A new path – Between sheltered and supported employment – The Award-Winning Integrative Unit Model at Shekulo Tov Group, Israel.
Weinstein, Y. R & D Director, Shekulo Tov Group
Shekulo Tov is a non-profit organization who was founded in 2005 and a service supplier for more than 3,000 service users. Shekulo Tov provides person- oriented community based vocational recovery, supported employment and leisure and recreational services to people with psychiatric and other disabilities. Our vision is that anyone, including people who were diagnosed and ‘non suitable to work’, should have the opportunity to have a safe place for employability and training alongside with a meaningful opportunity to find job in the open market, when they are ready for it. With that spirit Shekulo Tovs’ recovery professionals, along with The Israeli Ministry of Health’ support, developed the Integrative Model and implemented it in all Shekulo Tov’s training units.
Shekulo Tov’s integrative model represents an essential change of perception vis-à-vis sheltered and supported employment. It is a formative shift from the two sequential approaches of “train, then place” or “place then train” to a simultaneous approach of “train and place”. The model’s continued development led to the formation of Shekulo Tov Group training units which all embedded the “integrative units” model.
The Integrative Model encourages interactions between society at large and individuals coping with psychological disabilities. These individuals, who are our service users, benefit through reinforced self-confidence and gain recovery tools and practices that significantly improve their chances of placement in the open market.
Along ongoing support, service users are offered skills and career development, training programs and are provided with necessary preparation and support to measure their vocational progress. Supported employment services are not detached from the earlier stages of the vocational recovery process.
From the start of the inclusive employment procedure, service users meet employment support specialist and together they explore relevant occupations. Throughout the process, emphasis is placed on honing the skills needed for the desired open labor market job. When a service user indicates interest in filling an open labor market position, the employment-support specialist, who is already familiar with that individual, assists with job seeking and continues providing the service user with support as needed once he/she has taken up the job. Service users who leave or are dismissed from a job in the free market, are invited to rejoin the training program and receive intensive support by the same staff until they feel ready to reapply for an open labor market job. This process gives service users a security net and a recovery sequence along training and mentoring and diminishes any feeling of failure. Furthermore, integrative units operate as productive work environments that enable the service users to acquire vocational skills. In addition, the units function as recovery accelerators.
Integrative units involved in the Shekulo Tov program manufacture chocolate, candles, soap, paper products, used books (the largest Israeli brand for second hand books and the third largest Israeli book chain) and provide a wide variety of training tracks both within and outside of the unit. These products are unique brands of Shekulo Tov and have an additional value for the consumer. Furthermore, the Integrative units operate as additional lines of business actualize the concept of maximizing interactions between our service users and the general public. Another unique and successful unit is Good Dog, which offers dog walking by a regular, trustworthy and professional dog walker, with psychiatric disability.
This service has a meaningful impact on changing society’s perception of people with psychiatric disability. Even Though Shekulo Tov Group started from providing sheltered occupation, we developed a holistic approach which comprises from a joint dialog with employers from the open market who share our vision. Our open market employers are from a variety of fields, such as: Customer service & sales (e.g.: RENUAR, ZEBRA, IKEA, Yes Planet, The Israeli Museum in Jerusalem), restaurant businesses (e.g.: Aroma, McDonald’s, Burger King) and Computers (e.g. IBM).
In the past three years alone, our unique integrative model has successfully led to long-term open labor market work inclusion of more than 800 (25%) people with psychiatric disabilities who were referred to us by the government as ‘unsuitable for the open market’. All are currently earning minimum wage or more and hold jobs in various occupational settings such as: customer service, sales, education, manufacturing, retailing and more. Furthermore, the Model has reduced service users’ preparative vocational training for open labour market placement from 4 years to 20 months.
Shekulo Tov’s Integrative model was awarded the “Project Zero” prize for impactful social enterprises in early 2017, categorized under Innovative Practice 2017 on Employment, Work and Vocational Education and Training. For more information on Shekulo Tov Group, visit us in: https://s-tov.org/