Service Provider Success Story: GMHC
Founded in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, GMHC in New York City was among the first HIV/AIDS service centers in the country. Now a comprehensive care and prevention center, it is one of the largest HIV/AIDS service providers in the world. GMHC bases its wide range of services on its stated mission: GMHC "fights to end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected."
A Demand-Driven Workforce Development Program
The agency's workforce development program, MATCH (Moving Ahead Toward Career Horizons), is closely aligned with the local workforce development system. Funding comes primarily from the Human Resources Administration of New York City (HRA) and the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA). Through MATCH, GMHC offers comprehensive community-based employment services.
GMHC started MATCH in 2003 in response to increasing requests for employment services from clients in the early 2000s. Some wanted to find first jobs; others were returning to the workforce after years of being too ill to work. The program is utilized by both HIV-positive and HIV-negative clients, most of whom are living at or below the federal poverty level. The agency believes that people who have a chance to work and pursue self-chosen goals in their lives are less likely to put themselves at risk of HIV infection or transmit HIV to others. Having HIV-negative clients in MATCH allows the program to offer HIV testing and prevention services as well.
Prospective clients can learn about the program at monthly open houses. During these meetings, representatives from the advocacy and legal departments also come to present the services they offer to help smooth a client's transition to work.
When GMHC launched its employment program, it received an invaluable donation: a sophisticated, 24-station computer lab. The State University of New York (SUNY) provides trained computer lab managers who work directly with clients. The partnership is part of the SUNY Advanced Tech Training and Information Networking (ATTAIN) program.
A wide range of self-directed, interactive computer-based training is also available. Offering Adult Basic Education (ABE) reading, writing and math courses helps clients prepare to attain their GED. Other options include preparation to be an electrician, child-care provider, office worker, carpenter or cosmetologist.
Many clients have used lab resources to acquire the Microsoft Office Specialist Certification, a significant achievement that becomes a persuasive résumé entry and a self-esteem boost for the job candidate.
Life Coaching for Employment Candidates
Prior to launching MATCH, GMHC's Volunteer Center had built structured volunteer opportunities for many clients that functioned as work trial opportunities. Through these opportunities, clients not yet ready to enter employment had a chance to be engaged in productive work in the community. The Volunteer Center leadership built upon these experiences to develop MATCH.
Current volunteers in the program include certified life coaches who are paired one-on-one with MATCH clients seeking to enter the workforce. These coaches offer support and logistical assistance, supplementing the employment service staff. This helps the client maintain momentum through the challenges of transition to work. Roughly 80 percent of MATCH clients use life coaches, including an artistic subgroup seeking careers in the creative arts.
MATCH clients can also use all of the service programming at GMHC, such as intensive case management that addresses medical, housing, mental health, legal and other needs that directly relate to the potential for success in employment.
A Comprehensive Approach
Now serving about 600 participants each year, MATCH offers:
- Employment counseling/job readiness
- Résumé development
- Interview preparation and mock interviewing
- Wardrobe closet and toiletries supplies for men and women (the Power Suited Initiative offers business attire and grooming aids free of charge for clients going on job interviews)
- Administrative internship (An in-house opportunity; 20 hrs/week, $10/hour, for six months; GMHC has often hired interns for full-time jobs in the agency)
- GED certificate program
- Computer literacy/skills development
Employment as Part of the Continuum of Care
GMHC is a large, multi-service agency that is the primary HIV service provider for its community. When the employment program launched, it quickly became one of the most-requested services at new client intake. Through this effort, GMHC has demonstrated the need for and success of placing employment services at the core of an updated HIV/AIDS continuum of care.
In addition, when developing the employment program, GMHC did not just approach their usual funders of their other programs; it was able to enter a different funding landscape. That landscape includes city and state funding funneled from federal streams different from other GMHC government funding. The effort has helped make GMHC attractive to donors who may never have been part of the agency's resource development.
MATCH also helps clients who hold jobs for six months or more in obtaining and retaining higher-paying jobs. Free educational options include GED certification, financial literacy, and skills-based and certificate-based training to offer advancement in the workplace. Qualified applicants receive financial incentives for completing a qualifying training program and achieving career advancement milestones.
With a new job or career, of course, clients' needs change. Reflecting the success of many of its clients, MATCH also offers free tax preparation services.