The Strive Program is part of an employment project called Tenufa Beta'asuka sponsored by the Joint and the Israeli government. Its aim is to help people who are not part of the workforce enter the job market and develop a career. The program is operated through training centers in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Strive has been off and running for three years. During this period some 500 people have participated in the program and over 400 have already been placed in jobs. The program is run by a staff of 22.
We discussed the program and its management practices with Amir Natan, program director, Hila Yalon, manager of the Tel Aviv center, and Michal Bruk, head of national training operations.
Of the target group, who receives assistance from Strive?
Amir Natan: Tenufa Beta'asuka has five target groups: young people age 21-40, minorities, people with disabilities, new immigrants and single-parent families. Strive focuses on young people, but participants also include people from these other categories.
Before Strive was set up a preliminary survey found there are a million able-bodied people in Israel who are not working and one-fourth of them receive Guaranteed Income.
[The unemployed are considered part of the employment market. They are defined as people who want to work but cannot find a job. Some are eligible for unemployment benefits. The segment of the population Amir Natan is referring to is unemployed people who are not trying to find work, either due to a lack of desire or a lack of faith in their abilities.]
How does your activity differ from the Wisconsin Program?
The segment of the population we handle are the 750,000 people who are not even eligible for Guaranteed Income. We also accompany the participants for a period of two and a half years to help them create mobility, i.e. to develop a career and build financial independence. Another important thing is that participation in Strive is on a volunteer basis and is not defined by law [as opposed to the Wisconsin Program, known as Orot Leta'asuka]. The Wisconsin Program focuses on Guaranteed Income recipients. The business model of the companies that operate the program was based on the knowledge that finding a participant a job would save the state the money needed to pay Guaranteed Income.
Being ineligible for Guaranteed Income, does this population segment have a higher socioeconomic status than people in the Wisconsin Program?
Clear socioeconomic profiles cannot be drawn up. Strive has people from every segment of the population because there are a variety of reasons for being ineligible for Guaranteed Income. For instance, merely owning a car – even if it's worth just NIS 10,000 and the owner doesn't even use it – disqualifies one from receiving Guaranteed Income. There are a lot of people who don't fit in the job market because they lack guidance and the proper tools (resume writing, job-hunting skills, interviewing skills, etc.). Strive participants are people with a will to succeed who lack a college education. The preliminary survey identified prominent sectors in this group of unemployed people and led to the setup of the program, which is designed to develop tools to help these people enter the employment market.
What are the main reasons why these people aren't working?
A lack of tools and proper guidance. Some claim they simply don't want to work. We don't believe that. In our opinion most of these people want to work, but don't always know how to join the job market.
Let's take the charedim, for example. Many of them want to study Torah, not work.
That's not entirely accurate. There are those who just want to study, but we discovered a lot of others want to work, but don't know how to fit into the job market. They know a career can improve their quality of life, but don't have the right tools and familiarity with the job environment. We focus on providing them the employment skills and tools needed to succeed in the job market.
Why is the program run by the Joint? Isn't it the state's responsibility?
The state is a full partner in this project. Tenufa Beta'asuka is a partnership between the Joint and the government. We have a model that combines social responsibility with civil responsibility. In the US as well, where we also have partners, similar work is done collaboratively by the social organization and the government.
Hila Yalon: The local authority is also involved in our activities. Out in the field this activity is done in cooperation with the local authority. For instance, the building where we're located in Tel Aviv belongs to the municipality. Many participants are referred to us by the Social Services Administration at the municipality.
It seems that you put a lot of effort into every participant. You've been operating for three years, have a staff of 22 employees and have handled 500 participants. Is it worthwhile economically?
It's worthwhile because the success rate is very high. The participant is typically someone who was not part of the job market and now he doesn't just want to find work, but wants to develop a long-term career. It also has to be taken into account that every success affects the participant's environment, his family and his friends and neighbors. They see his success and it makes some of them want to make a similar move. It creates circles of influence. Social workers also note this success, which motivates them to refer more and more suitable people to us.
Amir: In the beginning it's reasonable for the amount spent on every participant to be higher because the overhead expenses are distributed among fewer people, and of course the more we expand, the lower our costs per participant become. And we are expanding. Soon we'll be opening another branch, in Jerusalem.
What's your capacity? Can you accept anybody who wants to take part in the program?
We can't accommodate every request. Today we have a waiting list with dozens of candidates.
You mentioned that participants come to you through community figures. Is that the only way?
It's not the only way, but we've found that fieldwork in the community is an effective channel to raise awareness regarding our activities. In the first phase branches were set up in two large cities, first in Tel Aviv and then in Haifa. Big cities have a large social services administration that handles a large number of people. We have close working arrangements with them and they refer suitable candidates to us. The local authorities realize they have to provide solutions in matters of employment, too. Certain local authorities already have an employment coordinator.
