PRIME TIME Career Exploration Program

Premier Resource for Internships and Meaningful Employment through Innovative Metro area Employers

Click here to download a brochure! PRIME TIME Brochure 2015   Read on about the program from our Summer 2015 newsletter…….

It’s a fine time for PRIME TIME!

By Marilee Larson

We are very excited to tell you about our new Career Exploration Program, PRIME TIME, which is funded by the PIPP (Performance based Incentive Payment Program) grant from DHS, a grant that TSE was awarded last year.   As we set our first meeting to start our strategic goal to “raise the bar” on the training services,  the opportunity to apply for this grant appeared.  Of course, we had to go for it!

With the grant deadline nearing, we developed the concept for PRIME TIME, which includes an Exposure Phase, an Internship Phase, and subsequent Placement Phase.   The exposure phase includes hands-on experience in several high-demand career areas and the internship is in the area of interest determined after experiencing the various careers.  About a month after we submitted our idea, we were awarded the grant.

Included in the plan was the hiring of an additional Employment Advisor who would concentrate on placing independent, non-center based people and the PRIME TIME participants, as well as a Coordinator for the career exploration/internship program.  With that, Jaelynn Blenkush and Sheri Murphy, existing TSE staff, were hired into those positions.

With these new concepts in mind, the program was named PRIME TIME, which stands for Premier Resource for Internships and Meaningful Employment Through Innovative Metro-area Employers.

Our next steps included researching what fields or careers are predicted to have a high demand for employment in the next 10-20 years. The career areas of Recycling/Environmental, Supply Chain Fulfillment, Health Services, Retail and Food Services were selected.

We felt compelled to reach out to Dunwoody Technical College as a potential consultant regarding curriculum and general knowledge about training.  Through a contact we have at Dunwoody, we were able to meet with Deb Kerrigan, Workforce Training and Continuing Education Dean.  Quickly, Deb became excited about PRIME TIME and agreed to guide us on several issues.  She also committed to having our group at Dunwoody for the first week of orientation to our new program and exposure to the many careers Dunwoody provides training in.

Simultaneously, we started thinking about who the first group of participants would be.  We decided that participants would certainly need to be motivated to find a meaningful position, be open minded (because we knew there would be changes throughout the pilot program), and able to meet the demands of stamina and community appropriate standards.  We created an Expectations Contract that the participants were required to commit to and sign.  The first group of participants includes people who TSE already supports; DS, KB, AB, DJ, TB, and JG.

We also needed to establish the network of employers where the career exploration and internships would occur.  We started contacting employers who are already in our network and a few new companies.  The innovative companies that stepped up to the plate were Staples Fulfillment Center, Arc’s Value Village, and Sodexo -Bethel University from our existing network and TechDump and Gillette Children’s Hospital from the new partners category.  We’ve started referring to these companies as the “anchor companies”, as they are playing a substantial role in the stability and sustainability of this program.

We met with each of these companies to determine what positions to concentrate on, who amongst their staff would be available to speak to us during career week, if they had space available for our group, and the dates and times they preferred the group to be on site, etc.

Participants spent three days of the week at the Anchor Company and then rounded out each week with tours of other companies within that career area, to broaden their exposure.  One of those places, the MN DNR, has since committed to being an internship location for TB.

When the Exposure Phase was completed, it was time for ‘Decision Week’; the time that participants assess all that they learned about themselves and  the various jobs to determine which career area they are most interested in.  As part of the self assessment and transition into a new career, the participants spent a day at the Brave New Workshop to build confidence and the courage to change.

As part of the grant agreement, all of the career exploration and internships need to be completed in the community, which requires a significant commitment to transportation. Julie Zietlow, TSE’s Transportation Coordinator, provided logistical guidance and, TSE purchased a minivan that is dedicated to the PRIME TIME program.

Sheri Murphy, TSE Training Coordinator, a former teacher, developed the curriculum for each week of the career search while Jeff Myhre took over communication with the participants and their teams.  Jaelynn Blenkush had already started placing independent jobseekers and is now working with the PRIME TIME participants during their internships.  She, of course, is getting to know the participants, creating effective resumes and cover letters, building employer relationships and will continue these efforts until all PRIME TIME participants are employed in their area of interest.

The future of PRIME TIME includes marketing PRIME TIME to the MN Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, County Case Managers, and CTIC (high school transition programs,) as well as being open to people TSE currently serves.   One of the PRIME TIME participants, JG, has already given an eloquent presentation to a CTIC group about the program, which elicited much interest.

At this time, we are determining who the next participants will be.  We will start the second group in July and the third group in October.  If you would like further information or a copy of the brochure, contact Marilee Larson, Employment Services Director, at TSE at

We are thrilled to say this innovative career exploration and internship program is mid way through the pilot program and is on track to become a highly regarded game changer in the employment services field!

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