6. Training

Map destination occupations to courses & scan for training providers

The project relied heavily on the destination departments when it came to selecting the training providers. It was the project's belief that the leadership of these departments were experts in their fields and also would have a strong feeling about the training the employees should receive. Their level of comfort with the training was paramount to the successful transition of the employees into their department once they completed training.
Additionally, the rapport that some of the departments built with the educational institutions provided additional support for the employees and the project. With this in mind, the project secured the services of the training providers the departments had worked with before and recommended.
The following is the process used by the project to establish a training program:

  1. A meeting with the destination/hiring department and Career Services was scheduled to determine position needs and the number of openings, this includes: determining if the positions were union positions.
  2. The coaches would then sort the database to develop the participant list, which would include those employees with acceptable assessment scores and interest in the position. The coaches would contact those employees to make them aware of a training possibility and to reaffirm their interest.
  3. A meeting with the destination/hiring departments and training provider would be scheduled to determine and review the curriculum, length of training, possible start dates, and other training protocols.
  4. The coaches would then work with the destination/hiring department and training providers to set up the open houses. The interested employees participated in the open house process, and based on the information shared during those sessions would make a final decision on their intent to pursue that training.
  5. These employees were then interviewed by the department, and the department provided the project with their recommendation.
  6. The coaches would then notify the employees current department of their employees selection for training.

There was a process developed for enrolling participants in two main training categories: college-based and customized. The college-based programs were well established and accredited. The project worked closely with the admissions and counseling offices to help the employees get the necessary paperwork filed, and share with counselors the nature of this program. The customized trainings worked in a similar manner, but provided the employees with a cohort experience that provided wonderful support and bonding when the coursework began.

There were five main training components outlined in the concept paper:

  1. Business/Soft Skills training for those employees whom their supervisors believed were essentially good employees, but due to work/life issues had fallen into performance infractions that jeopardized their jobs. Most of the employees in this category also required skills development before being able to move forward to training. There were 14 one-month sessions of this course, with a different group of employees attending a different month. Once the training was completed, the employee returned to their department and the coach conducted monthly performance evaluation interviews with the employee's supervisor to determine if the employee's performance improved. The employee had to remain in their current department for three months with good performance reviews before they were eligible to move into training or transfer to another job within the institution. Often times, the department allowed the employee to pursue skill development classes on their own time during the three month period.
  2. Accelerated GED Classes were conducted by the institutions Skills Enhancement Program (SEP). The Skills Enhancement Program had been conducting GED classes prior to the start of the grant. However, the employees attended those classes on their own time, often after their work shift. The grant enabled those interested in gaining this degree to pursue the coursework during 12 hours of paid work time. Since the Skill Development Program already had a GED program that was well known to employees, many signed-up for the accelerated course through the SEP office. In addition, the SEP office developed a special marketing plan (posters and flyers) to make employees aware of this new accelerated class. The project made sure that the SEP office had applications, and developed a process by which the initial reading and math assessment was conducted by their office, and once a class roster was determined the employees were encouraged to come to the Project REACH office to conduct the other assessments, particularly the career interest and aptitude assessment.

The Skills Enhancement Program held three class terms per year (spring, summer, fall), and held GED practice test sessions near the end of each term. The results of these practice tests provided employees with an understanding of how they may fare on the actual exam, and also provided the Skills Enhancement Department with a preliminary listing of the next term's class roster and which areas needed additional focus. The grant paid the cost of taking the GED test. Employees were required to register and pay for the exam, submit their exam date confirmation and a receipt, and then they were reimbursed for the exam cost. Once they took the exam, the employees were required to submit their results. The educational plan developed for this group consisted of: first gaining their GED, reviewing the career interest/aptitude assessment, and planning the continued training plan for those who wanted to pursue another position. Given the nature of this training employees completed a service contract and amendment.

Most employees will not disclose that they do not have their high school diploma, which made it difficult to identify them and provide them with this support. Coordinating the application and grant enrollment process took quite a bit of coordination as some employees went to the skills enhancement office first, while others came to the program office and after being assessed revealed that they needed their GED. Those individuals were referred to the Skills Enhancement Program, but the timing of their referral didn't always coincide with the start of an accelerated GED class. Also, at first it was a bit confusing for managers because of the split in responsibilities with this training. The projects sent letters to the managers indicating that their employee was enrolling in the accelerated GED classes, and any questions regarding instruction should be addressed to them, and any administrative questions should be addressed to the program. Once the departments received this letter the program sent out a letter informing them of the salary release information.

