November 18 2022Charlotte Weatherby
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Counselor Charlotte Weatherby talks about why DVR's planning process is so effective at helping Alaskans with disabilities get and keep good jobs.
Jason Caputo 0:04
Hello and welcome. You're listening to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development podcast series where you'll hear all about how the department helps Alaskan workers, job seekers, businesses and communities. I'm Jason Caputo. And my guest today is Charlotte Weatherby. She is in Alaska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation counselor here in the well, she is in the Fairbanks office. I'm over in judo. Charlotte, thank you so much for joining us today.
Charlotte Weatherby 0:29
Thanks for inviting me.
Jason Caputo 0:31
There's so many things we can talk about. But I want to focus on why someone who has a disability maybe they're having a little trouble or they sense they're gonna have some trouble getting getting and keeping a good job. Now why would they go through the effort of applying for state service with DVR what do we really have to offer? There's a lot of things there people often know we have resources of different kinds, maybe access to different types of funding sources. But one thing I think that is that is not known a lot, or talked a lot about is our planning process. It's a really amazing, effective planning process. And why is the planning process? You know, why is that so important? I've heard and maybe you can speak about this. When people start to try to work in they see there are some difficulties, that can be very, very complex and different things start going wrong. And maybe they're burning them bridges with employers, because their first step wasn't really the strong supported step with a good plan. But have you experienced that kind of thing where someone you know, who has tried to get work on their own, they have a disability? And they really learn? Oh, my gosh, this is more complex than I first thought. Oh, yes,
Charlotte Weatherby 1:42
definitely. And I think one of the key points is point out the person's interests. And there are abilities and things that they want to do, of course, here at DVR, we really want to help the individual find the best job fit for them. And so part of that is looking at vocational assessment, looking at their strengths, looking at their interests, because we really want them to enjoy the job they're doing and not dread going to work. We want it to be a good fit.
Jason Caputo 2:06
Right, right, those strengths and abilities. Have you ever had it happen where someone may be thinks they know their strengths, but you discover more strengths they didn't even know they had or new levels to the strengths? Yeah,
Charlotte Weatherby 2:22
yes. Sometimes, you know, we're our own worst critic. And so we don't think about all of our strengths, it's hard for us to brag about ourselves. So bringing in a support person, like a family member, or a teacher, or something like that, that you're close to is sometimes a really good way to also show all the good things that we don't think about ourselves.
Jason Caputo 2:41
So you actually might, yeah, you might bring in other people that the client identifies as being helpful to really understand what they are best at.
Charlotte Weatherby 2:50
Yeah, if the client wants to involve someone else that's really close to them. I think that's a great idea. Because like I said, they sometimes help point out all those positive things that we forget about ourselves. Another way to identify those strengths is to do some vocational assessment, that can be on the computer, it can be paper pencil, a lot of times the community based ones are really a good way to find that out too. And that's where the counselor might set up a work experience or like an internship with an employer. So the individual can actually try out the job that they think they might like to do.
Jason Caputo 3:24
Oh, wow. So they actually go in in a real, they're not just practicing this, sir. They're going into a real work environment, with support from DVR and kind of seeing what works, what doesn't work.
Charlotte Weatherby 3:35
Yeah, and we can help by setting that up, we can help by providing a job coach, but I think the really great takeaway from that is the person gets to actually talk to people doing the job that they want to do, and get to try it out themselves and see is this a good fit. And for example, I worked with somebody who loves working with animals really wanted to do that line of work, wanting to work in a grooming setting, so I set them up with a salon and they found out they love working with animals but they didn't like being wet all day and part of the grooming is, you know, bathing the animal and so we just kind of refocused with animals but in a different setting and so she got to try out working at a veterinarian clinic instead and that was a much better fit. So she liked to do the tasks and she didn't have to do the tasks that she didn't like.
Jason Caputo 4:20
Yeah, so she got it she got in there she did it she did a kind of a trial work at a dog grooming salon realized I'm wet all day ya know what is
Charlotte Weatherby 4:30
part of it all? Yeah.
Jason Caputo 4:32
And so then you're like, Okay, great. We use that information then we put them in a different place has has this stuff she likes not wet all day.
Charlotte Weatherby 4:39
Right? Right. So just a little need for refocused the first job is the great fit and sometimes we need to just refocus and and look at what is it that you like what is it you just like and then realign.
Jason Caputo 4:52
So I know that I know that DVR has, you know connections and partnerships with a lot of different businesses so that must be really helpful because you can say, oh, yeah, oh, this didn't work. Oh, we'll reach out to so and so because I know this business would work. Yes,
Charlotte Weatherby 5:07
yeah, we have a business engagement team. And so they're doing a lot of that outreach. And then as a counselor, we also are doing that, reaching out to employers reaching out to committee members using some of those networking to help the client get into a field that they really want to try. And sometimes the client has those networks, and they just need a little help with identifying, you know, support that DVR can provide in that work experience. So we get to kind of sell our side of, of what we can help with and the services to them fired. And then that way, the client knows that they have us as a safety to they have us to help if they identify, hey, there's there's some struggle that I'm having, is there an accommodation, that would be helpful, and then the DVR counselor can come in and make sure that that's in place so that everything goes smoothly?
Jason Caputo 5:55
Oh, that's fantastic. That's there's so many aspects of it that are very interesting. When you get into a Community Based Assessment. Like, like you said, you know, you may get in there. And when only when you're in the job, you realize, oh, this, the disability is causing an issue here. We didn't expect that. No one expected that, but we could see it happening. And then that tells you exactly or helps you figure out what the accommodation should be. You mentioned, you mentioned a job coach might go along with because I know some people might be like, Oh, you want to put me in a real business. I'm a little scared about that. And I know you also mentioned, well, we have computer testing, we have an assessment center, someone's not ready for that. Or there might be another reason why the Assessment Center is good. But then I think a job coach also helps with someone who might be
Charlotte Weatherby 6:43
Oh, definitely, yeah, they do a lot of things they can help with the job search piece, going along with the interviews to kind of just provide that support. And then also helping somebody at the job initially to get started and just kind of be an advocate, and be there on site for when the counselor like I can check in, but I won't be able to be there, the entire shift. Whereas the job coach that we hired could be there, the entire chef, make sure things are going smoothly, give feedback as needed, and just kind of be that liaison that the client has kind of a cheerleader in their corner and someone they can go to if they are having a little bit of anxiety or a little bit of just nervousness trying out a new job.
Jason Caputo 7:24
Well, you've already I know, we've just scratched the surface here. But you've already described the whole number one, a whole team that could come in as needed. You know, some people I know we work with, they don't want or need a whole lot. And that's fine, too. I know that you guys have always said, hey, it's customized on what our clients need. But if they need it, man, we've got we've you just described the whole support team. And I would like to sign up for the cheerleader who comes to work with me. That that part of it specifically, I really liked that idea.
Um, so. So also, you know, if you could talk to me a little bit about, you know, we talked about one part of the planning process, which is, which is I know, crucial, and evidenced by the fact that we started with that. identifying strengths and abilities. That's what you guys build your whole, you know, the core of the plan is about what someone can do, which is awesome. But also, I know that sometimes people get in a rut, they get stuck, because they're not sure what the next step really is. And, and I've heard that our plans that we develop with people really can help help make that super clear. Can you can you talk about that?
Charlotte Weatherby 8:38
Yeah, so we can go through the process of like, so vocational assessment is one of the first things for sure, identifying services, accommodations, things like that, that would be helpful. And as the counselor and the client start working together, a lot of things will come to light on what might be helpful, because we do ask a lot of questions. We asked, you know, do you have rides to work? Or do you need, rides? So we identify, where is there a gap that we can help? We want to try to eliminate as many barriers as possible. And so we really want to make sure all the services that are needed are in that plan to help that person be successful, because we're, we're truly for them to you know, we're we're wanting to set them up for success. And so we want to put everything that they might need in the plan so that they feel supported and ready.
