Step Two - Assessment
An assessment of skills and knowledge will determine if the student meets minimum standards for entry into the program. Student assessments can also provide a road map for developmental and life skills training. Minimum entrance requirements vary from program to program. Some require high school diplomas. Others require a General Educational Development (GED) diploma.
Programs are free to target special groups, such as disabled, chronically unemployed, or under-employed. Entrance requirements should be determined on a program-by-program basis, depending upon the curriculum and type of jobs targeted.
Employers may require a high school diploma or GED as a condition of employment. If this is the case, students may need developmental education as a supplement to the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (JT) program. It is not unusual for a participant to also be involved in additional education or life skills training as part of an overall training package.
The purpose of the skills and knowledge assessment is to establish a knowledge base and to develop a training/education plan that will result in successful job training. As with the application process, it is important that JT program staff stay involved in the skills and knowledge assessment and, when possible, provide supplemental assessment. For more information on assessment tests, see CASAS and ACT Compass.
Environmental jobs are different from other jobs in that activities associated with certain occupations require a degree of physical ability. Physical attributes are not always addressed during the standard application process since physical requirements depend upon the occupation. For example:
- Equipment handlers may need to move equipment between various locations. Those afraid of heights cannot perform tasks associated with these occupations. Physical strength and ladder climbing ability are necessary.
- Hazardous materials workers and inspectors must enter confined spaces. Small, and sometimes underground or dark places including tanks, must be inspected and cleaned. Confined space entry is a key component of many JT programs.
- Asbestos and lead workers perform activities with their arms elevated for long periods of time wearing protective clothing. Strong physical attributes and the ability to work in closed and sometimes hot or humid spaces are physical requirements for this occupation.
- Spill response and environmental cleanup requires special protective gear. Before wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), a complete physical examination is required as breathing can be difficult in this protective gear. Workers may also operate in hot or cold spaces.
Again, this demonstrates the need to address physical attributes in the application, interview process, and candidate interview.
Do not exclude students with physical limitations. Programs concentrating on Phase I assessment do not require physical attributes associated with environmental remediation. Many other environmental occupations, including data management, communications, recordkeeping, report writing, and sample analysis are completed in an office or lab and require clerical and cognitive skills with minimal physical activities.
Employers will not hire graduates who cannot pass a drug test. It should be made clear as a program expectation that students be drug-free. Positive drug tests can be an option for program entry, but not for graduation or employment. If students are not required to take a drug test as a condition of acceptance, make it perfectly clear that they will not graduate if they test positive for drugs. Employers will not hire future graduates if they feel the program has a lax drug policy.
Often the question arises regarding costs associated with physical assessment. Many JT programs have been successful in negotiating with public health agencies for the administration of applicant physicals. Explore a number of possibilities including labor, health, and social service agencies in pursuing physical assessment assistance.
Many successful JT programs have very diverse student populations and/or specialize in targeted jobs filled by women, disabled veterans, or other special populations.
Personal interviews should always be conducted before accepting a student into an JT program. Experienced staff, active in recruitment and assessment activities, will develop an initial impression about the candidates’ capabilities and attitudes. The one-on-one interview gives the candidates a chance to ask questions that have arisen during the application process. It also allows staff the opportunity to learn about special issues, circumstances, or problems that might develop during the training and placement processes. In addition to addressing specific questions, expectations should be discussed at this time. By the end of the interview process, staff will usually have an impression regarding candidates’ attitude, determination, and ability to complete the JT program.
Grantees acknowledge that student assessment tests do not provide the most important indicators of successful candidates. Subjective assessments are best completed by the JT program staff including trainers, and student support and placement staff.
Subjective applicant qualities, while the most important, are hardest to assess. Subjective assessment is the responsibility of the JT program rather than the local career center and includes several applicant attitudes.
- Sticking with the program.
- Being determined.
- Working well in groups.
- Attending all classes.
- Accepting new and difficult challenges.
- Having a passion for their new career.
- Appealing to potential employers.
JT program staff need to select a class with the highest potential for success based on available openings, evaluation of student applications, assessments, and individual interviews. After selection, candidates need to sign a training agreement—a commitment between student and trainer itemizing important covenants of the program. Student contracts or training agreements should not be dismissed as unimportant. Contracts may need to be used as a basis for dropping a student from the program who has acted out or failed to meet expectations or requirements.
Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) provide an action plan for successful completion of the JT program. Also called Individual Training Plans (ITPs) or Individual Education Plans (IEPs), each provides an accounting of the assets each student brings to the program and the barriers he or she may face in completing his or her goal. The ultimate goal is employment in an environmental occupation. These plans are not a guarantee of employment or a promise that specific training will be provided.
Under terms of JT grants, training is limited to specific environmental occupations. (Refer to the most current EPA JT guidelines or call your EPA Regional Job Training Coordinator.) If a student’s learning plan calls for additional training, coordination with workforce development partners may be able to provide assistance.
Mid-term skills and knowledge assessments serve two purposes.
- They can be used to demonstrate and evaluate the effectiveness of training. Student assessments can indicate where training is weak or needs enhancement. Mid-term assessments also provide an opportunity for a mid-course correction in the curriculum if specific topics need additional review.
- They also determine each student’s status in the program and in their individual learning plan. They can reveal the need for additional developmental training, specialized mentoring, or tutoring that can literally save students from failure if they drift behind. Assessment reviews can take several forms, from simple surveys combined with test and quiz scores to more formalized reviews, including student one-on-one interviews. Mid-term assessments can also be conducted more frequently as time and resources permit.
Exit assessments provide:
- A compilation of the skills and knowledge acquired upon graduation from an JT program.
- Background information.
- Details for job placement.
Exit assessments also serve another important function. In cases where improper or inadequate training may result in harm to individuals, training may become the center of an investigation regarding legal or civil action. Therefore, careful documentation must be kept that is a representation of each student’s capabilities and verifies that the student has been trained in accordance with regulations. For example, records for students receiving 40-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training must be kept on file to confirm that proper training was provided to every student who received a certificate. The same documentation is required for asbestos, lead, confined space, and a number of other related activities.
An exit assessment may also identify potential issues that students may have after graduation such as the need for additional training. It provides constructive (positive and negative) criticism for overall program evaluation and improvement.