  1. Declining to Emerging Jobs included those employees in department who were facing a reduction in their workforce due to the acquisition of new technology. The Radiology department was transitioning their work processes from manual film clerks to digital ones, and created the on the job training curriculum. The project targeted 38 film clerks and worked with the department to phase them into the Digital Film Clerk 3 training program that they had developed. This in-house training program was created and managed by the Radiology department, which allowed for greater flexibility and full utilization of in-house resources. The release of employees from their daily work schedules and the backfill process was arranged internally. Also, the instructors for this training were selected from internal staff members who had an expertise in their areas. The project assisted this department by assessing and counseling the film clerks, and identifying those employees who may be suitable for other opportunities within the department or institution.
  2. Skill Development was a training that was necessary for almost half of the applications received by the project. Employees who needed this training utilized the institutional classes offered by Skills Enhancement on their own time. A referral template was developed that informed the program when a referred employee has reached the assessment levels needed for training. This template was checked and the employee contacted to meet with a career coach. However, due to the volume of those needing this training, the project invested in a few computerized skills development programs: PLATO and School-at-Work. These two programs were very helpful in accelerating the skill development work the employees needed to complete before starting training. These two computerized programs were used in conjunctions with the traditional classes offered by skills enhancement. Therefore, employees could attend a class, and then come by the office and continue to work on their skills at their own pace.
  3. Upgrading of Skills for Critical Skill Shortage Positions included all of the customized and college-based trainings utilized to provide the education employees would need to move into their new jobs. The college based trainings were typically two year degrees. However, because many of the employees were new to college or had few college credits the project supported another year of pre-requisite courses. Therefore, someone pursuing an Associate's Degree may take three years to achieve their goal. The project experienced some mixed results with this scenario. The project had several employees who have completed their pre-requisites at projects end, and have been accepted into an actual program. However, we have also been faced with the challenge of limited capacity for some of the programs at many of the colleges, and have some employees who are on a waiting list. Also, due to the grant time span, the rolling application acceptance process, and when employees were actually able to begin their training we have many individuals who at this time have completed pre-requisites and are now applying to their programs. Many of the trainings had a didactic and a clinical portion, which required coordination with and the support of the destination/hiring department. For many of the trainings, there had been some training of its kind held in the department before the grant, therefore, they already had individuals identified to serve as clinical instructors who could guide and monitor the clinical lessons.

The following are a listing of all the trainings supported by this program: Laboratory Technician IPatient Service CoordinatorClinical AssociateClerical AssociateCore ServicesLadders in Nursing Careers (LINC)Respiratory TherapyRadiology TechnicianOccupational TherapyMedical Lab TechnicianMedical TechnologistSurgery TechnicianMedical CodingAnesthesia Critical Care TechnicianPre-Clinical Associate and Pharmacy Technician.

Payment of trainings

Tuition assistance was used as the institution's match to the grant funded monies supporting this project. For those trainings that were college based the program utilized the institution's tuition assistance program. This program has been well established and known by the employees, which made it easy to get them enrolled from a financial standpoint. Also, the tuition assistance program at the Johns Hopkins Hospital supported only degree programs, while this varied for some of the other hospitals within the health system.

The project developed an “intent to pay” letter for the registrars offices of the colleges as sometimes the timing of the tuition support didn’t match the registration payment due date. Payments for customized training were negotiated through the contract and were paid through the grant. In addition, as employees neared the end of their training arrangement were made to pay for any certification exams they may need to take.

For those union employees interested in college trainings that were not degree bearing, nor customized, but provided a certification the project referred them to the union's educational fund for support. This fund is provided by the hospital for the advancement of training and education specifically for union employees, and followed the same process as tuition assistance. Once they received support by this fund the employees started their training and received salary release support through the grant.

There were some affiliates that only have a tuition reimbursement plan. It was difficult for employees to pay for a full-load of courses up front, therefore, the grant made arrangements with these affiliates to pay for the tuition up front and then have the affiliate pay the grant back at the end of the semester. Again, this process was established because the Johns Hopkins Health System's existing tuition assistance program managed by all of its affiliate organizations was the institution's in-kind match to the financial support provided by the grant.

Track employee progress

All employees attending college-based trainings were required to submit their grades at the end of the semester and before they could register for the following semester’s courses. This was a requirement of the institutions tuition assistance program, and one that the project adopted. For those employees attending college, it was difficult to gain access to their progress during the semester from their instructors due to the student confidentiality laws all educational institutions followed. Therefore, the project relied on self-disclosure by the employee, which wasn’t always forthcoming in a timely manner. Some college programs were willing to provide us very general information regarding the employee if we were able to send them copies of the release forms the employees signed at the start of the project. Nonetheless, the coaches made sure to contact these individuals at least twice monthly. Conversely, because the project developed a contract with the customized training providers, the instructors were able to provide the project with weekly attendance and performance reports, making it easier to track these employees. Coaches maintained a service record log to track their meetings with employees or contact with departments and training providers regarding the participants progress.

Coaches also contacted the employee’s current department supervisors to make sure that they were not experiencing difficulties in managing their job duties and academic responsibilities. For the most part the coaches served as an intermediary that could help the employees and departments figure out potential scheduling conflicts or address potential issues before they became big problems. It is important to note that employees should refrain from trying to switch jobs while they are in training. The employees ability to attend training is granted by their department, and if they switch department midway through training they will need to get that support all over again. This question has come up a couple of times and more often than not a new manager will not want to hire someone who has made a commitment to be away from work for two days out of the week.

Review career plan

Occasionally, employees wanted to switch programs, mostly from the college-based trainings. For those pursuing college-based trainings this realization became apparent while they were taking their pre-requisite courses. Fortunately, this didn’t present a great problem because many of the pre-requisite courses were transferable to other trainings. The nature of the cohort experience with the customized trainings may be the reason why the project didn’t receive requests to switch trainings in the customized classes.