Employment First Missouri had the pleasure of speaking with Colleen Himmelberg, Executive Director and Sara Gratzer, Director of Employment Services at Empac Employment Resources. As an organization, Empac has been providing community based employment services since 2012 and serves the following counties: Franklin, Sullivan, Gasconade, Phelps, Crawford, Washington, and Warren.
What makes Empac unique?
Empac values focusing first on the individual receiving services. This focus takes priority over billing and funding concerns. As a team, we are always looking for ways to grow, improve services, and strive to “go above and beyond” in the delivery of employment services. The employment team members are from the area that we serve and we are very committed to helping our local community. We continuously evaluate community needs and add services to ensure that we are providing a full service continuum. We strive to reduce the sizes of the cracks through which people may fall.
How has Empac maintained a focus on employment services during the pandemic?
We have been able to continue providing employment services during the pandemic by being flexible and willing to completely change the way we were doing things. Our team had to adapt and make use of technology. Also, staff had to be very flexible with scheduling. We attended webinars to get new ideas and learn what other organizations were doing during this time.
Empac considered ourselves an essential business. Employment and hiring continued, and our area employers have been experiencing staffing shortages. As a team, Empac staff modeled that we could continue working while staying safe.
Tell us about a program or service that you are proud to provide.
Empac really believes in the importance of first work experiences. We offer Youth Transition Services and a Summer Camp on a yearly basis, which provides about 25-30 individuals with work experience and a positive first encounter with employment. These programs have been developed through a great deal of collaboration and coordination with Vocational Rehabilitation, our local SB 40 Board, Service Coordinators, and local schools. As a result, we have developed strong relationships.
What are your goals for Empac in the coming year?
Empac would like to enhance the success rate of individuals by effectively braiding services between Vocational Rehabilitation and DMH waiver services. Additionally, we would like to work more collaboratively with other community partners. Learning more about other services available and building relationships will help us flow individuals to those services. Additionally, Empac is launching a new Autism program and would like to see these services take off and referrals grow for this program.
What is some advice you would share with an agency that is just getting started?
Collaborate with others. Every time we started a new program, we sought out others who were doing something similar to find out what they were doing. Focus on the individual through the discovery process. Keep your eye on the milestones. Milestones are not just payment points, but each success along the way. There are lots of ups and downs. Celebrate the successes!