Jason Caputo 9:25
Well, and that's so you the example you mentioned before they even get to work, how are they going to get to work? So it's really comprehensive looking at all these issues. And that's, that's fantastic. You know, what you mentioned, the BEST or the business engagement team, we call them BEST is our so but there are also and then there's the counselor, obviously that's working directly with the client. Are there any other team members that may or may get involved to help?
Charlotte Weatherby 9:56
Sure. Yeah. So I mentioned the job coach, we also refer to them as I see CRP. And then there's also the voc rehab assistant. And each counselor has an assistant and they work together as a team. So if you can't reach your counselor, because they might be meaning with someone else you can call the assistant and then, and then hopefully, they would be able to assist in anything needed. And if they can't, right at that minute, then they would make sure that counselor calls the person back right away. And then there's the evaluator that does that vocational assessment. And so they might work together with the client, and the counselor in the beginning, they wouldn't be someone that's there long term, but they might be involved in the beginning of that plan development to right, okay. And then whoever the client identifies as wanting to be part of that team, like I mentioned earlier, support person, a family member, they are welcome to bring whomever they want to, to those meetings,
Jason Caputo 10:49
right. And I've seen that too. I've seen that really help in a way. So that's one example. I wonder if you've seen this to where, you know, someone wanted to do a particular job, and they knew someone in the community, they're actually quite good friends with him that was in that profession, and quarterly helped them but they never thought about enlisting them in that, that input. And so then through the DVR costs, like well, let's get Glenn, his real name to come, you know, to come in and help. Have you seen that happen?
Charlotte Weatherby 11:18
Yeah, I've seen that happen. For sure. A lot of times, too. It's just a way for them to get to know more about that job. And talk to the person about what what do they actually do from day to day and make sure yeah, and then they can also help with networking and all that good stuff, too.
Jason Caputo 11:33
That's awesome. Now, what happens if someone is out there? And they they're like, Oh, I'm not ready to go to DVR because I don't know what what job I want to do. Yeah. Is what? Why is
Charlotte Weatherby 11:44
DVR? I work with people like that all the time. Yeah. Because a lot of times, you know, we don't know what all jobs are available. And sometimes we can't identify what we'd be good at. And so that vocational assessment, I think, is just huge, because we have some very comprehensive ones. One is the career scope. I really liked that one. But wow, we and so it goes through your interests and your aptitudes to see like, where are your strengths? And then at the end of the assessment, it actually gives you a list of recommendations of jobs that match how you answered the question. So I always tell people be as honest as you can on those tests. Don't say you like something if you don't, because it's gauging your interest. And then it's matching you with a job that aligns with those interests. And so that's where I use the starting point is to go through those jobs with the person and then have them highlight this one sounds really interesting. And then I help them research a little bit more about the job or talk to somebody in the field, who does that line of work, just kind of get to know more information about it.
Jason Caputo 12:43
Gotcha. Interesting. So that that's an interesting point, because I've taken some of those tests and things. And they, like you said, I think, you know, maybe someone will find their end result from taking those tests. But for many of us, I remember kind of thinking when I took them like, Hmm, this is not the end result for me. And you're saying that those tests really are you set a starting point already? Yeah. And so then you can work with a counselor to help and other tools to help,
Charlotte Weatherby 13:11
right? Because you might talk to people that are doing that kind of work. Or you might do a work experience or internship in that field and see if that is a good fit or not. Yeah, and sometimes you can even kind of weed things out by just doing a little research on it to say like, oh, that's not really what I want to do. So yeah, it's wet all day already. Yeah.
Jason Caputo 13:32
That's great. Yeah, so So I guess, you know, there, there are a lot more parts, a lot more aspects to a plan that we don't have time to cover now. But I'd love to have you back to talk more about it. But I think you've really, we really talked about and you've explained how, you know, the planning process is is really not something that people can can totally do on their own the DVR planning process, because it brings in this whole team, and it brings in outside experts. And it brings in a broad network of even businesses where people can can actually try jobs out different jobs out and also get all this feedback. Is there anything else? We have time for like one more thing? Is there anything else that you want to add about why? You know why the DVR process is really special and different than any other kind of technique that people would use with disabilities to get and keep a good job?
Charlotte Weatherby 14:31
Sure. I think kind of going off of what you mentioned just a minute ago about getting experts involved. We can hire people who who are experts like assistive technology. We can do assessments with someone who is an expert in that field. Just today I met with one of my clients who's having a struggle at her job. She is hearing impaired and one of the parts of her job is she does communicate with people walking in asking questions, people calling, asking questions, and she's missing some of those pieces and so getting her assistive technology that's going to help her do her job better to be able to maintain her job, make her feel good at work. And instead of feeling like she's struggling, and so just even things like that, we can hire somebody to come in, do an assessment on what assistive technology might be helpful. And then sometimes DVR can help with with getting that for the workspace, or talk to the employer about getting that for the workspace. So that person can feel like they're doing the best job that they can. So we work with people who not only are coming into us not sure what they want to do, but we also have people coming to us and saying, Hey, I'm really struggling in my job. Can you help me keep it? And so we do a lot of that too.
Jason Caputo 15:39
Right? Right. Right. That's, that's fantastic. And so so someone who has a good job, disability has changed, maybe got a little worse, or even just changed in a way that they're like, oh, I don't know how to how to deal with that. And so they can they even if you have a job, you can still get your you may lose. Right call PVR. That's fantastic. Yeah. And that's important. I think that's another thing that's not talked about as much people don't know, so so. So we're talking to people with disabilities out there. But also employers, employers, if you have a great employee who's struggling, all of a sudden, their, their productivity goes down, or you know, their attention to detail is going down what's going on. Maybe it's a disability. And maybe you know, if that if that person, divulges it, you can help them get connected with DVR so we can come in and help you save that great employee, maybe even a lot of time and that's fantastic. So, so that's fantastic. This has been super great. I need to have you back because you're like a font.
Charlotte Weatherby 16:37
Jason Caputo 16:39
this is awesome. So for folks listening, if you are interested in learning more about DVR, you want to sign up for services, the link to our website, online application. And also our telephone number will be in the description of this video. Just give us a call either to start moving forward on services, or visit the website or to learn more and talk with someone who is going to be as wonderful as Charlotte has been, and and just answer all your questions and give you support. So thanks, Charlotte for joining me. This has been great. Thanks, Jason. This has been the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development podcast series. Thank you, Charlotte for talking about DVRs planning process and great services for Alaskans with disabilities today and thank you, listeners for joining us. We hope you found the show informative, and that you'll join us for our next podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
July 14 2022Gina Bastian
DVR Manager Gina Bastian and host Jason Caputo discuss DVR's
no-cost services that help Alaskan businesses hire and keep
Contact DVR about their Business Services at 907-269-2060.
DVR Services for Alaskan Business
Thu, 7/14 3:52PM • 16:35
employer, services, employees, job, hiring, person, business, carpal tunnel, businesses, helps, assistive technology, training, warehouse, hire, work, alaska, job seekers, provide, positions, talked
Jason Caputo, Gina Bastian
Jason Caputo 00:01
Hello, and welcome. You're listening to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development podcast series, where you'll hear all about how the department helps Alaskan workers, job seekers, businesses and communities. I'm Jason Caputo, and my guest, today is Gina Bastian, regional manager for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, also known as DVR. Gina, welcome to the program.
Gina Bastian 00:26
Thank you so much for having me, Jason.
