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Anoka County Community Action Team

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Anoka County collaborators carry the distinction of being the first Minnesota Employment Training and Technical Assistance Center (MNTAT) Community Action Team (CAT). This group has been working on initiatives that focus on greater employment outcomes of persons with disabilities for a number of years, and thus were ready to take on a new challenge.

Taking the lead in this endeavor is the "Anoka County Innovations Team," which was established in 2008 as a means for bringing together separate initiatives with similar goals. These initiatives included Employment First Anoka County, Minnesota Camps to Careers, Project Search, E-connect, and more. The hope was that all entities could benefit from each other and the learning and best practices coming from these exciting new things being piloted in the region.

The Anoka County CAT has already launched its first events on January 26-28, 2010. On day one, the team hosted the first in a series of training sessions. Tammara Geary, Lead Associate from Griffin-Hammis Associates LLC, presented “Foundations of Successful Customized Employment” to 40 participants at the Bunker Hills Activity Center. On day two, the team met with Tammara and Bob Niemiec, Director of MNTAT, to develop a plan and schedule for the rest of the year. 6 job seekers were proposed to be the focus of the team. A lead team member is responsible to work with each of the candidates. On the following day, Tammara met with candidates and their team members to begin discussing the plans for moving forward with the Discovery process.

The team is looking forward to continued training and technical assistance from MNTAT and Griffin-Hammis for the remainder of the calendar year. This will include several more training sessions, hands-on assistance, conference calls, and local team meetings, all of which are intended to result in a learning experience for all.

The Anoka County CAT team is made up of representatives from the following organizations: Rise, Inc., Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development- Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Anoka County Human Services, Anoka-Hennepin Independent School District #11, and the University of Minnesota- Institute on Community Integration.

Anoka CAT Activities

January 26, 2011

The meeting today was a bit smaller than normal, and we spent the time discussing possible routes for our CAT to take in 2011.

December 8, 2010

The majority of this meeting was spent debriefing about the Second Annual Disability & Employment Conference. We talked about the strengths, weaknesses, and improvements for a potential conference in 2011. We also spent some time talking about what 2011 looks like for the CATs.

November 15 & 16, 201

The Anoka County CAT was participated in the Second Annual Disability & Employment Conference. We spoke at the conference, facilitated some table conversations, and participated in the Resource Area.

October 20, 2010

The meeting today was primarily focused around the Second Annual Disability and Employment Conference. We each chose a role at the conference; some of us will be presenting and other will be in the Resource Area.

October 18, 2010

Today was the Community Action Team Summit. All of the Community Actions Teams were at the Summit. Tammara Geary flew in for the event.

September 15, 2010

In today’s team meeting, each team gave an update about where their jobseekers are currently at in the process. We also discussed the upcoming Community Action Team Summit on October 18 and the Second Annual Disability & Employment Conference in November, in which our team will be presenting and participating.

August 3, 2010

Tammara Geary helped us combine our team training with a team meeting today. We were able to receive training while dissecting the themes of each jobseeker. We also made progress on the lists of 20 for the jobseekers, as well.

July 14, 2010

In today’s meeting, the teams talked about how the Discovery process is moving along for each jobseeker; some have hit a wall and others appear to be moving along smoothly. Tammara will be in town next month to do consultations with our CAT. Carol Rydell, from the Minnesota Employment Policy Initiative, also came to today’s meeting to learn about different policy issues that the CAT members may be encountering.

June 2, 2010

Tammara presented a day-long job development training to our team.

June 1, 2010

Team members set up one on one TA meetings with Tammara in the community.

May 24, 2010

The team met today to give an update on where things are at with the job seekers they are assisting. Things are moving forward with the Discovery process with the 5 individuals that have been identified. Here are some “learnings” from the discussions today:

  • It is nice for our team to hear things more than once, and in simplified formats, or many different formats. Ie., we are all still learning together, and it may take awhile for things to sink in!
  • Team members have noted this concern: “I haven’t done job placement work before- so I feel unsure about what I am doing” It was noted that this can actually be a good thing, you may have less to “unlearn” then!
  • Don’t forget to take the time to thoroughly go through steps 1 and 2 of the Discovery process- ie., really get to know the job seeker. Make sure to observe/ spend time with the job seekers with and without parents, or other people they are close with.

April 13, 2010

Tammara met with individual teams and participants to assist in the Discovery process. There are currently 5 participants now identified, but some have not begun the process. The team will meet again on May 24th to re-group.

