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Workforce is a Team Sport

by Kaystyle Madden

It is in our best interest, especially at this time, to become familiar with all the available resources in our local communities.

Remember when digital literacy was just a part of the curriculum? Enter Pandemic 2020, and now it is a prerequisite. The world has gone virtual. Helping learners navigate the new normal with record-breaking unemployment has challenged us all to become creative and proven our adaptability. It is during these challenging times, however, when language barriers and/or lack of education further expose needs that extend beyond the classroom.

When a learner registers for a class or tutoring session, they are often in need of more than education. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the basic needs of a person are food, water, warmth, and rest; as well as a need to feel safe. If these basic needs are not met, then learning is no longer a priority. Concerns about providing a meal, paying rent, and finding childcare must be considered before attending class. The Department of Social Services (DSS) has long been a provider to help those in need.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Social Services is a state agency administering a wide variety of benefits on a local level. A few of the services provided include SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) (see p. 16 ), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) (see p. 18), and Childcare Assistance. Some less familiar services are Refugee Settlement Services and Department of Child Support Enforcement whose focus is about family engagement and not just money. The goal of DSS is to help individuals and families reach a level of self-sufficiency much like the goal of adult education. With a goal in common, it is of great importance to collaborate with partners like social services in an effort to serve students holistically.

Collaborations are necessary. Workforce is a team sport. It is an impossible game to win if we do not play together. The Workforce and Innovation Act (WIOA) brings several agencies together as partners—Title I-Workforce, Title II—Adult Education, Title III—Virginia  Employment Commission (VEC), and Title IV—Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). In addition, partners like Telamonand DSS help combat barriers that any participant may face. But that is not all. Other community organizations, such as faith-based or grassroots groups play a role in helping individuals on their way to a living sustainable wage and ultimately self- sufficiency. Betterment of life is the endgame. The goal is not to enable but to equip the learner, the client, the job seeker, or the participant. At some point, a client can be each of these and often at the same time.

It is in our best interest, especially at this time, to become familiar with all the available resources in our local communities. Not only are many classes offered online, but many organizations also continue offering services virtually or appointments by telephone. Job fairs are now virtual and even interviews are being conducted by video conference. Doors may be closed to the public, but services are still being offered. Additional programs and benefits are now in place to assist those in need.

Now, take a moment and revisit Maslow’s chart. The remaining tiers are psychological needs and self-fulfillment needs. Psychological needs include relationships and feelings of accomplishment. Strong relationships with instructors, case managers, coaches, and men- tors offer encouragement and motivation to keep striving. The final frontier and tip of the pyramid is achieving one’s full potential. No one can reach this summit alone. It takes a team.

How can you join the team? Great question. Visit Virginia Career Works, the state website offers information on the various partners involved that make the workforce system successful. The site provides multiple resources for employers, job seekers, and practitioners. Become involved at the local level. You can find your location at Local Workforce Boards. Many local boards have regular communications meetings. If not, do not hesitate to start one. Get to know your partners. As resources for the community, we need to be aware of who can assist and how to connect people to them.

My journey into workforce development began as a basic literacy volunteer tutor. My first learner’s goal was to be able to read a book to her three-year-old child. Once she accomplished the first goal, the lightbulb of self-actualization came on and she was inspired to do more. Her next goal was to obtain her driver’s license and eventually… get a job. Her road to independence was difficult and would not have been possible without assistance from DSS and our local Community Services Board. We each have a role or position to play on this team. I challenge us all to step away from the sidelines and play to win.


Kaystyle MaddenKaystyle Madden, M.Ed. is the Employer Network Director for Virginia Career Works Shenandoah Valley’s Central and Southern Region. Before joining the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Board, she was an adult education Instructor for several years. She is an advocate for life-long learning and volunteers as a mentor with American Corporate Partners, assisting veterans returning to the civilian workforce.