Jason Caputo 00:28
I'm very excited to have you on the show. We have been talking to a bunch of different people from DVR. But now we really want to focus on the services that we provide to businesses. And I know you're not only a regional manager, but you're also the lead for DVRs. BEST team, can you talk about what BEST stands for and what the team does?
Gina Bastian 00:54
Absolutely, I'm happy to do that. I get actually rather excited about talking about that. But the BEST team is the Business Engagement Services team. And so we have one, at least one person in every region. And we have five regions across the state. So we serve the entire state of Alaska. And our job is to provide services specifically to businesses. So our job is helping businesses figure out figuring out the business needs and how to address them. And they are our customers, specifically the businesses.
Jason Caputo 01:30
Right. So I know this is a new initiative, really, in the last few years to really focus on helping those businesses and even before the pandemic. This was a focus. But then, of course, with the pandemic, in the end, the difficult hiring situation for employers is even more important. So lately, yeah, so So I know you work with tons of employers across the state, big and small, to help them help them figure out how to thrive. What are the services that you're offering to these businesses, maybe let's just take the top service, we'll go through one at a time, what's the top service that you offer that are really valuable to those businesses?
Gina Bastian 02:12
Yeah, that's really I'm like how you ask that, because we do a variety of services, but our primary job is to really understand a business, what their needs are, and even more importantly, what their culture is. So a small business owner, or a box store, or a corporation, especially at this time is really having some significant hiring needs. And we as the business engagement team, the BEST team, we can meet with that business, we find out what their needs are, we find out what the skill set is that they're looking for. And then most importantly, we find out the culture, and what what that culture of that business is like, and it's our job to to pair up the right person with that employer at no cost to the business or the employee. But to make a good job match, so that that person enters that job and stays for a long time. So we're looking at career jobs. Or if they're getting their foot in the door, and they're starting their career ladder, that we're getting them in with the business where they can, they can build over time, because they have a specific goal. And we know that their personality and their skills and abilities will match that employer. And it's a win win for everyone. And in that it reduces the business's time that they need to put towards recruitment, interviewing all of the onboarding. And we know that's very costly to all businesses, bringing on a new employees. So the work that we do helps to minimize that, and decreases their time and effort and having a good employee come on board.
Jason Caputo 04:03
Right. Okay. So that's how it kind of is a bit different than some of the other services that the Department of Labor offers. And some of the other ones maybe they are quicker hires, I know, like the job service might offer. And when I say quicker hires, I mean that they might just look and fill fill a position immediately. And that's the end of the service.
Gina Bastian 04:29
What makes us different from the job service. I'm really glad that you brought that up Jason, is the job service has immediate openings, and they're dealing with people walking in the door, and they're supplying them with jobs that are currently open. And they're helping them complete applications or resumes. We're really looking at the long term picture, and we're helping people get into careers. Some of it is immediate need jobs, but when somebody's come to us, we've probably spent at least Two to five months really getting to know that person evaluating their skills and abilities and really understanding that person. So it's our job job to make sure that we're connecting them with the right employer. And the other piece that we're doing is the business piece so that we're really making a good match there. So the job service has positions open right now. And then they also do employer fairs where the employer gets to talk to people that are walking through the door, what you get from us is somebody that we've vetted, we know they can do that job. And we're there to support the business to ensure that it goes well,
Jason Caputo 05:40
gotcha, gotcha. So it's a complement to the other services that at the Department of Labor, but really, it's it's this, like you said, it's, you're working with these people for at least two to three months, you really know them inside and out the job seekers, so that you you're focused on this really long term match, so that employers don't have to continue to hire if they're not hiring the right person the first time, we're making sure that that first hire is a good hire a long hire. Gotcha, gotcha, that's wonderful. We,
Gina Bastian 06:11
we want to make sure. So when that person decides that they're going into a job, that they want to be there that is going to feed who they are, and it's going to feed the business, not just say, Here's positions, you should apply, and hope that that person's invested in, in that employment, there's a difference there, and employers pick up on that. So our job is to really help that employer really understand. Or it's our job to really understand what that employer needs. So they know they have that aha moment of this is our person.
Jason Caputo 06:48
So we're spending your your staff spending a lot of time with job seekers upfront to really get to know them. How much time does an employer need to spend when you're working with that employer with with our our best team member to? To get that help?
Gina Bastian 07:05
Excellent question. That can be anywhere from a couple of hours, to more depending upon how complex the position is, how often they're hiring, how many positions they want to fill, what are those positions, but initially, it's, it's really an interview of an hour or two. And it's how much the employer wants to share. Sometimes they're going to take us through their entire business and give us tours and introduce us to people. Other times they're going to know, they know exactly what they're looking for. And so they're very clear, we understand what they're looking for. And we can help with that.
Jason Caputo 07:47
Gotcha. So So if an employer really knows what they want, maybe they don't have a lot of time, as well, that first meeting can be very short, it's really customized the employer, but if the employer really wants to take us through and have this deeper connection, and really explain maybe multiple positions, if they're a large employer, then we can take more time where they're around their need, and that that meeting can be longer is it sometimes several meetings, if it's a if it's a longer, where's it usually just that that initial up,
Gina Bastian 08:18
I'm going to say it's usually one to three meetings, depending upon who they're looking for, and how many candidates that we have. And the other thing that our services provides, in addition to that, we do provide some other services. So we might identify additional needs or resources or ideas that this business hasn't considered that will help them with their efficiencies. And that's just because most businesses are strapped right now they're working, probably two or three jobs, you know, some of the employees just to keep things going, especially through the pandemic. So sometimes when you have that second set of eyes, and we're trained to handle employers and look at their needs, we might have some ideas that helps the business overall.
Jason Caputo 09:08
Oh, fantastic. So it's really a consultant in a way, looking, you know, giving them recommendations on some free services. So So let's, that's a great transition into I know that. So we talked about one of the key services that help with making good long term hires, what's another important service that we provide that the best team provides, that they might be able to recommend to an employer when they're there that that interview?
Gina Bastian 09:37
Well, sometimes it's it would be training or accommodations, possibly assistive technology, so minimizing impact of the job on the employees, or if we have an employee that has some sort of assistive technology need, training the employer on the benefits of that or why the person needs it. Sometimes we've been asked to come in and train, for example, all US GCI their warehouse hired somebody who happened to be deaf. They contacted us, because they didn't know how to interact with someone who is deaf. And they wanted some tools on how to do that and make that person feel welcome. So we came in and provided some real basic sign language training to their warehouse employees. And what ended up happening is, the person learning those signs helped them to communicate, communicate, excuse me communicate across the warehouse without having to yell, sign language, which created the efficiency and effectiveness for all the employees. So they were just tickled. So we ended up providing more levels of sign language than it initially intended, but it ended up benefiting the entire warehouse.
Jason Caputo 11:02
Wow. That's amazing. And that was that training is free.
Gina Bastian 11:05
It was a free training. Oh, no, no cost to anyone. Right? Oh,
Jason Caputo 11:10
that's incredible. And you mentioned assistive technology. Can you talk about what is assistive technology, just for folks who
Gina Bastian 11:16
don't know, Assistive Technology is anything that helps somebody to be able to do their job. So sometimes it might be a special chair. Sometimes it's something connected with their computer where they speak into a microphone and it types for them. Maybe someone's been clerical person for many years and has carpal tunnel, but they still have all the skills and abilities to use the computer, well we can put in Dragon is one of the at the names of the voice activation, that they can direct all that work without causing additional harm to their arms with the carpal tunnel and still do the job. Yeah, that's all set. And you're maintaining, so we don't always, one of the things that we do is the hiring, helping people find people to employ. The other thing we do is retention. So if you've had somebody that's worked for you for 20 years, and they acquire something such as the carpal tunnel, because they've been doing typing and computer work for so many years, the dragon would be a great accommodation. And oftentimes, we found that businesses will buy that for other employees, because it's so good for all of them. But they've never, they didn't know that it existed. And so it helps people maintain in jobs, you know, and help with ergonomic setups to help minimize any type of carpal tunnel so that that carpal tunnel really isn't an option down the road. But these are things that employers are learning over time and have become universal. So by Universal Design, it's used with all employees, because it helps people maintain in their jobs longer.
