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Supported employment staff training model.

During the last five years, state and federal initiatives have contributed to th viability of Supported Employment programs for individuals with severe disabilities. However, a critical factor in the longevity and effectiveness of these burgeoning programs is the ability to produce and maintain competent, well trained staff (Buckley, Albin, & Mank, 1988). Numerous articles have cited the paucity of personnel, specifically trained in supported employment technology, as a critical obstacle to staff retention and the community integration of workers with severe disabilities (Schalock, 1985; Wehman & Melia, 1985; Cohen, Patton, & Melia, 1986; Renzaglia, 1986; Moore, McCullen, & Salzberg, 1988; & Schutz, 1988).

The challenge, therefore, to professionals who must train supported employment personnel is both programmatic and instructional in nature. From a programmatic perspective, Supported Employment, more than any other habilitation service, is dependent for its success, on the functioning of the employment specialist in a variety of models and settings. The demands on the specialist transcend traditional vocational functions, to include several unique business and habilitation roles. During the course of daily job performance, the employment specialist might be required to be a salesperson, behavioral scientist, psychologist, counselor, and advocate for the supported worker. To compound this tremendous demand for multiskilled personnel, programs must quickly demonstrate competence in order to benefit from current legislative incentives (Buckley, et al., 1988).

From an instructional design perspective, the need for immediately competent personnel requires that an inservice training model be designed that addresses proficiency, efficiency, and adult learning styles. To meet the needs of adult learners, the learning model must cover all the service delivery components in a concise, yet interactive format. For rehabilitation personnel to be open to supported employment training they must perceive a clear need for the learning experience and, in turn, a benefit to themselves and their professional activities (Dailey, 1984).

The design and results of the implementation of a competency based supported employment staff training model are described in this paper. The model was designed specifically to address the unique service technology requirements of supported employment within the parameters of best practice elements of adult learning.


Instructional Design

The Employment Training Specialist (ETS) Series is a competency-based instructional program for supported employment personnel. The series addresses eight skill areas: (1) Job Development, (2) Employer Agreements; (3) Performance Measurement; (4) Job/Worker Match, (5) Task Analysis; (6) Data Collection; (7) Skill Training; and (8) Follow Along Services. These eight skill areas were identified as pertinent to Supported Employment through a review of exemplary supported employment programs and a needs assessment of facilities and programs offering Supported Employment services (Pankowski, 1985; McDaniel & Flippo, 1986).

For each skill area, an instructor and participant training manual was developed. Each manual contains a terminal goal and objectives, content relevant lecture material, practice exercises, audiovisual materials, forms, a quiz to test for immediate learning, references, and an exist test to probe for transfer and generalization of the skill. The training format was designed to address immediate and enduring skill acquisition among participants. Immediate skill development refers to the ability to perform a specific task to an established criterion, under direct instructor supervision. Enduring skill development refers to the maintenance and adaptation of skills beyond the structured training setting to new conditions in the natural environment (i.e., supported employment program) (Baldwin et al., 1982; Buckley, Albin & Mank, 1988). For immediate skill development, the training format focused on short introductions to each content area and concept, followed by participant practice and discussion. For example, in the Job Development Skill area, one unit addresses Supported Employment as an Employer Service. To teach this concept, the trainer briefly distinguishes between the concepts of employment services and benefits and then asks the participants to work in small groups to generate a list of services and benefits which are specific and inherent to Supported Employment.

By contrast, for enduring skill development, the training format focused on the application of the newly acquired classroom skill in the supported employment program setting. For example, in the Task Analysis Skill Area, the participant must compete an analysis of the tasks that are to be taught to a supported employee prior to actual skill training. That completed task analysis then is forwarded with all other unit objectives to the training project for evaluation and certification.

Subjects and Setting

The training program was conducted with 185 supported employment related professionals throughout Michigan. The participants were distributed according to the following job classifications: a) job coaches/job developers (98, 53%), b) special education professionals (50, 27%), c) supported employment coordinators (21, 11%), d) rehabilitation facility directors (8, 4%), and e) university students (8, 4%). A demographically matched control group composed of 93 supporte3d employment related professionals was utilized to assess the effectiveness of the training intervention. These individuals possessed similar educational backgrounds, job experiences and length of time in current professional positions as the seminar participants.

The ETS training series was given in seven different locations throughout the state, from November 1987 through May 1988. Training sessions were 40 hours in duration, offered over a two-month time period. The first training block consisted of four days (24 hours) while the second training block consisted of three days (16 hours). The second session was offered one month after the first session.

