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Essential Services Help Workers Find a Foothold on Their Own Life Paths

Sarah Brady
Workforce development coordinator
Family Scholar House

In 2020, Argentum received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to develop the Healthcare Apprenticeship Expansion Program (HAEP), creating apprenticeships in senior living and related allied health occupations.

Part of this involved ensuring apprentices had services that would help them succeed as they trained and established themselves in their new career paths. Administering this critical help is Family Scholar House, based in Louisville, Ky.

“The mission of Family Scholar House (FSH) is to end the cycle of poverty and transform our community by empowering families and youth to succeed in education and achieve life-long self-sufficiency,” Sarah Brady, workforce development coordinator, writes in an email interview.

“FSH assists disadvantaged single parents—women and men—and former foster youth in addressing challenges in completing the post-secondary education and credentialing necessary for careers and transition out of poverty.”

Helping with these barriers to success involves looking beyond the typical scope of a career entry program. For instance, FSH “provides 279 affordable apartments on our five Louisville-area campuses, on-site childcare, coaching, advocacy, access to technology, transportation, and record-setting emergency assistance during the pandemic for basic needs, such as diapers, meals, and pantry items.”

The HAEP program apprentices can face many of the same challenges, needing services ranging from helping through credentialing processes to domestic violence assistance. Yet these essential services aren’t typically handled by employers.

A subgrant from HAEP led to the creation of the FSH Response Center—staffed six days a week by professionals providing connections to emergency and basic “wraparound services.”

In 2020—the pandemic year—FSH served 11,233 Kentucky households, providing 67,951 services, including helping 95 people graduate from college—37 of these going into health careers.

Also in 2020, FSH received a national Rise Prize, one of only five mature organizations to be recognized for a two-generation program model to end poverty.

The following is excerpted from a longer email interview.

Q. If an individual needs support and can’t find it, what effect could this have on the person, the workplace, and the family?

A. Lack of support can hinder an individual’s ability to show up, succeed, and advance in the workplace. When an individual struggles to secure consistent childcare, their attendance at work suffers. If their car breaks down, and they can’t afford to get it fixed, they lack transportation to get to work. Examples like this cause employees with potential to fall between the cracks and not succeed in the workforce.

This is where Family Scholar House steps in to meet individuals where they are and provide comprehensive support and wraparound services as they navigate life both inside and outside of work.

This includes assessing their physical and mental health, conducting benefits assessments to see what benefits they can access, and identifying supports already in place that empower the individual.

Our programs put safety nets in place such as emergency assistance, connection to community resources, and career coaching, so that many of these situations can be quickly resolved.

Q. Is there a type of support that may come as a surprise to employers but that workers need?

A. All Family Scholar House staff are trained in trauma-informed care, allowing us to effectively approach needs and stressors of our participants with sensitivity. Often, participants have personal issues that can interfere with their performance and attendance at work but that they do not feel comfortable addressing with their managers, supervisors, or even human resources departments.

By building relationships through video chat with participants, our staff are able to develop trust relationships that allow workers to get the assistance they need with these issues, that often include domestic violence, custody issues, and other non-financial related issues. Many times, employers are not equipped or trained to help an employee through these types of situations, and that is where Family Scholar House excels.

FSH has built capacity for all programming through a state-of-the-art Response Center and proprietary database, built on the Salesforce backbone. The FSH Response Center technology includes video capabilities so that our professional staff can see participants and vice versa, giving the feeling of being physically present with each other. This face-to-face interaction is critical, because much is lost when participants and staff cannot see each other.

Q. What are the areas of greatest need for workers? Have the types of support you provide changed with the pandemic?

A. Recognition of the vulnerability of low-income individuals and families in the aftermath of a global pandemic and the racial divide that prevents persons of color from having the same opportunities as others has never been more evident than in the current cultural and geo-political climate. For FSH, this is validation of what we do and a call to expand programs and services that address this imbalance while also delivering strong returns on investment to our community.

FSH Advocates are experienced in problem-solving many challenges that can interfere with workplace success and are available to listen and offer options and resources to help. Examples include connection to food pantries, childcare resources, transportation assistance, domestic violence assistance, and free tax preparation.

We offer low-wage earners, those historically underrepresented in the workforce, and those held back by institutional racism, the resources, support, and guidance they need to pursue apprenticeships in the careers of their choice that lead to livable-wage income.

This includes working with apprentices through the HAEP program as well as through partnerships to develop both traditional apprenticeships, such as skilled trades, and modern apprenticeships, such as nursing, culinary arts, hospitality, and business and insurance.

Throughout the process, Family Scholar House supports participants in the credentialing process of work-and-learn apprenticeships, including pre-apprenticeship training, tutoring, career exploration, and other comprehensive educational support to minimize obstacles in the workplace, so that apprentices complete their programs and advance in their careers.

In the regional area of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana, Family Scholar House provides (directly and through our affiliates) affordable housing while completing coursework toward credentialing for those participants most vulnerable and at risk for homelessness.

Q. What factors might prevent workers from seeking support? What are some ways to overcome these barriers while maintaining respect and compassion?

A. These include concern over privacy or cultural norms that deter asking for help, and ultimately fearing judgment or that a request may be held against them in the future when they apply for advancement and pursue opportunities within the company.

Having an outside partner like Family Scholar House allows for individuals to feel their conversations are confidential, and our team is trained in building rapport and gaining trust while connecting individuals to resources they may not be aware exist and walking them through the process.

Language barriers can sometimes keep workers from seeking support. We have bilingual staff and translation capabilities, allowing us to interact with those for whom English is a second language.

Q. What would FSH say to employers considering programs that address obstacles to success?

A. In order for our community and our nation to succeed, we need for those most vulnerable individuals and families who require government and social service support in order to survive to have the opportunity to thrive as they participate in our community’s economy. This can only be achieved through a combination of formal and informal education and access to resources that not only offer new opportunities but also instill hope as they work toward their future success.

Family Scholar House has many partnerships, including employers, trade unions, educational institutions, and other nonprofit organizations throughout our region and nationally. For each partner, we take the time to fully understand their needs and goals to develop solutions or connections.

We are passionate about providing permanent solutions to bring underserved people out of poverty and into self-sufficiency, and we are happy to dream together with anyone who shares this goal.

For more information about Argentum’s Healthcare Apprenticeships Expansion Program (HAEP), contact Megan Robinson, project director apprenticeships and workforce development,