Abstract: Virtual Interview Training for Adults Receiving Prison-Based Employment Services: A Randomized Controlled Feasibility and Initial Effectiveness Trial (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

424P Virtual Interview Training for Adults Receiving Prison-Based Employment Services: A Randomized Controlled Feasibility and Initial Effectiveness Trial

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Matthew J. Smith, PhD, MSW, LCSW, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Brittani Parham, Joint Doctoral Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Jamie Mitchell, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Shannon Blajeski, PhD, MSW, Lecturer & Research Associate, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Meghan Harrington, Clinical Subjects Coordinator, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Brittany Ross, Project Manager, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Jeffery Johnson, MSW, Community Research Coordinator, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Jennifer Johnson, PhD, C. S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health Professor of OBGYN, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Michigan State University, Flint, MI
Gary Cuddeback, PhD, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Justin Smith, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Utah, UT
Morris Bell, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Yale School of Medicine, CT
Robert McGeorge, Assistant Education Manager, Michigan Department of Corrections, MI
Kyle Kaminski, Office Success Administrator//Legislative Liaison, Michigan Department of Corrections, MI
Aaron Suganuma, Social Worker, Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, MI
Sheryl Kubiak, PhD, Dean & Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Background and Purpose: Returning citizens struggle with obtaining employment after their release from prison, and post-release employment is known to help prevent recidivism. However, returning citizens have difficulty navigating job interview (especially around discussing a prior conviction). Thus, the job interview is a critical barrier to obtaining post-release employment. Additionally, prison-based vocational rehabilitation is rare, and when available, few evidence-informed practices are implemented. Recently, virtual reality job interview training has demonstrated lab-based efficacy and real-world effectiveness at improving job interview skills, reducing interview anxiety, and enhancing access to employment in community-based vocational rehabilitation settings. Thus, we sought to evaluate the initial feasibility and effectiveness of VR-JIT implemented within prison-based vocational rehabilitation.

Methods: We partnered with two state-administrated prisons to conduct a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the initial effectiveness and feasibility of implementing VR-JIT within vocational rehabilitation services-as-usual (SAU). The research team hosted study information sessions for 111 returning citizens participating in a prison-based vocational rehabilitation services. 52 returning citizens consented and 48 participants enrolled in the study with 4 participants withdrawing prior to randomization. Thus, forty-four participants were randomized to receive SAU with VR-JIT (SAU+VR-JIT, n=28) or SAU only (n=16). Feasibility outcomes included VR-JIT adherence, performance and high fidelity VR-JIT implementation; and participant-level self-reports of VR-JIT acceptability and usability. Effectiveness outcomes included job interview skills, job interview motivation, job interview anxiety, and competitive employment by six-month follow-up. Local prison staff trained and supervised participants using VR-JIT. We used descriptive statistics to characterize feasibility outcomes, and conducted repeated measures analyses of variance and logistic regression to evaluate effectiveness outcomes.

Results: Regarding feasibility outcomes, participants reported VR-JIT was highly acceptable and usable with 100% adhering to the recommended VR-JIT completion protocol. Prison staff successfully completed orientation tot deliver VR-JIT and implemented the tool with high fidelity. Regarding effectiveness outcomes, the SAU+VR-JIT group, as compared to the SAU only group, had large effect size improvements between pre-test and post-test on performance-based job interview skills (p=0.04; ηp2=0.16), job interview motivation (p=0.04; ηp2=0.19), and job interview anxiety (p=0.02; ηp2=0.21); and greater employment by six-month follow-up (OR=7.4, p=0.045).

Conclusions and Implications: The implementation of evidence-based job interviewing training is a major gap in vocational rehabilitation for returning citizens. This trial suggests returning citizens adhered to the training and viewed it as highly acceptable and usable. Moreover, VR-JIT trainees experienced improved job interview skills, motivation, anxiety, and access to employment. Thus, VR-JIT can potentially help fill a major gap in vocational rehabilitation services. Future research is needed to validate VR-JIT effectiveness and evaluate the processes required to successfully implement VR-JIT within prison-based programs.