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Potential Role of Online Skills Preparation for Employment in Recovery (PROSPER/
Online Skills)

Project Lead: Kim Wireman


Low workforce participation of individuals with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is a well-established problem. Job acquisition is often put on hold as people work through earlier stages of treatment but can be an important part of maintaining recovery. Addressing this need was the focus of this community-academic partnership between Powell Recovery Center and the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s PROSPER (Potential Role of Online Skills Preparation for Employment in Recovery) initiative. One way to support successful employment among persons with OUD is to provide training in “soft skills,” such as communication, planning, and problem-solving. Pilot study findings are intended to inform interventions that may enhance treatment outcomes of individuals with OUD by facilitating workforce participation, which has been shown to increase treatment retention and recovery success.

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The research team recruited current peer coach employees with a history of OUD to assess the feasibility and usefulness of short online training videos from Training Industry’s ej4 e-learning platform, designed to develop “soft skills” that facilitate successful workforce participation. To customize training videos to individual needs, the study used the online Barriers to Employment Success Inventory (BESI) to measure participant concerns in domains relevant to soft skills; the BESI domains address personal, financial, educational, and other obstacles to occupational success. The research team mapped available online courses from the ej4 training catalog to the BESI domains to develop a personalized curriculum plan and schedule for study participants. The study measured baseline, midpoint and final BESI scores, time spent using the training, and courses taken. Paired samples t-tests were used to assess the significance of differences between participants’ levels of concern for employment barriers before and after the video training intervention. Feedback was also collected about their experience with this resource using a survey and focus group at the end of the project. 

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The study found that the technology skills needed to complete the study milestones through the BESI and ej4 online platforms were a barrier for many participants and contributed to high attrition. There was a statistically different (p=.007) difference in the baseline and final BESI scores of those who completed the study milestones, reflecting significantly decreased participant concerns about barriers to employment. Those who remained in the study until the end found the training videos highly enjoyable and valuable for skill and confidence building around job retention. Participant critiques of the BESI included negatively worded questions around their “concerns” about skill gaps and feeling that the instrument made them look more unprepared for their roles than they actually were. The most critical feedback about the training videos, which were designed for corporate clients and reflected this context, was that participants felt that the actors did not look like them. Statistical analysis is still underway and study results, presented here in tables, should be considered preliminary. 


Although this pilot study had a small sample for statistical analysis, mixed method results indicated the training was very valuable to participants who completed all the study milestones. The BESI responses were somewhat helpful in crafting a personalized educational plan. Most participants did not like using the BESI and had some confusion about the wording of the questions. The content of the training videos, although developed for corporate employee training, still resonated well with participants who completed study milestones. The online format and requirements for technical competency were a barrier for many of the peer staff participants and would be for many of their clients. If planning to use online resources for this population, using instruments and training materials more culturally relevant to participants’ backgrounds and work settings is recommended, however, this is a challenge as there is a lack of such resources designed for those in substance use recovery. Picking online measurements and training software that aligns with the technical skills and educational background of program participants is a key implication. An initial assessment of these proficiencies may support participant selection, orientation, initial technical skill building, and ongoing supports to maximize participant gains. Overall, study results show the promise of developing targeted online training plans to support the workforce success of people in substance use recovery.


Table 1 BESI Score Comparisons

(Higher scores indicate higher levels of concern about the barrier to employment being measured) 


*Completed all three BESI assessments and most assigned training. 

**Completed just two BESI instruments but took at least 5 hours of training. High training users group includes completers. 

Table 2 Group Comparisons Between Initial and Final BESI on “Average all Categories” Scores  


Table 3 Survey Responses 


*Likert scale 1 = Disagree completely; 2 = Somewhat disagree; 3 = Somewhat agree; 4 = Agree completely 
One participant responded twice with slightly different answers; this is counted as a separate response;  
the number of participants responding was 8 

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