Winter 1992 // Volume 30 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW5

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Worksite Programming

Meeting challenges by creating new program methods can be risky...Worksite outreach will be among the new methods used by Extension to attract new audiences, discuss new issues, and strengthen accountability.

Sharon P. Blase
Extension Home Economist and Associate Professor
Department of Home Economics
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
New Brunswick, New Jersey

Change your focus in Extension programming, seek new audiences, network with community organizations, work with low- income and minority adults, be more accountable for program accomplishments, and work around the busy schedules of individuals and families-all challenges most Extension workers are facing. New approaches and methods are needed. Worksite programming is one approach to meeting challenges that have been used by the Extension home economist in Cumberland County, New Jersey since 1988.

Initial contact was made with employers through a flier describing educational programs for employees. Employers with at least 20 or more employees were selected from a county business directory for the initial mailing. Radio announcements, news articles, and the county home economics newsletter contained information promoting the new worksite educational program. Community organizations and service groups received information about the program as part of the promotion campaign. Extension programs provided for service groups such as Rotary and Soroptomist also included information on how these programs could be arranged at the members' worksites.

Meetings are held with employers or personnel mangers to schedule the worksite programs. Program topics include finances, parenting, stress and time management, caregiving for the frail elderly, nutrition, and retirement planning. Most programs are presented during the regular work schedule, sometimes as part of a company training for new employees, employee retreat, or special event for employees. Those attending receive fact sheets and an opportunity to participate through hands-on experiences or group discussion.

A total of 1,900 employees and organization members were reached through 75 worksite programs between 1988 to 1991. Successful worksite programs have prompted recommending Extension programs to other employers. This has led to new audiences including people experiencing credit problems with a utility, residents of a homeless shelter, homemaker-health aides receiving their initial job training, participants in a hospital's wellness program, laborers facing forced retirement, workers in a health clinic for low-income clientele, and Chamber of Commerce members.

Representatives from worksites and organizations who benefited from the educational program have now volunteered to serve on a reorganized home economics advisory council to help design future program outreach. Insurance company and day care employees helped with a computerized dietary analysis study involving young adults; the study was promoted as part of a worksite program and employees visited the Extension office after work hours for the nutritional analysis. A county administrator speaking at the county's 75th anniversary celebration for Cooperative Extension contrasted the home economics program of the past with the worksite outreach and praised home economics Extension for "moving into the workplace with education."

Meeting challenges by creating new program methods can be risky, but quite rewarding when you look at the many benefits derived from changing your approach to people. Worksite outreach will be among the new methods used by Extension to attract new audiences, discuss new issues, and strengthen accountability.