Jason Caputo 13:13
So that's fantastic. Because especially you know, if you can keep an employee, and let's say, especially a long term employee, that maybe you've got an employee who you've invested a lot of training in, they know the company, they are operating so effectively, but then they get carpal tunnel, now they can't take, you might lose this, this employee, oh, my gosh, in this hiring situation right now, you you're not only losing a valuable employee, but now you've got to hire in a very difficult hiring situation instead. So DVRs, business specialists, your specialist who come in, identify that situation, figure out what technology the person might lead, could use to stay in the job. I actually use that that dragon voice to text myself, and it's fantastic. And I actually don't need it as much anymore. Because my my but I still use it because it is so efficient. So that's, that's fantastic. You can train to offer free trainings on this kind of thing. So absolutely. So we've talked about and I know you you offer other services as well, but we've, we've hit the three the three big ones. I think, if if a business owner is interested in this help with hiring, help with keeping talented employees, different types of trainings, and really wants the best consultant to come in and tell them, here's how we can help you. What's the next step? What do they do, who do they call,
Gina Bastian 14:48
they would just need to go to our website. And we have a business engagement page and it lists all of our people across the state. And so the one that's closest to where they're located There's no place that we don't service in Alaska, even if we're not the one. We are networked with all the different agencies in Alaska. And so if we don't have that answer, we know who would. And so we're here to help with information and referral, as well. Regarding a variety of business needs.
Jason Caputo 15:22
That's, I mean, that's an incredible service. It's a free service, you got a central. So in short, you've got DVRs BEST team. These are business consultants, you can call them, if you have any kind of issues with hiring and needing training supporting employees. I talked about fatigue counseling for folks. And again, this is a consultant who can come in and even if DVR doesn't provide the service, they can get to the right service. So it's probably worth the call if you've got some issues you're dealing with, give them a call and a quick conversation and you can be getting to some free services for your business. Thank you, Gina, so much for joining us today. This has been the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development podcast. We've talked about all these great services for Alaska businesses today. Thank you, listeners for joining us. We hope you found the show informative, and that you'll join us for our next podcast. You can find this episode and other episodes at our website at www.labor.alaska.gov/podcasts/
March 16 2022DVR Director Duane Mayes
Remembering Gary Donnelly
Jason Caputo 0:00
Hello and welcome. You are listening to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development podcast series, where you'll hear about how the department helps Alaskan workers, job seekers, businesses and communities. I'm Jason Caputo, and we're going to be talking with Division of Vocational Rehabilitation director, Duane Mayes today about a very special person. Gary Donnelly, Alaska recently lost Gary Donnelly, he's a was a relentless advocate for individuals with disabilities named the 1991 American hero in education, by Reader's Digest for making a difference in the lives of his students and for being an inspiration to people everywhere. After a long career as an educator where we started the ACE program, he went on to work as Associate Director of the arc of Anchorage, and he's made many significant contributions along the way. Today I'm speaking with Department of Labor and Workforce Development, DVR directed way Mays who knew and work with Gary Donnelly for large part, both their careers, Dwayne, thank you very much for being here.
Duane Mayes 1:05
You're welcome. Thank you. Thank you, Jason.
Jason Caputo 1:09
Director Mayes as an Alaskan who has long worked in the disability field. When did you first meet Gary Donnelly,
Duane Mayes 1:16
it was actually in 1989. In September, I actually joined the state of Alaska division of vocation rehabilitation. And I think it was about a month later, I got a phone call from Gary Donnelly, and he wanted to have a meeting. So I remember that. So September of 1989, is when I had my first interaction with Gary Dodd.
Jason Caputo 1:40
And did you have any first impressions when you when you first met him and started working with him?
Duane Mayes 1:47
Well, he sounded great on phone. And so when he actually came to me, so he came over to my office at that time, for the divisional vacation rotation, we had an office on the campus at the University of Anchorage, Alaska. So he showed up, and I remember that I actually was impressed. He has great eye contact. I thought he came with a sense of purpose. He was very articulate and describing why he was there, and why he wanted to meet with me. So he, he really had a great presence. So when he walked into a room, you knew, you know, once you talk to him, you knew that he really cared.
Jason Caputo 2:27
And you know, that was a long time ago, still, to still remember that really says something. And of course, now we know, Gary went on to make a lot of significant contributions to Alaskans with disabilities, especially youth. But at that time, do you remember seeing any early signs that that this person you're just meeting here might go on to make such significant contributions?
Duane Mayes 2:54
Actually, what I appreciated about Gary is I thought, we really connected we, we communicated well with each other, we knew exactly what our objectives were. So I just kind of, in my mind, I'm thinking, this is another gentleman that I've met, that's going to help me in terms of service delivery for Alaskans with disabilities, but in particular, would be youth with disability. So I never in my wildest dream, could predict the impact that he would make on this community, you know, the differences that we can make for Alaskans with disability. So I started to pick up on that as we evolved in our relationship or professional relationship. But in the very beginning, we were just two guys trying to make a difference for students with disabilities.
Jason Caputo 3:45
And I do want to talk about those significant contributions that he made. But But first, I also just wanted to talk a little bit more about who Gary was, because, you know, when it was announced recently on social media that he had passed away, many people commented positively about it and emotionally about it. And there was a very clear theme. He didn't just work in the disability field. And then, you know, that turned off when he went home when he when the day was that the work day was done. Helping and being an advocate for people with disability seemed to be really a part of his DNA. It was his passion. Many people use that word. Is that right?
Duane Mayes 4:25
Yes, absolutely. You could definitely see his commitment, his dedication, his derived, you know, very passionate, as a professional, but the one thing that I remember, Jason, is that I had been working with him, you know, from 1989. I think it was probably 1991 or 92. We have at that time that had at least 100 meetings. And one of the staff came to a meeting with him with me. And so Gary had to leave because he had another commitment another obligations. So the staff person, as we were talking said, Do you know that Gary has nine children, though? Wow, nine children? Well, that's great, big family. She goes, No, he adopted every one of the Every Child was adopted into this family. And he has special need kids. I'll never forget that. Wow, you know, oh my gosh, so not only do you work at you, you know, during the day, but when you go home, you have these nine kids. So I had the opportunity to really get to know one of his kids who really does kind of fall Gary's tracks, Sarah Conroy. And, you know, Sarah, had worked, you know, work for the access Alaska, and I'll center Independent Living Center in Fairbanks. And so I got to spend some time with her. But I could see that he had an impact on his on his today, they would be his adult kids. So I was really impressed with the fact that they, him and his wife adopted nine kids, nine children.
Jason Caputo 6:08
That's, that says a lot and about what who he was what he was about. Now, of course, wanting to make positive change for people with disabilities is one thing. But actually getting those changes to happen. That is not always or ever really an easy task. And, and Gary was able to do that. What do you think were the keys to his success? What allowed him to get those changes made?
