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What is Participant Worker Job Training?

Participant worker job training includes both on-the-job training and instructor or group-led training for participant workers in employment social enterprises.

  • On-the-job training refers to firsthand experience that participant workers gain by performing tasks related to their role, combined with real-time guidance from a coworker or supervisor. This can also include the use of specialized equipment, software, or machinery. In on-the-job training, the learning comes from doing the job. 
    • On-the-job learning can still be semi-structured. For example, an ESE may wish to use one week to focus participant workers on practicing customer communication skills while another week might be focused on using machinery. 
  • Instructor or group-led training refers to classroom training or skills training that is provided to participant workers before they start working in an enterprise or that is offered during employment to upskill participant workers. In this training, the learning comes from participant workers engaging with an instructor or group. 

Overall, job training supplements work experience to equip participant workers with the skills needed for long-term success in mainstream employment and life.  Training can cover a broad range of topics, such as GED/HSE preparation, financial literacy and empowerment, and forklift certification. 

Why is it important?

  • Having participant worker job training enables employment social enterprises to:
    • Help participant workers develop the skills, competencies, and knowledge to carry out their role in the enterprise.
    • Prepare participant workers to perform most or all of the tasks required for their position with less direct supervision.
    • Upskill participant workers to better prepare them for permanent job placements.
    • Increase the likelihood of long-term career success—independent research shows that the on-the-job experience ESEs provide their participant workers more than doubles job retention and significantly increases wages and total incomes.
    • Ensure smooth business operations and potentially increase margins by increasing operational efficiency.

Best practices   

Building an effective training program requires careful planning every step of the way

  1. Analysis: Assess what your participant workers need to know to be successful in their current jobs at your enterprise and in the permanent job placements they seek.
    • Identify the specific skills, tools, and systems that participant workers need to be trained in. 
    • Incorporate both hard and soft skill development. Hard skill development includes industry-specific training / certification and on-the-job training. Soft skill development might include continuous performance coaching, case management, and group workshops, for example.
  2. Design: Determine what your training program will look like, and structure training in ways that support employment.
    • Scheduling: Any required classroom time and training activities should accommodate work schedules, and participant workers must be compensated for training needed to to the job. We encourage ESEs to consider payment or incentives for non-job related training time (e.g., resume building).
    • Context: The social enterprise experience offers unique opportunities to contextualize curriculum, materials, and instruction to work experiences and tasks.
    • Real work experience: Employment opportunities should offer real work that provides experiential learning. Select worksites that deliver close supervision and tasks that promote learning of useful skills. 
    • Feedback for participant workers: Trainers should communicate participant worker progress with supervisors, case managers, and other program personnel who can help reinforce positive behaviors. Supervisors should proactively offer feedback on a regular basis (e.g., during check-ins) rather than only when something has gone wrong. This will help normalize the giving and receiving of feedback and build a strong rapport so that it is easier to address challenges if they do arise.
    • Job Readiness Assessment: It is important for ESEs to understand the length of time they expect participant workers to transition or be promoted. You can use a Job Readiness Assessment to capture how participant workers are progressing. For transitional ESEs, it is important to resist the urge to hold on to ‘job ready’ participant workers unless they’re willing to promote and pay more.
  3. Development: Establish methods, resources, and curriculum materials that will be used in your training program.
    • What are the specific training classes that all new participant workers must take, and in what order? Are there more advanced training offerings for experienced participant workers?
    • How will each training session be structured? Will there be slide presentations, videos, guest speakers, interactive exercises, handbooks, required reading, and/or worksheets to complete?
  4. Implementation: Determine the who, when and how of training – think about who will lead trainings, when they will be offered, and how you will roll out the program.
  5. Evaluation: Ask for feedback and monitor key metrics to understand whether your training is meeting your participant workers’ and enterprise’s needs.