April 12, 2010

Today was originally going to be another full-day of training, but since our team was still struggling with coming together and identifying candidates, the decision was made to hold another team meeting. It seems that we are all still trying to really understand what we are trying to accomplish with Discovery as well as how to approach businesses in this process. We also had members from the newly formed Ramsey County CAT team come to be a part of the discussion. It will be helpful to learn from and communicate with other groups going through the same process. Here were learnings from today:

  • “If it is obvious, let’s put it aside for now, we can always come back to it” or “The first idea is probably not the best idea”
  • Question: What if he doesn’t get a job? “Keep going!”
  • No one is out on a limb- we are all in this together to make sure there is success. Everyone needs to keep in mind that if you are feeling stuck, we will all work together to assist.
  • Concern: How long is this going to take, and how can the funding support it?
  • Approaching employers: Tammara gave us some training on this, and suggested that we all go out and approach a business within the next two weeks to try this out.
  • Tammara: Everyone seems to have a concern about doing Discovery “right”. But really, you can’t do it wrong!
  • Concern: How do we take what someone says they like (ie. swords) and tie it to work? Tammara: Keep in mind- Discovery is more about observation.
  • Tammara typically has the individual’s team members meet every few weeks for everyone to process what they have done, seen, etc. Put things up on the board and notice some themes- brainstorm. They are “emerging” ideal conditions of employment (likely to change).
  • Remember to keep note of who people know in the community.

March 10, 2010

The second day-long training took place today. Cary Griffin presented on “Systematic Instruction”, and the team members had the opportunity to put it into practice with Rise CIP participants. The team also had another discussion about where they were at with solidifying the 5 participants that our team will focus on. We are currently down to just 2, but ideas were discussed and team members were going to work on identifying possibilities again.

March 8, 2010

The team had another meeting today and Bob and Tammara were there to help lead a discussion on how we are progressing. The following were some points that were stressed:

  • Keep in mind that Discovery themes need to be broad and NOT based on a job description- ie. “woodworking” versus a “woodworker”- and consider the supply chain of businesses that relate to a theme such as woodworking.
  • We need to stop thinking of businesses as an entity- rather to think of the people that run the business. This process is about social capital- an exchange/ connections between people. With these processes, we are changing the “ask”. Not “do you have jobs?”- but “can I/we learn about you and what goes on here?” You can find out more about social capital at: www.centerforsocialcapital.org . Bob noted that there are 4 areas that build social capital: shared interest, shared values, shared sense of humor, and sharing information.
  • Interest alone isn’t enough- need skills. Building a list of what they know how to do. Finding out: how did you learn that? We need to observe them doing it, and find out how they do it, how they learned it.
  • Discussed that for many of us, we are going to have to live in “2 worlds” (current practice and new practice) at the same time, which can be difficult.
  • “What is the difference between what job placement coordinators do now and CE?” The difference is that we are trying to stay away from job descriptions and the next steps after Discovery are what the difference is- how a person gets a job. Tammara noted that a big piece of this is also that there is an experiential component. Let’s go try this in the community.

February 17, 2010

The team met for 3 hours to get caught up on how things are progressing with the candidates. One of the difficulties has been in identifying the candidates. In a few cases, those proposed chose not to be involved. In one case, the individual got a job on his own. Another concern that was voiced was that there was a lot of time involved with the CAT team process- which includes the 5 day-long training events, the monthly meetings and then the time it takes to go through the Discovery and CE processes with an individual. Local school district members have been unable to participate in training and team meetings because of this, but have agreed to being a part of the individual discussions when one of the candidates is on their caseload. There has been a lot of discussion about just who the main person should be that goes through the processes with candidates. Some team members who have never done job placement-type work and have large caseloads (county case managers or VRS counselors, for instance) haven’t been sure about what their role should be.

January 28, 2010

Appointments were set up for Tammara to go with team members to meet the potential candidates. This allowed her to give feedback/suggestions on how to move forward.

January 27, 2010

The core Anoka CAT team members (which includes representatives from Anoka County Human Services, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Rise, Inc. CRP staff) met for the first time for 3 hours to begin making plans for moving forward. Team members brought lists of possible candidates for the team to focus on as part of the 5 persons we’d like to assist in attaining employment through the customized employment strategies learned from Griffin-Hammis. Tammara also gave the team members a list of “to do” items to begin working on with the candidates prior to her next visit in March.

January 26, 2010

The MNTAT supported Anoka CAT team kicked off with a day-long training by Tammara Geary from Griffin-Hammis on “Foundations of Successful Customized Employment: “An Introduction to Customized Employment and Discovery”. 40 people attended.