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The market served by this grant were primarily entry level incumbent workers with an interest in acquiring the knowledge to fill critical skill shortage positions within the Johns Hopkins Health System. The positions identified were gathered from current chronic openings and projected openings researched by the institution’s Career Services Departments and from the Maryland Hospital Association. Also, the positions identified varied to some degree among the different affiliates within the Health System.
Outreach to the projects community partners varied. One major partner was the MOED. This office provided the project with two assessment facilitators, who planned and conducted the assessments used during the project. Members of the HR department met with the Mayor’s Office and had originally arranged for JHH to hire one lead career coach and two assessment facilitators to serve as contractors on the project. However, the coach secured employment elsewhere and the project didn’t replace the coach position with another person from the Mayor’s office. Working with a state government agency takes at the very minimum six months to develop a plan and possibly up to nine months to finalize contracts and other agreements. When working directly with governmental agencies one should keep in mind the extended timeframe in finalizing agreements. The project team found that there are extra layers of authority and approval, which is not always found in the industry sector through which these agreements must meet approval before completion.
As highlighted in the Planning & Infrastructure phase an initial meeting was held with HR and departmental representatives from all the affiliates to review the grant concept paper. Each department and affiliate received an initial contact form requesting information on the skill shortage positions they were seeking to fill. This information, together with the position shortage forecasting information developed by Career Services, helped to provide a comprehensive picture of the institution's shortages.
A series of detailed meetings were later held to understand each affiliates operating procedure so that a master operational plan could be developed. During these meetings the affiliates and departments were given a position needs form, which they were to use to provide more detailed information on the critical shortage positions that could be filled within the next 18 months, which was the original grant term. Once those forms were completed individual meetings were held with each area. This meeting served as an opportunity to discuss their critical shortages, learn more about the position and the requirements for filling them, and discuss the grant training process.
Some of the program processes needed to be flexible to accommodate the varying policies at the affiliates. For example, some affiliates do not advance tuition support. Therefore, the project had to advance the tuition and the affiliate repaid the program at the end of the semester. Also, some affiliates had varying levels of tuition support. The project supported the cost of tuition above the affiliates tuition support limit. Some affiliates consider 32 hours a week to be full-time, and, as a result the project developed a sliding scale for salary release support. Lastly, some of the same positions had different titles and wages at different affiliates. This required the staff to be very careful when meeting with employees to make sure they were talking about the correct position and wage.
While everyone's time is very precious it is important that the coaches attend the department and affiliate meetings at least once a month. This would provide the departments and affiliates with updates on how their employees are faring throughout the process, and it would provide the coaches with a better understanding of departmental and affiliate issues that may affect the employees in training.
It is important to stress that this opportunity is a privilege and not a guaranteed right. While being a Johns Hopkins employee is a basic criterion, others must be met. Therefore, the project does have the right to deny participation in the program. As a result employees had to complete an application and their managers had to complete a manager recommendation form in order to be considered for this opportunity.
A series of recruitment sessions were held among the affiliates by their HR personnel. Also, the Project office developed telephone prescreen questions for the multitude of calls that came in from employees expressing interest in the project. This form highlighted their first steps, and described the process individuals would be expected to follow in order to be considered.
Also, establishing a wage range for participation is crucial to your financial planning, as well as supporting the spirit of this project. The project did receive one or two applications from individuals who were earning over $25.00/hour, and while they were interested in filling a critical skill shortage area, they had the resources to pursue that training without the kind of support that the grant provided. Additionally, they worked in a department and held a position that afforded them flexibility with their schedule. The REACH staff provided them with career counseling and helped them realize that this opportunity would not be appropriate for them.
The project team found that there were employees who had a myriad of issues (i.e. childcare, attendance, or transportation). The departments that recommended these employees recognized their potential, and wanted to support them believing that the services and training that this project provided would help them. As these individuals were assessed and worked initially with a coach those issues or the extent of their problems did not surface right away. Sometimes it came out during training and then the project staff spent a great deal of time helping them through training. The project's recommendation to this is to make sure that the project reviews all applicants with the Human Resources and Labor Relations Consultants department. The REACH staff could have supported employees who fell into this situation with some targeted support before enrolling them in training. It is important to note that the project accepted people in the program who have had problems, but they had demonstrated an ability to deal with those problems. This is critical, since acceptance into this educational project can sometimes place additional pressures on individuals that may exacerbate their existing issues.
Complete applications were accepted on a rolling basis in order to make sure we were able to meet the number of employees committed to each training segment outlined in the concept paper. A completed application included the biographical form and an approved manager recommendation form. Initially, the applications were to be submitted to one office, while the manager recommendation form was submitted to another. This was designed to maintain the confidentiality of the department recommendation, and was also a function of necessity because the Project’s staff had not been hired yet. However, it proved to be a bit cumbersome as the timing of receiving both forms never coincided—the project had several applications submitted without manager recommendations or vice-versa, requiring constant follow-up with department and participants. In reality, when an employee submitted the application packet to the departments both forms were filled out at the same time and then given back to the employee who would then submit it to the Project office.
We found that some departments filled out the manager recommendation forms even if they recommended that the employee not be considered for the project. This may be attributed to the fact that they didn’t want to compromise their relationship with their employees, or submit their recommendation in a timely fashion, or they believed that this particular employee would benefit from training, but their current performance didn’t meet the guidelines set forth by the project guidelines.