Peer MentoringWorks is a network of community-based peer mentor service providers hosted by PolicyWorks and supported through the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC). The community shares a focus on peer mentoring as an employment transition support to students and youth with disabilities.
Peer mentoring has a proven track record helping young people:
- increase expectations for their future,
- develop self-advocacy skills,
- build personal networks, and
- access important community resources.
The Peer MentoringWorks Community of Practice (PMW CoP) will feature success stories, newsletters, best practices and include a marketplace for new tools and strategies to support peer mentoring as a transition support for youth and students with disabilities. The PMW suite of training and certification tools modelled in the WINTAC Peer Mentoring pilot projects are available to state vocational rehabilitation agencies (SRVAs) seeking to add peer mentoring as a support to the provision of transition services.
PolicyWorks and Peer Mentoring
PolicyWorks has over a decade of work in the peer mentoring arena. Starting in California, PolicyWorks began employing peer mentors as an engagement strategy under a Medicaid Infrastructure Grant in 2011. In this early initiative, peer mentors connected with college students nearing graduation to support transition to community resources, jobs and careers.
This program led to the highly successful Kessler Signature Employment Grant project, Bridging the Gap from College to Careers (C2C). In this model, peer mentors were matched with a “Professional Development and Disability” curriculum to improve the employment rate of college student nearing graduation. Peer mentors and a placement matching team worked with enrolled students to identify resources and employment opportunities to increase career outcomes. The program was conducted in California at three universities for two academic years and a second Kessler Program ensued implementing the course with mentors in Florida.
The Kessler programs and PolicyWorks experience in the field of peer mentoring led to its work in 2014- 2015 with Florida’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to pilot a South Florida peer mentoring transition support service where students and youth received peer mentor support to develop social, community and professional networks.
Visit PolicyWorks to learn more.
WIOA and WINTAC
The passage of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) in 2015 and the designation and implementation of a new set of required services for students with disabilities including the use of “peer mentoring” as a delivery support for the provision of self-advocacy skills. This resulted in the expansion of potential peer mentoring programs as a transition service provision of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Starting in 2015, the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC) was commissioned to support SVRA compliance with WIOA. WINTAC employed subject matter experts across five topic areas and three pilot projects through intensive technical assistance agreements to support state VR under WIOA.
The Peer Mentoring Workforce Innovation Pilot Project coordinated by PolicyWorks with intensive technical support from the PreETS Topic Area team worked with state VR agencies to design and implement new peer mentoring programs. The intensive technical assistance included support for pilot design elements, process and procedures, fee structure development, service provision objectives and training protocols. Common pilot program elements included a certification system for service provision modeled after established program norms and best practices. Service goals and objectives established for the delivery of the new service to students with disabilities were designed in alignment with WIOA.
“The establishment of a peer mentoring network is an effective and powerful way to deliver the required Pre-Employment Transition Services (PreETS) of instruction in self-advocacy, the development of independent living and social skills, job exploration and counseling on opportunities for enrollment in postsecondary educational programs to students with disabilities. When a VR agency uses peer mentors to deliver required PreETS, the cost of the peer mentor service can be counted as part of the 15% reserve expenditure requirement in WIOA.”
As part of WINTAC, PolicyWorks’ Peer MentoringWorks suite of certification modules were adapted and customized through an Intensive Technical Assistance agreement to provide SVRAs a custom certification and training protocol for the role of Peer Mentor Coordinator and Peer Mentor. WINTAC’s Topic Area Subject Matter Experts reviewed each PMW module for PreETS alignment and PolicyWorks assisted VR agencies to identify and develop base competencies and certification requirements to meet service referral objectives. The PMW ToolSuite were included as certification and training tools as part of the technical assistance agreement with WINTAC.
As SVRAs launch peer mentoring programs to serve both students and youth with disabilities, customized effective tools and training for peer mentors and peer mentoring program coordinators will ensure both WIOA compliance and establish a framework of competencies in the inclusive peer mentoring space.