Addressing Unresolved Trauma: JobsWork MKE


JobsWork MKE is partnering with personnel from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM)/ Institute for Child and Family Well-Being (Institute) to enhance the trauma-informed nature of their employment services. The project goal is to effectively address unresolved trauma among JobsWork MKE program participants or members. In turn, the project will remove a prominent barrier to sustainable employment.

JobsWork MKE is a private, nonprofit agency serving Milwaukee-area adults seeking job placement and career development services. Most participants or members of JobsWork MKE services hail from economically distressed neighborhoods and face multiple barriers to sustainable employment. JobsWork MKE collaborates with employers, who offer stability and advanced job placements, to enhance the probability of member success. Moreover, the comprehensive service model that JobWorks MKE implements engages the whole person, recognizing that successful job placement and career development rest on a foundation of personal development. Consequently, JobsWorks MKE follows a cohort model and provides a safe, family-like environment that promotes physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational well-being. Many graduates of the program report transformative experiences that helped catapult them toward a life of dignity that includes meaningful and well-paying work. Nonetheless, data and experience suggest that personal traumas undermine program success and that JobsWork MKE would benefit from enhancements to its trauma-informed program features.

Therefore, for the current project titled Addressing Unresolved Trauma: JobsWork MKE, two affiliates of the Institute (James “Dimitri” Topitzes, PhD and Valerie Esser, MSW) will work closely with JobsWork MKE staff and administrators over the course of a yearlong project period. Dr. Topitzes will oversee Ms. Esser’s project work, and both Dr. Topitzes and Ms. Esser will help advance specific trauma-informed employment services within the JobsWork MKE program. Ms. Esser will, for instance, lead trauma presentations for JobsWork members and conduct trauma interviews (trauma screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment or T-SBIRT) with members. As a result of the interviews, she will refer members to indicated services including trauma counseling. Ms. Esser will also continue to strengthen referral networks, particularly with mental health partners. In addition, Ms. Esser will participate in trauma-informed care training schedule permitting and help JobsWork staff implement principles from the training on a daily level. Ms. Esser will also help JobsWork develop a follow-up service model and help execute that model via booster sessions. Finally, Dr. Topitzes and Ms. Esser will help develop and potentially execute a project evaluation plan.


Dimitri Topitzes
Valerie Esser

All Current Projects