I can say that our partnerships with the Tel Aviv and Haifa municipalities are based on a strong commitment for the sake of their respective residents and they hold municipal job forums to promote employment in the city.
How does somebody who wasn't referred to by the Social Services Administration come to them? How do they know of their existence and the possibility of turning to them?
We sponsor activities to promote awareness. One of the notable ways is to hold gatherings at community centers. We put up notices in the neighborhood and people who show an interest come to hear and apply and ask to be evaluated as prospective candidates. Of course at every community center there's a community worker who knows the people and she does the fieldwork and encourages suitable people to come to the gathering and hear what we do.
Hila: The more participants from the neighborhood who succeeded, the greater the level of interest among their friends and acquaintances. A significant portion of those who come today are people who saw their friends succeed. Just yesterday we spoke with a participant who tried for months to get one of her family members to join the program. Suddenly that same family member found out her neighbor is participating in the program and has good things to say about it. That was plenty to get her to join. Circles of influence growing stronger.
Michal: Sometimes the motivation to take part in the process is roused gradually. There are people who come without expectations to the introductory meeting just because a friend pressured them, and then they see the presentation and the friendly staff and start opening up to the idea. Even when they come to our center they see the way they're treated and the service, as well as the surroundings. The center is well furnished and spacious, and those who come make sure their appearance and attire is respectable. The entire process is carried out in an atmosphere that fosters motivation to succeed.
Hila: We handle every request and devote as much time as the participant wants. Even if he's found to be unsuitable for our program we'll brainstorm with him to see what might be right for him.
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What are the stages of the process? What does the participant experience?
Amir: The first stage is a full-day, one-month course. The course provides tools and skills needed in the job market. There's also a basic computer skills course. The course it given at the center by our staff members.
The second step is job placement. This is done through cooperation between the staff and the participant. The staff maintains contact with potential employers, but the participant is also asked to establish contact with employers, for at this point he's already received the training to handle it.
So who finds the job, the participant or the staff?
They work together. Sometimes the participant finds a job himself and sometimes it's the staff. Admittedly more often the staff locates the job, but it's still important that the participant took part in the search for the right position. This approach prepares him to manage independently later on, once he's no longer taking part in Strive. That's precisely the goal – to develop a career, not just to find a job on a one-time basis.
Is the employers' motivation to hire program participants based on social or economic factors?
An employer will accept workers because it's worth his while. We don't even mention social considerations to the employers. It's important to us that the employer hire the worker because it's worthwhile for him, because that makes for a worker who has greater motivation to succeed since he's a worker who received a lot of tools that help him fit in at the workplace and who has a proficient system backing him. What's more, the employer doesn't have to pay for the placement.
Today Strive has ties with some 1,000 employers.
What happens after the participant starts a job?
We continue tracking his progress for up to two years after first forging contact. Working with him is a mentor who acts as someone to turn to. Contact between them is maintained by phone and through meetings. Every mentor keeps in contact with 70 participants. During this period the participant continues to receive training and occupational consulting designed to help him identify a direction for career development that's right for him.
What is the program's success rate?
About 90%. Also dozens of participants have received prizes for excellence. These figures place us at the forefront of successful models of job assistance.
I imagine during the initial screening process not everybody gets accepted to the program, only those who have a reasonable chance of success.
We believe everyone can succeed. It's up to him – whenever he decides he is going to succeed. Our doors our open to all, but not everyone gets accepted. Every candidate goes through an in-depth, built-in interview. Following the interview a decision is made whether to continue with the screening process, which takes place at an assessment center and serves as an orientation day as well. Afterwards the decision is made whether to accept him to the program. In practice about 70% of thecandidates are accepted.
What reasons can prevent a candidate from being accepted?
Hila: There are a number of cases in which the candidate himself decides not to continue. The assessment center is an intensive day that examines the participant's commitment, among other things. Not everyone feels he wants to or is able to made a commitment to the program. Even during the initial period of contact there's an inevitable dropout rate. But as we said, 70% stick with it and they generally succeed.
Amir: There are cases where somebody drops out, but a few months later he comes back and asks to try again. When he feels capable of coping with the process he joins – and succeeds.
Michal: Sometimes a lack of suitability is due to technical reasons. For instance, a single mother who lacks a daycare arrangement during the training course. She might find an arrangement two our three months down the road and then join the course at a later time.
There are four main paths leading to the candidate's success: his motivation to succeed, his confidence in his abilities, personal responsibility and the tools he is provided.
That's what everyone needs to succeed.
If you want to play the harp you have to want to play the harp, you have to believe you can do it, you have to show personal responsibility such as coming to lessons on time, being consistent and doing your assignments, and you also need a good teacher to teach you how to play. If you have all of these things you'll succeed – you'll know how to play the harp. This is the rationale guiding our activities.