Tag: Employment

The Human Service Workforce Crisis in Massachusetts

Hello, my name is Cheryl Dolan and I work in human services.

I moved from the UK in 1999, when many humans service agencies could not find staff and went overseas to hire them. We still have this problem today. We need to look at why this is and what we can do to change it.

Why is there a shortage in staff?

  • More people need support and services than before so need more staff
  • Wages are low and not too many ways to get promoted
  • Lack of people who are trained to do the job well

How does this affect people?

  • People have high turnover or unqualified staff working with them
  • People not getting the best care
  • Programs have to close, People  are losing services or are on wait lists
  • Families become stretched and have no help

What are human service agencies doing to address the issue?

  • Looking at how technology can be used to support people and reduce some staffing needs
  • Working with local and federal government to support them by applying initiatives for state employees to human service agencies
  • Looking at how to attract, train, and retain skilled employees.

How can you help fix this?

  • Make your voice heard! Make the people you vote for know you want to see increase in funding for wages
  • Support agencies seeking increased funding to provide higher wages for staff
  • Join advocacy movements like The Caring Force     

"The Caring Force logo"

Additional materials

Who Will Care? The Workforce Crisis

The Caring Force

Boston Herald: Opinion  Workforce Crisis Threatens Community

Chicago Tribune:  Article– Care Worker  Shortage

Dressing for an Interview

people attending career dayIt is difficult for people with disabilities to get a job. Only one-third of people with disabilities work full time. Sometimes we forget to care about what we wear to an interview.
I run Our Space Our Place, Inc., an after school and job exploration program for youth who are blind. One goal is to teach students about different jobs.
Each year there is an event called World of Careers. At the event, people who work talk about:

  • The tasks they do every day
  • The subjects they studied
  • How they looked for a job
  • Actions which help them to keep their job.

Why care about how you dress?

An employer talked about interviewing a person for a job. The employer was surprised that:

  • The person had not combed their hair.
  • The person’s clothing was wrinkled and looked as if she had slept in her clothes.

The employer liked the person’s resume. But the employer worried that if the person did not care about her clothing, the person may not care about the job.
Hearing this story, we invited a personal shopper to speak at World of Careers. A personal shopper works at a store and helps shoppers to buy clothing. This personal shopper spoke about dressing for an interview.

What were some of the ideas she shared?

  • Buying clothing for an interview is not expensive
  • Wear clean clothes
  • The clothes should not have wrinkles
  • Wear clean shoes

The Key to Success!


The teenage school years are a great chance for students with disabilities to find jobs they enjoy. However, the focus is often on what the student can’t do and still needs to work on.
Imagine if we:

  • focused on the student’s abilities
  • looked for what student’s CAN do
  • helped students try more new things
  • looked for jobs that match the student’s strengths and interests


I heard a story once about a young man named Ken. He could not move any part of his body. Ken wanted to work. His team thought about what he was good at doing. One friend said, “Ken is really good at sitting still!” Ken’s career was started from that idea. He became a hand model! Now he is able to support himself on the money from his modeling job. This story is a great example of what can happen when we focus on strengths.


The teenage years provide a chance for students to begin jobs and follow their interests. I believe focusing on what people can do instead of what they can’t do during these years is the key to success and happy futures for our students.
For more information please visit: abilityawareness.com

Building Relationships: A Key to Employment Success

employment-supportYou may have heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When it comes to getting good jobs, I believe in the power of relationships. I could never do my job alone; in fact, I had the help of others in finding my own job. My clients are no different – they will need others to help them find new opportunities and support them.

At the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), we form relationships with the people we serve as well as the local community. We do this because we know that it takes a team in order to find a job. We also rely on job seekers to make their own connections through volunteer work, going to community events, joining social clubs and attending job seeking skills groups.

Experience builds confidence

One of the programs I am most excited about in my work at MRC is On-the Job Training (OJT). The OJT is great for people who have the skills and interest in a job, but do not have a lot of work experience. As a counselor, I have worked with consumers who have difficulty communicating their strengths and skills by simply filling out job applications. They may be told that they do not have enough job experience to get hired.

However, if you give the same person a chance to actually perform on the job, they shine. That is why MRC develops relationships with local businesses who want to participate in the OJT program.

A team approach that works

Here’s how it works: As a counselor, I work with the job seeker to prepare to get a certain type of job. We work on a resume, interview skills and the application process. Then, we work with the MRC team to find an employer who is looking to fill a position at their company. If the job seeker gets the job, and the new employer agrees to become a vendor of the Commonwealth, the On-the Job Training period begins.

MRC supports the job seeker and helps pay the company for the training period. At the end of the training period if everyone is satisfied, then the employee remains as a permanent employee.

At the end of the experience, it is a true team effort.

Many businesses have been so impressed with MRC job seekers that they call us when they need a good worker. As you can see, building relationships makes a huge difference in employment. Building relationships is important for anyone’s job search…and as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, I try to help my clients make positive and supportive connections to the world of work.

Employment Support Makes a Difference for People with Disabilities

Amelia Robbins-CureauMy name is Amelia Robbins-Cureau. I have the privilege of being a vocational rehabilitation counselor with The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC). Most people do not know what I mean when I say I am a “vocational rehabilitation counselor.” But when I say, “I help people with disabilities get jobs,” that catches their attention.

In today’s economy, we are even more focused on the topic of jobs than ever before because unemployment rates are extremely high. For people with disabilities, unemployment is around 80% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). Yet in my job I meet so many people with disabilities who want to work, but are facing challenges that make it more difficult to compete with others for jobs.

Advocating for employment

I joined the Commission because employment is something I am passionate about. I wanted to be an advocate for individuals with disabilities to achieve their goals. Having a job is beneficial in so many ways.

In my job, I often work with individuals who come in to my office feeling discouraged, confused and nervous about what is to come. They may not know what my role is or how I’m going to help them find a job. I like to start by asking what they hope to accomplish, what their strengths are and who is in their network.

Building on strengths

For so many people with disabilities, work seems out of reach.

Sometimes people are not sure what kind of work they want to do. People with disabilities are often told what they can’t do but they need to think about what they actually can.

Other times, they know what they want to do, but they need the skills and experience to apply for a job. At MRC we help individuals get those skills through things like participating in job training programs, 1:1 employment counseling, and job seeking skills groups.

Other challenges faced

Sometimes, because of mental illness, physical injury or trauma, my clients have had to leave many jobs to get healthy again. Their work history may be scattered, and they are not sure how they will ever get hired.

At MRC, we work with individuals to create a resume that reflects their talents, experience and accomplishments, not their limitations. I work together with clients to make sure they are allowing time to care for themselves and talk with mental health counselors or doctors in order to stay healthy and ready for the job search.

As you can see, my job at The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission is to help people with disabilities gain the skills and connections they need for employment. We work together to figure out what kind of work they want to do, and what kind of skills and experiences they need to become qualified for the job.

Then we help people go out and actually get a job.

For me, there is no better feeling than helping a person with a disability become more confident, get a job, and feel proud of the work that they do.