Duane Mayes 6:44
Well, I, I remember a colleague, a long time ago, he was talking about, we were talking about our professionals that we work with, and we, Gary Donnelly came up. And he said, you know, Gary Donnelly is principally based. Never heard of that before, but boy, but a powerful accolade to give someone like Gary, Gary was very driven, you know, he was always about the consumer, the student with a disability really wanted to make a difference for that student. So I remember we were at a meeting. And we, the time Gary had, unfortunately, he acquired a disability referred to as ataxia, the cerebellum, where it starts to impact your speech and your gait. So walking a direct straight line can be very difficult. And this was in Anchorage, and we were at a meeting at a hotel with these other colleagues and talking about trying to improve service delivery for students with disabilities. And we had to go from the second floor down to the first floor to the lobby area. And I remember he were about two thirds of the way down. And he fell in he flew and landed on to the lobby floor. And he was belly down. And so I quickly got down next to him. And he kind of looked at me and he said, Dwayne, if you would mind, could you stay here on the floor with me? I said, Absolutely. He says, you know, this is something that I that I've had to adjust to, you know, I follow a lot. And I don't want people to assume that I'm a drunk. So just stay with me. And give me five minutes. And then I'll be able to gather myself and let's get up and let's get to that meeting. I'm thinking, if that was me, said, you know, that I'm done for the day, I need to go home and lay down because it was quite a fall. But he wouldn't have anything of it. Wow. So I remember laying there with him and this Bellman came over, and I'm certain he was thinking, you know, you guys have probably had too much to drink. And I looked up at him, I asked him if it was okay to tell him the truth. And he said, Absolutely. And I said, this is a friend of mine. He has a disability he fell. So I was able to articulate that to make sure that they understood this. This is not to guys who just got out of the bar at the hotel. We were on our way to a meeting so I'll never forget that story.
Jason Caputo 9:24
That's amazing perseverance after falling down a flight of stairs. I certainly would have probably called it a day as well at that point, but he it's almost like he he got energy from from from doing what he was doing. I mean, I don't know how you could you could get through that without without getting energy from from your mission. And I think that's that's also interesting. That's just that it. I've heard that problem from a lot of people with different types of disabilities that might affect their gait, their walk or their talking Maybe they slurred their speech because of a disability, but that people often often think that they might be drunk. And they don't realize that, that it's a disability that's causing that. And so, in addition to the difficult work that he was doing, throughout his life in the latter years having a disability and having to deal with those additional challenges and still charging on that's, that's quite an inspiration.
Duane Mayes 10:28
Well, he was determined, for sure. So
Jason Caputo 10:32
let's talk about, you know, I think that that paints a very clear picture of some of his shining attributes, let's talk about his shining work. And now, going way back, back in the 1970s. We know that many high schools across the country not just in Alaska, high school age students with moderate cognitive disabilities were separated from other high school students. And an Anchorage School District. It was it was similar, and they were actually located in the Denali, elementary school building. So high school students located in an elementary school building separated from other high school students. So I think we all know now looking back that that has some serious negative implications. Now, when Gary started working at the Anchorage School District in 1975, things were just starting to change, and he was able to work in an important program that was part of that change. Can you talk about that program?
Duane Mayes 11:42
Sure, a little bit based my sharing with you would be conversations I had with him, because when I first met him, as I said, it was in 1989. So 1975, that would be back in my high school days. So but what he told me, you know, it was all about the student to know, he didn't really care for the the the environment, the structure that was in place. You would rather that students be integrated to mainstream, not just students, but in general adults with disabilities, you know, working alongside with others that are not disabled in the workforce, and so forth. So I think the success that he was that he had with that program really led to changes going forward. So when I met him, he was no longer with the with that component, he was with another component. So I think some of the success that he had with the Denali school system, lead to the next step in his career.
Jason Caputo 12:47
Right, and I know that that he, that program actually had several steps along the way it started as one program, and then it which made some advancements, but then it it kind of needed another big push to get that more full integration and make the significant changes so that high school students really had the skills to transition after high school into into an integrated setting. And my understanding is that that then became the ACE program.
Duane Mayes 13:28
Correct. That led to a very powerful program that Gary was directly responsible for setting up the ACE program. Yes.
Jason Caputo 13:38
And and is the ACE program still going today?
Duane Mayes 13:42
Yes, I believe it is. It may be called something differently. I was planning on sometimes through time, you know, they they come up the funkier more fancier name, but the the ACE program, a part of the King Career Center. And that's where I actually met Gary. So when I think about that, I think about the the passage of the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act back in 2014. They mandated to you know, public focus rehabilitation program throughout the country, that states who received their federal allotment, are required to take 15% off the top and apply that towards youth, students with disabilities in the educational system, with the intent that we help them to get ready and prepare them for life after school, that they they come out of the educational system with some work based learning experiences, that they have some ideas to what they want to do, maybe a career or trade and so forth. And so at the national level, they felt that was important to apply that so when I when I heard about this, so it's very diverse. started that back in 1989. He did all of that, you know, with the ACE program and getting students with disability, especially those with developmental disabilities, the opportunity to understand what work is like work based learning experiences, exposure to different possibilities in terms of careers. So by the time they didn't graduate from high school, they had an idea. And so it was definitely well worth the investment. And that's where the partnership came, we were able to assist in helping the ACE program, make that difference, investing some of our funds and to giving them those kinds of opportunities, career opportunities. So Gary Donnelly, actually, when I think about the Workforce Investment Opportunity, Gary Donnelly started that back in 1989, when at least when I was there, he was doing we were doing that in 1989.
Jason Caputo 15:56
So that's that's probably not a big leap to say that, that those early he was an early pioneer of something that then became adopted. And I'm sure there were other pioneers across the country, Gary Donnelly was one of them here in Alaska, that became adopted as the wisdom that that became the workforce WIOA. And, and the ACE program, I should say, is the the title is the alternative career education program. So so after he had so Gary, we've talked about, he had a long career in special education, many accomplishments, we talked about just a few. And then he retired, but he wasn't done. After he retired. He became the associate director of the ark. Did you work with him when he was in that position?
Duane Mayes 16:52
Absolutely. Yeah. In fact, I remember getting a phone call from a colleague at the ark, who was a part of the the the interview team, or the group that was contemplating Gary and asked me what I thought, of course, you know, I think I thought of, and I still do to this day, think the world of Gary, so he went to work for the ark. And then I go over to see him in his new his new position. And we work together on a variety of service delivery type of components and systems between the Division of Vocational rotation and the arc. So he was the one that encouraged me to become a board member of the arc. And so I did. So I served on their board. And I remember, this is probably I mean, there's so many success stories with Gary but the one that really stands out for me is that the deaf community, the was looking for a place a home, a place where they could park their program and then get the support that they needed in order to serve that community deaf, hard of hearing and deaf line. So Gary and the director and I spoke about that and to make a long story short, we they agreed to and we moved the the deaf program, the nonprofit over to the ark of Anchorage, and gave them a home, gave them away within the building. And so def services were being served out of the ark of Anchorage. And a big reason for that was Gary Donnelly, Gary Donnelly working with me and with the director to make that happen. So, like I said, many accomplishments, but that's the one that stands out for me.
Jason Caputo 18:44
Wow, yeah, we would have to have a part two to the show, I think to get all of the accomplishments in there because there have been so much lately. Um, you know, thank you so much for for joining us. Did you have any final comments that you want to share?
Duane Mayes 18:58
I just, you know, unfortunately, he lived a good life. He did great. He was a great father, a great husband, great professional. And to me, you know, a great friend. So I know I when I heard that he had passed on. He had moved down to Oregon in his retirement years. I was quite shocked and devastated thought keep it in my mind. Jason. I thought this guy would live forever. So he's going to be missed.
