Participation in meaningful work is a vital, visible benchmark of recovery from the effects of mental illness. Research shows that one’s mental health and sense of well-being are intimately connected to the sense of purpose found in productive work. Yet across the nation, a staggering 80%-90% of adults with severe and persistent mental illness are chronically unemployed. Although 80% desire work, social stigma and a lack of services and supports have made access to the workplace extremely difficult for the vast majority of this unique population.
But despite the stigma, the experience of ICCD-certified clubhouses around the world shows that, when given the right opportunities, individuals with mental health diagnoses make highly motivated, fully capable employees. Just as a person with a physical disability may require special accommodations to reach his or her career potential, persons living with mental illness may likewise require special assistance in their efforts to return to work. When plugged into the right environment – in effect, when provided with a suitable ‘accessibility ramp’ – members can excel in the workplace to become productive and valued members of society. With its Transitional Employment (TE) program, Austin Clubhouse provides this ramp.
One of the defining characteristics of the clubhouse model, the TE program fosters collaboration between the clubhouse and the local business community to create a broad spectrum of opportunities for both members and employers, connecting willing workers to real jobs with real, competitive wages. Part-time TE positions, which place clubhouse members at the employer’s place of business, involve a significant amount of on- and off-site support from the clubhouse. They generally last for a period of six to nine months, after which members may try another position or move on to the clubhouse’s supported and independent employment programs.
A TE relationship with Austin Clubhouse works as follows:
The employer will help Clubhouse by…
- Providing part-time position/s Monday—Friday, during the hours of 8 am to 4 pm.
- Permitting clubhouse the chance to select applicants for the position from its own member base.
- Placing applicants on the company payroll.
- Permitting clubhouse staff to train on the job, select an employee to fill the position, and train that employee.
- Maintaining communication with clubhouse staff regarding the placement.
- Involving clubhouse staff in any process intended to change or modify TE job responsibilities or placement.
…and Clubhouse will help the employer by…
- Screening the job in advance to determine its suitability for the TE program.
- Learning all aspects of the job at no cost.
- Selecting applicants who are suitable to the position, based exclusively on their willingness to work.
- Training the new employee until the employer and all involved are satisfied.
- Communicating regularly with both employee and employer.
- In the absence of the employee, guaranteeing coverage of the position at no cost.
- Supporting the employees and providing assistance in the event of changes in his or her performance or level of productivity.
- Selecting and training another clubhouse member for the job once the six-to-nine month TE period has elapsed.
- Replacing employee/s expeditiously if the employer is not satisfied with his or her performance.
Embarking on a TE relationship with Austin Clubhouse is a win-win for employee and employer alike…
- Guaranteed job coverage. Clubhouse guarantees that the job will be both filled and covered at all times – either by the member hired to the position or by clubhouse staff – at no additional cost to the employer.
- Excellent job performance. Via pre-employment vocational work on the clubhouse campus, members are encouraged to develop positive attitudes and strong work habits before entering the workforce. As such, Clubhouse members make for eager, dedicated employees fully capable of working in a competitive environment.
- Reduced costs. By learning the job just once to train multiple applicants, clubhouse staff save the employer on training costs. Transitional employees do not receive benefits through the employer. Finally, by participating in TE, employers can cut back on advertising and recruitment costs.
- Ongoing support, including consultation, training, and follow-up. To ensure that the job is being performed satisfactorily, Clubhouse will continue to work with both employee and employer throughout the duration of the placement.
- Expanded opportunity to work. Employers who participate in Austin Clubhouse’s TE program will be performing an invaluable community service. By hiring clubhouse members, they will help decrease unemployment rates among a vulnerable and widely misunderstood population of willing and able workers. They will decrease the number of people in the Austin area receiving government financial assistance, and they will save taxpayer dollars by contributing to the diminishment of incarceration and recidivism rates among the mentally ill. Finally – and most importantly – their decision to participate will broaden awareness of mental illness and help chip away at the stigma that continues to keep adults with psychiatric disabilities out of the workplace.