Research Design

Evaluation of the training series focused on participants' perceptions of five variables: relevawnce of content; quality of training; utility of training materials; effectiveness of training; and impact on organizational performance. Relevance of content was evaluated on a 3-point scale (3=very relevant; 2=somewhat relevant; 1=not relevant). Quality of training and utility of training were assessed using a 5-point (5=excellent to 1=needs improvement) Likert scale.

Evaluation of the effectiveness of the training intervention considered both immediate and enduring benefits to participants. For the immediate effectiveness of the training series, results of the aggregated scores on content specific quizzes of seminar participants were compared to the aggregated scores on similar items of nonparticipants (control group). For seminar participants, quizzes were administered immediately following training on skill units, while nonparticipants responded to a mailed survey.

The enduring effectiveness of the training series was assessed through exit tests which were completed for each skill area up to four months post intervention. The exit tests were returned to th training project for evaluation. Exit tests were separately evaluated against stated criteria for each skill unit by each of the two trainers. Interobserver agreement was calculated by dividing the number of agreements by the total agreements plus disagreements and multiplying by 100. An average interobserver agreement of 95% was obtained. Aggregated scores on exit tests were compared to aggregated scores on seminar quizzes to assess short term skill maintenance.

The impact of the training on organizational performance was evaluated through a telephone survey to 40 randomly selected program participants 6 months post-training. The survey used a 5-point (5=high to 1=low) Likert scale to assess the impact of the training on four professional areas (skills and abilities, organization, community relations and clients), as weldl as the usefulness of training materials, and the overall value of the training.


Relevance of Content

From a possible 185 participants, 160 responses were received to this variable, for a response rate of 86.5%. Of those 160 participants, 144 (90%) felt the content was very relevant while 16 (10%) felt it was somewhat relevant, for a mean relevancy rating of 2.9 (S.D.=.3).

Quality of Training

The quality of the training was rated on a 5-point scale across five parameters. Parameters ratings were as follows: presentation (4.52); materials; (4.63); opportunity for questions (4.66); completeness


of answers (4.51); and group exercises (4.36). The overall mean rating across all items was 4.54 indicating participants perceived the training format to be of high quality.

Utility of Training

The results of participant evaluations on the perceived utility of the ETS training format across all skill areas are presented in Table 1. Utility was defined as clarity of objectives, helpfulness of guided practice, and overall preference for learning method. As seen in the table, the training materials were useful across all skill units with participants expressing a strong positive response to the learning format (M = 8.79 on a 10 point scale).

Effectiveness of the Training

The means and standard deviations for ETS skill development by intervention groups is given in Table 2 The results of the paired comparisons between training intervention groups, using Student tests, indicated significant differences in skill development between seminar participants and their nonparticipating colleagues (t(276) = 15.53, p.001), The differences were in the predicted direction, with participants demonstrating considerable skill development immediately post-training. The results indicate that the majority of content was acquired in all skill areas through the combined lecture and guided practice format.

With regard to transfer and maintenance or skill to the natural setting, paired comparisons were made between seminar participants immediately post-training and four months post-training. The results of the comparison, using Student t tests, indicated statistically significant differences in skills over time (t(273) = 2.58, p. 05). However, this statistical difference for enduring skills is more indicative of the large sample size than any real difference in skill level. It does highlight the need to monitor skill development overtime to ensure continued and high level skill transfer and maintenance once learners leave the controlled classroom environment.

Impact of the Training

The results of the impact of the training on four professional areas (personal skills and abilities; organization; community relations; and clients served) and two instructional areas (utility of materials, and value of training) are presented in Table 3. As the table illustrates the training was perceived to have positive effects on the participants' professional development and activities (M = 4.19 across all areas). Overall, participants perceived the most positive effect of the training to be on their organization. Both instructional areas were highly ranked (M = 4.55 and M = 4.45, respectively), even after a six-month lapse in intervention.


This study illustrates the positive short term effects of a competency based supported employment staff training program on skill acquisition across eight service delivery components. In addition to demonstrating staff behavior change, preliminary support at a six-month follow-up, was found for the positive

Table 2
Means and Standard Deviations for ETS: Skill Development by
 Intervention Groups
Group n Mean SD
A 93 57.6 8.18
B 185 91.6 3.71
C 90 84.8 8.33
Note: Group A = control group; Group B = ETS Seminar
Group C = ETS Seminar participants completing post training
exit tests.