Jason Caputo 19:32
We certainly, he certainly has made the lives of many Alaskans, those with and without disabilities so much better for his work. And thank you for sharing some of your memories about Gary with us today. This has been the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development podcast series. Thank you, Director Mays, for talking with us about Gary Donnelly today. And thank you listeners News for joining us we hope you found the show informative and that you'll join us for our next podcast
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
March 1 2022Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter, Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development
Jason discusses Commissioner Ledbetter's experiences at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter, Jason Caputo
Hello and welcome. You are listening to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development podcast series, where you'll hear all about how the department helps Alaskan workers, job seekers, businesses and communities. I'm Jason Caputo and today we have a very special guest, the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter, Commissioner Ledbetter welcome. And thank you for joining us today.
Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter
Greetings, Jason is great to be here with you.
So you have very interesting background, you came to Alaska almost 20 years ago, you were serving in the airborne, and were stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, you and your family that made a big decision to stay and make Alaska your home. What was it about Alaska that drove that big decision to stay?
Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter
Well, that's a great question. But let me be sure that we're clear I was serving in the United States Air Force. And I wanted to get orders to go someplace warm, like Guam or Hawaii. And I received orders to Elmendorf Air Force Base, I was very excited about those orders. Not knowing where Elmendorf was, until I saw that it was in Alaska. And I thought, Oh, my goodness, what an opportunity. So I would thank the US military for allowing me the privilege to head to Alaska from the East Coast, and the rest is history. But I tell you, when you when you get to a place like Alaska, it has, it does something to you, it has a special place in your heart, when you stay here for any length of time. And, and my five year plan turned into now almost 20 years. So it's been good to me and my family. And I'm grateful for the opportunity to have lived here in this great state.
That's wonderful. I think that is a common story. A lot of Alaskans can can relate to maybe they thought they were passing through, but the beauty of this place really grabs you and the people and and we caught you, basically, that's wonderful. So, you know, not all commissioners have any experience with the departments they lead, but you actually have a very long history with the department going back to 2007. You were hired as a career development specialist, then you moved up through the department to management and then leadership positions. Has this experience working at the different levels throughout the department been helpful? Now that you're leading department?
Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter
Fantastic question. And yes, I think that having a real tangible experience within the department that I now have the pleasure of leading was very critical. Knowing what the staff and team members that work in this, you know, body of work that we do, knowing what they do, understand and processes, understanding protocols, understanding the value of the state workforce, I think it has a major impact on how you frame your leadership, I had the wonderful opportunity of rising through the ranks. That's not something that happens often, I had the privilege of having supervisors who gave me opportunities, who were willing to allow me to think broadly, and to spread my wings and to be as creative as I wanted to be, as long as I was within, you know, everything that I did was ethical, legal, and moral. And as long as I could bring those big ideas to them, they knew that they could support them. And so because of that experience, it allows me to now not only leave the department, but I'm leaning forward, oftentimes the things that I'm asking directors to do, and their teams to do. Those are the very jobs that I have done. And so it makes a huge difference when you can understand the body of work, understand the passion within the people who do the work, and to be able to just have some sort of you can identify with them. When that happens. I think you have a level of street cred that allows you to influence people in a great way, because they know that ultimately you care about them. And because you care about them, they know that they can follow your lead, because that lead is his leadership with integrity.
And so also added to that not only the you know your experiences in the department, but going back you also have an experience as an Air Force veteran. You served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. You've you a community leader, a public speaker, a human performance improvement consultant, how How have those experiences helped you in your current role?
Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter
Wow, when you read all of that, I go, wow, he's talking about me. It's exciting. And I believe it the way it has helped me, it's all about people. It's all about relationships. It's all about how you have empathy for the people that not only you serve, but those who you are working alongside. Ultimately, every case that we have, if you're a case manager, every time you have an opportunity to assist someone with a job, that's a family that you're impacting. And if you understand that, fundamentally, workforce development is about improving the lives of people, offering opportunities, offering the connections to those opportunities, so that they can be whatever it is they want to be that allows them to contribute to our great state, when you realize that that's what you're doing. Oh, my goodness, it causes you to really work harder, strive more, to do more. And so I've had some great opportunities within the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, I started my career as a case manager. And I can go back and remember, you know, that single mom, who just, you know, she was receiving public assistance, and wanted to not, you know, be in that predicament. And she decided to go and get her certified nursing assistant credential. When you hear those success stories, and I have lots of them, it just really lets you know that what you do matter. And I like every state worker to know that you know what I see you, I hear you. And I know that your work is difficult at times, but you are doing a great service to the people of Alaska. And so we applaud you for that work.
That's amazing how all those all those very different experiences really, really do bring you to this moment and give you such a grounded view of what you're doing, even though you're, you know, you were at the top of the department, you still have that connection, but to that the entry level worker, you know, and it's good that those experiences have prepared you so well, because we are faced now, with this huge health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic. And I know being part of the department, we have had to make changes, and we've had to adapt what have been some of the toughest challenges so far that you've seen?
Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter
Well, I will tell you, Jason, I first should say this, I have a personal model. And that model is leadership is not what you do. It's the embodiment of who you are. And I think that anytime you have a challenge, and we have experienced challenges with this global pandemic, you can look at it as something that will devastate you, or you can look at it as something that will allow you to rise above that challenge, and be more creative. I've found that in this day and age, especially as we come out of the impact of a global pandemic, I am learning to be more flexible, and to be more fluid. And I believe that it's interesting that some good things are coming out of this. We are we have a more diverse workforce, we have individuals who perhaps are reimagining what they want to do. They they are making critical decisions for their families, they're deciding whether or not they no longer want to be in a certain type of sector. And perhaps they're moving forward to more of a compassionate type of job. There are a lot of opportunities today that I think just two years ago, may not have presented themselves. And so I would say the most difficult part or the most challenging part is to help people understand that all is not lost, that there are many programs and services that the Department of Labor delivers that can assist them with connecting to that next opportunity, whatever it be, whether there's a need for funding, whether there's a need for upskilling whether there's a need to you know, you're just getting into the workforce for the very first time, whatever it may be, stop by our office, call our office, talk to one of our staff members who are right there leaning forward, ready to help but I still believe that it's difficult to help the masses to understand the wonderful array of opportunities that at their disposal that they just don't know about.
And seeing that opportunity, those opportunities even in crisis, that's a very powerful idea. And we're looking now, as we persevere through the pandemic, we're looking for those opportunities in the future to more fully open our economy. what ways do you see the department helping in Alaska's recovery in the future?
Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter
That's a great question. Also, you know, in the governor's proposed budget budget, he allocated or at least proposed to allocate $10 million to the Department of Labor to be administered through the Workforce Investment Board. I am very excited about that, because I believe that we already have the training infrastructure in place to not only bolster opportunities for individuals, but to almost lead the way in terms of our collaboration and our networking and bringing all of those training providers together for an all hands on deck approach. And so we're looking at allocating some of that funding to the consortium between AVTEC and the University of Alaska, to allow them to do more Coast Guard related training to bolster the maritime sector, particularly the domestic center for maritime excellence. We're looking at RSA in some of those funds out allowing through the grant process similar to STEP allowing individual training providers who we know do great work, we want to assist them in allowing them to train up Alaska's workforce. Also, we're looking at targeting rural residents, we know that Alaska has a lot of rural communities who need these opportunities. We don't want individuals to always have to travel to the big three, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau, in order to receive training, we want them to be trained in their communities and remain in their communities, if that's what they choose to do. So the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, has wide reach, our services are well tested, we bring people together. And we do a great job of fostering opportunities for individuals, not only individuals in outlier communities, but also within the central region. So I think this is the perfect time out of this pandemic, we have learned that it is vital for our state to collaborate with each other. Alaska is different from New York or New Jersey, or, you know, Georgia, we have to help one another. And we need to be there for each other and many of our programs promote just that. It's it's collaboration, it's integration and cooperation. And that really is the spirit of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. WIOA
fantastic. So so many exciting opportunities to look forward to we've got this influx of resources and an infrastructure that you're talking about to get it out to every to all Alaskans all over the state. That's, that's very exciting. Looking forward. Thank you so much, Commissioner, Ledbetter for talking with us today. And thank you, listeners for joining us. This has been the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development podcast series. We hope you found the show informative, and that you'll join us for our next podcast.
Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter
Thank you, Jason.
Feb 25 2022Heather Miley and Gina Agron, industrial hygienists
Jason discusses N95 respirators with industrial hygienists from Alaska Occupational Safety And Health (AKOSH) Consultation and Training
Heather Miley, Gina Agron, Jason Caputo
You're listening to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development podcast series, where you'll hear all about how the department helps Alaskan workers, job seekers, businesses and communities. I'm Jason Caputo. And we're going to be talking about masks and 95 respiratory protection today. And we've got some great guests to do that. today. We have two industrial hygienists with the Alaska occupational safety and health consultation and training. They are Gina Agron. And Heather Miley, thanks for joining me today.
Thank you for having us.
Yeah. So, you know, let's jump into the deep end here. There's still some skepticism about mask usage. So what are your recommendations?
Well, recommendations differ based on the situation and whether it's a personal or professional setting.
masks provide minimum source control. Some masks or respirators are manufactured to provide more protection. The best mask is one that fits well, will be worn consistently, and has predictable and adequate protection.
OSHA requires employers to consider hazards in their workplace, liquid and small particles are important considerations to determine whether workers are exposed to aerosols, which can contain viruses and bacteria, especially in communities with high transmission. Workplace Examples may include a dental hygienist using high speed instruments inside a patient's mouth, or healthcare workers who provide nebulizer treatments or any treatment that may cause a patient to cough.
Gotcha. So you know, at this point in the pandemic, many of us are used to wearing face coverings, we've been doing it for quite a while. But can you tell us about the different options for face coverings because there has been some change? What is being recommended at this point?
Yes, absolutely. So we've all heard about face masks, surgical masks and respirators. However, they're not synonyms for each other. They have different meanings and provide different levels of protection. There are some important differences that we need to understand. Firstly, cloth masks cover our noses, and our mouth. And they are primarily used for source control. These cloth masks can help us protect others and ourselves. To some extent, they're typically loose fitting, sometimes single layered, and require the user to clean.
So when you say source control, I just want to make sure I understand that correctly. You're saying basically, when I'm wearing a mask, I may be the source of spreading something.
Absolutely you might be shedding virus materials and that captures it at the source.
Gotcha. Gotcha. Thanks. Okay.
And then let's talk about procedure masks. These are also known as medical procedure masks, or some people call them surgical masks. They're loose fitting and disposable. They're worn correctly, they can block the goods such as droplets, splashes, sprays or splatter that contain germs. surgical masks can provide various amounts of protection which is indicated by their ASTM or American Society for Testing and Materials level. ASTM levels are assigned based on material performance in five tested areas bacterial filtration efficiency, differential pressure, which is like for breathing resistance, particulate filtration, efficiency, resistance to penetration lessons that apply and find the ability. So you'd look for the ASTM reading to determine filter efficiency of these procedure masks. ASTM level three procedure masks are ideal for procedures where there is a high risk of fluid exposure and splashes or sprays will be produced. However, this mask do not rely on protection against airborne diseases, and 95 filtering facepiece respirators provide higher level of protection against airborne disease hazards. Instead of being loose fitting, they create a protective seal and direct the air toward a filter media that achieves a specified filtration meeting.
Also related to COVID-19. Many people are opting or are required to wear filtering facepiece respirators. These are commonly referred to as N95, N95 respirators or N95 masks. N95 filtering facepiece respirators are tight fitting respirators that filter out at least 95% of particulates in the air, including large and small particles when the wearer is properly fit tested. NIOSH or the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health approves respirators including N95s these respirators are an important tool to protect against COVID-19 and there are a variety of sizes to get a close facial fit.
Okay, so, so you covered three different types of masks. And it's, it sounds like we went from the least protective to the most protective starting out with cloth masks, which are more source control, like you say, so I'm, if I'm wearing it, I'm protecting others by wearing it. Procedure masks are what I know is a surgical mask. Maybe many of us knows surgical masks, and those protect against a lot of things but not airborne diseases, which is what we're dealing with the pandemic. And then the third level is the N95 filtering. facepiece respirators are what we've, I think the general public has been talking, calling N95 masks basically. And so that's the one that really is the level of protection that's going to deal with airborne diseases.
Yes, but remember that there's some level of protection from each of these types of masks, your best protection is going to be from an N95 facepiece respirator.
So they all do some level but the N95 is going to be the best. All right, great. Can you talk a little bit about what benefits the N95, respirators offer over the cloth and the surgical masks.
So it's all about fit and filter. So while the cloth and surgical masks that we were discussing earlier can offer some protection, they cannot create a seal around the user space and offer this filtration protection of the air. A respirator will filter some percentage of large and small particles from the air as the user breeze that air in this level of filtration is better than cloth and surgical masks. And this additional protection factor with the respirators is achieved because they are tight fitting instead of loose fitting. Regardless of the protection factor offered by the respirator or the mask or the cloth mask, some protection is better than nothing.
However, employers are responsible for understanding the hazards in your workplace, and selecting the correct respirator for the work that they do and the jobs and hazards associated with their work. Employers should adopt best practice recommendations provided by OSHA, CDC or professional industry guidance. Whenever there's conflict between professional guidance and course we encourage employers to go with the most protective guidance
Are N95 risk respirators the best protection against the Coronavirus.
Yeah. So personal protective equipment and N95 is the last defense against a hazard. OSHA recommends a hierarchy of controls. These include the elimination of the hazard engineering controls, like Improved Ventilation, administrative controls, including work practices like, social distancing, , cleaning, disinfection procedures and isolation. And then finally, we turn to personal protective equipment like masks and respirators.
Right. Okay, so there's there's really a host of different things that all work together to provide that protection. That's great. I really do understand a lot more about the N95 respirators right now. That's wonderful. The one thing I don't know is what does N95 actually mean? Do you know
that is a fabulous question. So if you're shopping for a filtering facepiece respirator, you may come across different types of respirators such as P95, or N99. These are different than the N95 respirators, but they're still filtering facepiece respirators. The alphanumeric designations meaning the letter and the number is given to respirators approved by NIOSH. Each respirator can be N, P, or R with a filtering efficiency of 95, 99, or 100. N stands for not resistant to oil. R stands for somewhat resistant to oil, and P is strongly resistant to oil numbers indicate the amount of filtration efficiencies the respirators can offer the user. The strongest of these is P 100. Which filters 99.97% of oil and non oil particulate matter. These respirators when they come in nine different varieties, and each type provides different protections to the user.
N95s are filtering facepiece respirators that remove particles from the air we breathe, and N95s are efficient at filtering out at least 95% of 0.3 micron particles. In the case of COVID-19, or viruses, approximately 1/10 of a micron in diameter. That's why it's really important to know that anyone defies can even be more efficient at removing particles that are smaller or larger than 0.3 microns. Remember that respirators are selected by the employer based on the hazards present in the workplace to ensure adequate protection is protected to work.
Alright, so So when we're talking about employers here, why would an employer require employees to wear N95 respirators at work?
So they require an employee to wear an N95 respirator in short because they completed a workplace hazard assessment and they determined that there was a hazard in their worksite that requires personal protective equipment. To complete a worksite hazard assessment, an employer would evaluate safety data sheets or SDS is for chemical hazards, material and biological hazards. They would examine particulates like fumes vapors, they would examine workplace tasks or processes. Reference Alaska physical agent data sheets are PADS which are available on our website, user manuals, OSHA requirements, CDC guidance, industry best practices and levels of community transmission. AKOSH consultation and training has templates to aid an employer on this process.
