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RETAIN’s overarching goal is to help workers get back to work following an injury or illness, but not everyone is able to return to his or her regular job or occupation right away. For those workers, Minnesota RETAIN developed an innovative solution— arranging paid transitional work with another employer. This enables injured and ill workers to get back on a regular schedule, earn a paycheck, retain their skills, and, in some cases, build new ones. Further, the availability of transitional workers allows employers to fill key roles and get necessary work accomplished.

This cutting-edge strategy by Minnesota RETAIN has already helped multiple participants, and the team is confident the approach will continue to benefit workers. Transitional assignments are coordinated by Minnesota RETAIN’s Employer Outreach Specialist, Ethan VanLaarhoven of Workforce Development, Inc. The process begins when a participant is referred to him by one of Minnesota RETAIN’s return-to-Work (RTW) Case Managers. VanLaarhoven then meets with the participant to develop an Individualized Service Strategy plan and facilitate a good match with one of Workforce Development, Inc.’s many non-profit and public-sector employer partners.

“I essentially serve as a Career Planner for these participants while they work with me,” says VanLaarhoven. “I meet with them to learn about their level of restriction, employment goals and interests, barriers to success, and if there are supportive services they might need.” Examples of supportive services might include help with a car payment or rent, or gas vouchers to ensure the participants can get to and from their transitional work experience.

During these transitional work engagements, participants become temporary staff of Workforce Development, Inc. and are paid a standard hourly rate. While the overall placement process is the same for each placement, the locations and types of positions vary based on participant skills and interests, and employer needs. Two examples of employment thus far include a clerical position with a local county government and a position at a local library that involves shelving books and helping with daily programming.