Spotlight on O*NET Users: Diana Bailey

Diana Bailey

Workforce Development/Transition Coordinator with the Maryland State Department of Education/Juvenile Services Program

Currently Workforce Development/Transition Coordinator with Maryland’s Department of Education (DOE), Diana Bailey has been using O*NET data and tools to foster self-assessment in State occupational readiness programs for more than 10 years. Diana had a history of working with women entering the workforce, workers with disabilities, and other populations who traditionally were allocated fewer resources than larger populations. It seemed natural that the responsibility of creating career development programming for offenders in Maryland’s prison system came to Diana.

“In the late ’90s we received a Federal Life Skills grant to develop programming for adult offenders. We actually piloted several informal and formal assessment possibilities for our incarcerated populations,” Diana remembers. “The O*NET Interest Profiler was definitely the best option, not only because it was Holland-based, using the RIASEC model, but also because it is adaptable to all of our users. The O*NET tools were available for offenders to access, in paper and pencil, which was one of our absolute requirements. The color coding tips are user-friendly, too. Thirdly, since the interest (Interest Profiler) and values (Work Importance Locator) assessments connect to the O*NET occupational database, though offenders used this information off-line, it was seamless moving people along from assessment to exploration.”

All incarcerated clients must work with only the pencil and paper self-assessments, because they do not have access to the Internet. But many Maryland prison facilities developed Career Centers. Here some offenders are able to work one-on-one with certified Offender Workforce Development Specialists (OWDS), taking their knowledge sets, skills and abilities to new levels. They match their KSAs with their interests and values, and progress to exploring occupational possibilities and developing good resumes to seek real jobs, using O*NET resources throughout the process.

Diana helped develop and pilot the course that led to the Offender Workforce Development Specialist certification program of the National Institute of Corrections. She has been at the forefront of offender workforce development, using O*NET all the way. More than 2,000 offenders completed the “Prison to Work” program she developed, within four years. Now about 3,400 people complete O*NET assessments each year. “And they complete the follow-up, too.” Diana emphasizes. “Those O*NET assessment completers all go through a functional debrief of high quality. Our follow-through is at least as good as in the community beyond prison.”

“We are certain of this. Our classes in the prison Career Development Centers leverage O*NET in career exploration, using the interest and value assessment results, working one-on-one with offenders. They explore occupations that are attractive to people with their interests. They learn the job-seeking skills they need to develop. They investigate related occupations and learn how to use O*NET language and occupations’ task language to sell ‘their good stuff.’ Our people are skilled job seekers and become comfortable with the tools of job-seeking.”

Diana was honored for her outstanding work at the “Bridges to Reentry 2009 Conference” in Pittsburgh, PA, where she received the National Award for Leadership in Offender Workforce Development. Having been nominated by her colleagues, Diana was especially touched. No one was surprised that she was tapped to create the “Transition Guide for Prisoner ReEntry” for the U.S. Department of Education. And it’s no surprise that O*NET data and tools are referenced in the Guide.

Responsibility for offender career assessment and development programs recently moved to the Department of Labor in Maryland, but Diana chose to stay with DOE, still a huge proponent of using O*NET data and tools in the other occupational and career learning efforts she spearheads. She stayed on with DOE because she is passionate about helping youth explore “career options and develop the skills needed to stay employed,” as she puts it. “We have to look at and pay attention to the whole person. An education leading to work isn’t just about learning one particular skill, one set of tools and technology, or one occupational process. O*NET data and tools show people, whether juveniles or adults, that doing well in any occupation requires having many knowledge sets, skills and abilities. What I call ‘employability skills, workplace skills’ are just as important as those other elements. O*NET points up that doing a job well requires mastering many tasks and developing many attributes. I can ensure that our Career and Technology Education programs (CTE) emphasize those points.”

For fun Diana loves to travel. It’s finding the commonalities among cultures, rather than focusing on the differences, that fascinates her. She also enjoys water and air activities, whether checking out Earth from a hot air balloon, or breathing deeply at the beach.