Table 3
 Impact of Training on Organizational Performance
Impact Parameters Mean SD
Professional Areas
 Personal Skills & Abilities 4.18 .58
 Organization 4.38 .69
 Community Relations 4.03 .76
 Clients Served 4.18 .77
Instructional Areas
 Unity of Materials 4.55 .61
 Value of Training 4.45 .60

impact of the training on participants' professional skills and organizations. The interactive learning format and materials appeared to facilitate the skill acquisition process.

Although the evaluation results of this training model are positive and encouraging, that optimism should be mediated by the realistic limitations of this training design. As the results on skill transfer suggest generalization of the results should be approached with caution. The inherent bias in the reporting sample may have artificially skewed the ratings on participant exit tests. The sample of certificate candidates was self-selected and sas such may have represented a more achievement oriented, able-learner subgroup. Given that the results indicate somewhat significant differences in skills with transfer, follow-up data on the other 51 of the seminar participants may prove to be more informative about skill training in adult learning situations than the avilable results on the minority 49% of the sample. Overall this skill certification dilemma continues to hamper the competency of supported employment service providers. Supported employment managers prefer to hire employees with certified skills, while employees prefer to seek skill development if it is clearly accompanied by economic or professional incentives.

A second limitation of this study was the lack of on-site follow-up to the training. On-site follow-up would have provided an incentive to implementation and transfer of skills to non-certificate participants, as well as reinforcement to all participants to maintain their high skill level. As Burch, Reiss, and Bailey (1987) reported in their competency training of direct care staff, the lack of formal staff monitoring resulted in trained care providers resorting to old habits. Although preliminary results on skill maintenance are promising, a longitudinal follow-up of this training initiative is needed to determine if on-site monitoring is required to maintain newly acquired behaviors over time.

A third limitation of this research design is its inability to include client outcomes as part of the evaluation of the effectiveness of the staff development. The ultimate objective of staff development programs is to enhance service delivery to program consumers. Therefore, an ambitious research design is needed which correlates staff behavior change with worker behavior change (Greene, Willis, Levy, & Bailey, 1978). Ultimately, if Supported Employment programs are to be value driven, technologically efficient, and respectful of staff and consumer needs and abilities, staff training programs must foster both staff and worker skill maintenance.


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Buckley, J., Albin, J.M., & Mank, D,M. (1988). Competency-based staff training for Supported Employment. In G. T. Bellamy, L.E. Rhodes, D.M. Mank, & J.M. Albin (Eds.), Supported employment: A community implementation guide (p. 229-246). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Burch, M.R., Reiss, M.L., & Bailey, J.S. (1987). A competency-based "hands on" training package for direct care staff. The Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 12, 67-71.

Cohen, D.E., Patton, S.L., & Melia, R.P. (1968). Staffing supported and transitional empoyment programs: Issues and recommendations. American Psychologist, 12, 20-24.

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Greene, B.F., Willis, B.S., Levy, R., & Bailey, J.S. (1978). Measuring client gains from staff implemented programs. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 11, 395-412.

McDaniel, R.H. & Flippo, K. (1986). Telesis: Supported Employment resources manual. San Francisco: USF.

Moore, S., McCullen, G.L., & Salzberg, C.L. (1988). Professional skill levels of sheltered workshop staff: Selection criteria and postemployment training. Journal of Rehabilitation, 54, 67-70.

Pankowski, J (1985). Supported employment: Implications for rehabilitation services. Little Rock: Arkansas Research and Training Center in Vocational Rehabilitation.

Renzaglia, A. (1986). Preparing personnel to support and guide emergng contemporary service alternatives. In F.R. Rusch, Competitive employment issues and strategies (p. 303-316). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Schalock, R.L. (1983). Services for developmentally disabled adults. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Schutz, R.P. (1988). New directions and strategies in habilitation services: Toward meaningful employment outcomes. In L.W. Heal, J.I. Haney, & A.R. Novak Amado (Eds.), Integration of developmentally disabled individuals into the community (2nd ed., p. 193-209). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Wehman, P., & Melia, R.P. (1985). The job coach: Function in transitional and supported employment. American Rehabilitation. 11, 4-7.

BARBARA W. LE ROY, Michigan Supported Employment Project, Michigan Department of Education, P.O. Box 30010, Lansing, Michigan 48909.
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Article Details
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Author:Hartley-Malivuk, Tina
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Article Type:Evaluation
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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