that is pertinent to issues the group will deal with.
- In Anne Hemsworth's staff some of the best coaches have experienced unemployment, sole support parent hood or other difficulties in their personal lives which they have successfully dealt with.
- The above personal experience provides an important credibility for the group.
- The individual must be able to function at a high level in all of the academic areas covered in the program. This may include high school level math, science and english. Often important basic skills to improve employability and trainability.
- Demonstrated ability with communication skills, based on their performance in a lengthy interview and their resume submission.
- A critical personal quality is that the person must convey that they are an accepting , non-judgemental and respectful of the client, in their value system.
- A coach may have professional or related university education but it is not a requirement of the coaches position.
There is a trial period or transitional element in the coaches training which assesses the appropriateness of the individual on the job prior to full commitment for employment as a coach. The main criteria for their successful highering is the success of the group with which they have worked.