And ideally, engineering controls such as improved ventilation will be feasible. And this circles back to the hierarchy of controls that we talked about earlier. After reviewing hazards and guidance, and implementing engineering and administrative controls, the employer then has to ask themselves this question. Based on the workplace hazard assessment, should employees be required to wear respirators? If the answer is yes, select the appropriate respirator for your employees and meet the requirements of OSHA's respiratory protection standard.
Okay, so there really is a process, thorough process here for figuring out what needs to be done what, what equipment needs to be worn. And obviously, we're talking about things that are kind of moved to things that are beyond the pandemic, but they could be hazardous chemicals like you listed things. So an employer is going to be selecting N95 respirators for their workers, let's say what is required by OSHA's respiratory protection standard.
You're right that this respiratory protection standard existed long before the pandemic. In short, employers are required to have a written program, provide medical evaluations, fit testing employee training, and then they need to retain records demonstrating that they met those requirements that I just spoke about. So written respiratory protection program is required before providing respirators at the worksite. We have several templates on our website that employers can download and customize to their site specific conditions.
Gina Agron he employer site specific respiratory protection program will provide them detailed guidance including respirator selection, care, maintenance, use and storage, and what to do in emergencies. The respiratory protection program also contains guidance for employee training and record keeping and procedures for fit testing and medical evaluations. If an employer has questions, after reviewing the sample templates on our website, they can contact us for help. Our services are free and confidential.
I always like free and confidential, as are two great things. And you just talked about just a host of wonderful resources on your website. We'll make sure a link to your website is in the description of this podcast. So if you're listening and you want to check that out, just go to the description. You'll see a link there. I'm interested in. If you could tell me a little bit more about the medical evaluations and fifth testing.
Yeah, that's actually a really important part of the respiratory protection standard, the meat and potatoes if you will, so All employees who are required to wear respirators must be medically evaluated before using the respirator. After that, they have to be re evaluated, at least on an annual basis. And then if they have any major changes that would affect the fit of the respirator. These changes could include extreme weight gain or loss, changes in facial features that could be you had some kind of major dental procedure, or if there any major changes to their health, the medical evaluation questionnaire is protected information between the employee and the medical provider. And this ensures that the employee can wear the respirator safely.
And an N95 fit test will be either qualitative or quantitative. And it's specific for each employee. It ensures the employee can wear the respirator that was selected and that the N95 has an adequate seal on that employee. The respirator seal is crucial because it determines whether there's any leakage around the edges of the respirator, and it also confirms that the air the employee breathes in is directly through the filter media.
Okay, so, so let's say a hazard assessment was completed. And I'm a business owner and I've determined that my employees don't need to wear N95 respirators, but my employees still want to wear what do I need to do to make sure I'm complying with the respiratory protection program requirements.
So an employer may provide N95 respirators at the request of employees or permit employees to use their own N95 respirators as long as it won't create a hazard.
So that is when employers are required to share Appendix D in the respiratory protection standard to inform workers. It provides workers information on NIOSH approved respirator selection, where to find instructions, use and limitations of the N95 respirator and ensures the respirator doesn't become hazard in itself. On the AKOSH consultation and training website is a sample Appendix D that employers can use. Workers who are interested in voluntary N95 use can then review and sign the appendix D Document. And we recommend that employers keep these signed appendix Ds as part of their records retention program.
Okay, so let's take the opposite situation. Let's say I'm a business owner, I did the hazard assessment. And I determined that N95 respirators are necessary. My workers don't want to wear N95 respirators. What do I do then?
ultimately, if PPE is required in the workplace, the employer is responsible for ensuring that's worn correctly and consistently. Employers must protect workers from all recognized hazards in your workplace. But remember that comfortable PPE is worn PPE, there isn't one type or one manufacturer N95 respirators, we recommend offering your employees a variety to choose from. Worker buy in is essential to a strong safety and health program. We always encourage employers to include workers in safety and health decision making, because they're directly affected by those decisions. Remember to fit test any newly selected respirators.
Okay. You know, and one of the things that is, unfortunately, accompanying the pandemic these days is supply shortages. what happens if, well, if I can't get an N 95 respirator? Another one I've heard about is a KN 95? Yes. What about those are those appropriate to use?
Yeah, you're right that we're still struggling with supply chain shortages. However, N95 respirators are more available now than the previous two years. And to meet OSHA's respiratory protection standard, that is to protect workers from identified workplace hazards. Employers must select NIOSH approved respirators, however, employees may choose to wear KN95s for Voluntary Protection, and this cycles back to the appendix D that we discussed earlier. So we can think of NIOSH as the scientific testing arm of OSHA. One of its functions is to validate inspect N95 respirators to ensure that they perform in the manner that the manufacturer states, all NIOSH approved respirators have testing and certification approval numbers printed on the respirators themselves. So if you look at a respirator, you might see a TC 84A7501, you can then take that information and find approved respirator models on a webpage, NIOSH approved particulate filtering facepiece respirators. And if you're looking for other types of respirators, you can reference NIOSH’s certified equipment list. And these are links that we will be providing as well. What's important about this NIOSH process is that it provides assurances that the mask work as intended. And this is not something that is performed for the KN95s.
Okay. All right, that's good to know. So the KN95, although they're, only one letter off there, there's a big difference there. They're there. They don't have that level of protection and they're not, wouldn't be in compliance. If they were using that. They need to use those N95’s. Okay. I don't know if this is a silly question or not, but do respirators ever expire.
you're right that those NIOSH approved filtering facepiece respirators are important, but NIOSH doesn't require approved N95 filtering facepiece respirators today marked with an expiration date. However, some models have some have expiration dates on the box. If the respirator has an expiration date, you should defer to manufacturers instructions, also defer to the manufacturer for specific guidance on timeframes of use. Many N95 instructions tell the user to replace the respirator when the breathing resistance becomes obsessive due to dust or mist loading or after a maximum of eight hours. Remember that N95 respirators are intended for single use only
OK and how, do I care for those in N95 respirators to keep them functioning is as well as possible?
That's a great question because you want them to function as their intended use. To care for N95 respirators, you want to store them in a way that prevents them from getting damaged or contaminated. So they should be stored away from extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, dust, sunlight, or any chemical or biological exposures. Make sure that the boxes containing multiple N95 respirators are closed after removing one from the box. When we go to a worksite, and we inspect it, this is a common hazard that we will find. Any filtering facepiece respirators like N90 fives are designed for single use only Gina was mentioning that eight hour time interval. After you've ellipse that we recommend disposing them after that use.
Okay. All right. Well, this has been really fantastic. So much information. And I feel like I it really helped me connect the dots between a lot of the information that's been out there and kind of put it all together. One of the things that I always am amazed that when I talk to you both is the great services that come out of consultation and training. You mentioned a lot of them here, but I thought you know, could you kind of summarize what consultation and training can do for workplace?
We provide free and confidential consultations and training to small businesses in Alaska. During our on site visits, we can survey the workplace for hazards resolved questions for review programs, the employer guides that visit and may end it at any time. AKOSH provides an individualized and confidential report for the employer.
The only costs is that employers must correct any hazards and correspond with consultation and training on how those hazards were corrected. If you're interested in consultation and training, a link to our website will be included in the Detail section of this podcast.
Yeah, fantastic. We'll make sure that link is in there. Well, this has been just super informative. Thank you both so much for joining me. So and thank you out there for listening in and joining us. This has been the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development podcast. Thank you, Gina and Heather for talking about the mass and the respirators. And thank you listeners for joining us. We hope you found the show informative that you'll join us for our next podcast.