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Fixing to Change: A Best Practices Assessment of One-Stop Job Centers Working With Welfare Recipients

Publication Date
Feb 28, 1999

By  James L. McIntire and Amy F. Robins

Fiscal Policy Center
University of Washington


The research upon which this report is based has been funded through a grant award from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), U.В S. Department of Health and Human Services.В  The findings and conclusions presented herein are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent the official positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) created a new policy and program framework for workforce preparation and employment. Under the WIA, states and local areas must establish workforce investment boards to oversee the delivery of a broad array of services for youth, adults, and dislocated workers, including federally funded job services. Job-seekers and business are expected to benefit from a One-Stop delivery system designed to offer a full range of employment and career counseling services to the general public via a single location or a system of linked service centers. These One-Stop Job Centers are expected to provide customers with:

  • A preliminary assessment of their skill levels, aptitudes, abilities, and support service needs;
  • Information on a full array of employment-related services, including information about local education and training service providers;
  • Help filing claims for unemployment insurance and evaluating eligibility for job training and education programs or student financial aid;
  • Job search and placement assistance, and career counseling;
  • Access to up-to-date labor market information which identifies job vacancies, skills necessary for in-demand jobs, and provides information about local, regional and national employment trends.

Through One-Stop Job Centers, employers are intended to have a single point of contact to provide information about current and future skills needed by their workers and to list job openings, creating a single system for finding job-ready skilled workers who meet their needs.

Many One-Stop Job Centers are just now being established in response to initiatives by the U.S. Department of Labor, and in response to federal and state welfare reforms. Some of these centers have been operating long enough to develop an understanding of how well they serve different client groups. The purpose of this study is to examine some of the most promising One-Stop models to better understand what makes them work well and the potential they offer for moving people from welfare to self-sufficiency.


The evolving nature of these workforce development models can be illustrated with the following example. We had just finished reviewing the new computer network designed to provide 14 different agencies on the Tarrant County Resource Connection campus with user-friendly communications and access to a cutting edge data system. The system has the capacity to automatically assess the potential eligibility of each client for all assistance programs on campus, and allow the case manager to enable each agency where the client is potentially eligible for help to gain controlled access to the appropriate information to help the client. We had tracked Donald Duck and other fictitious characters through the system, which was only hours away from being placed into operation. "It's not quite perfect yet," declared Sheryl Kenny, "but we're fixing to change that real quick."

"Fixing to change" is an appropriate description for much of the restructuring of state and local agencies around federal welfare reforms, One-Stop Job Centers, and the introduction of new technologies into social and human service delivery systems.(4)  Systems are being redesigned to place a stronger emphasis on coordinating public resources to move welfare recipients into employment and hopefully, to self-sufficiency. In most local labor markets, these changes have only just begun, and oftentimes as the result of prompting by federal and state policy initiatives. However, in a few areas these changes have been underway for several years, frequently prompted by major upheavals in the structure of the local economy, and encouraged along with federal grant assistance.

While the concept of consolidated service delivery is not new, the Department of Labor's interest in bringing together employment and training programs under one roof has resulted in renewed interest in the One-Stop service delivery concept. One-Stop models take many forms; the Department of Labor lists four principles as keys to their idea of what constitutes a One-Stop:

  1. Universality,
  2. Customer choice,
  3. Integration, and
  4. Performance driven/outcome-based measures.

They have used these standards to make funding decisions to One-Stop models around the country, but the range of services provided by the different models often goes well beyond these four features.

The purpose of this study is to examine some of the most promising One-Stop models in five locations around the country to better understand what makes them work well and the potential they offer as a format for moving people from welfare to self-sufficiency. This study is not an attempt to provide a formal evaluation of these models, but rather to identify those approaches and practices that seem to be working well in different locations. From this information, this study also attempts to glean a better sense of the assistance that the One-Stop models might offer to welfare recipients of different backgrounds as they seek employment to support their families.


The methodology used for this study combines the use of on-site focus group discussions and administrative data analysis. Local One-Stop models were selected based on a national scan of state and local One-Stop systems and plans. A more in-depth discussion of the site selection is included in the first chapter.

At the outset, selected One-Stop models were asked to provide several items of background information. These included a summary of the One-Stop structure and agencies involved, summary data on employer and welfare client characteristics in the One-Stop service area, One-Stop staffing information, and information about the accessibility of administrative data.

Focus group discussions were conducted with several groups at each of the five sites. Separate focus groups were held with One-Stop officials, staff, and clients (including current and former welfare recipients as well as employers). Topics raised in each of the focus groups included:

  • One-Stop Officials (including the senior management team) were asked to provide a brief history of how the One-Stop was formed, including the community, political and bureaucratic forces shaping the effort. They were asked about relations with state authorities and among the agencies represented in the One-Stop. Budgeting, staffing, and management decisions were also discussed, along with questions about client flow, collective bargaining agreements, workplace design, data systems and data sharing, and future plans and fiscal expectations.
  • One-Stop Staff were invited to comment on many of the same issues as were the officials, with an emphasis on client flow, caseloads and intensity of caseloads, staffing, collective bargaining issues, workplace design, and data systems. Staff were also asked to describe their personal approaches to collaboration, and to provide illustrations for how they approach the resolution of staff-level problems.
  • Current Recipients were invited to comment on the circumstances under which they came in contact with the One-Stop, their feelings about the service they received or were receiving from different agencies, and the helpfulness or usefulness of the services they were receiving. Recipients were invited to compare their experience in the One-Stop with previous experiences with public assistance and employment agencies, and describe how they would represent the One-Stop to a friend. Recipients were also invited to comment on any particular barriers or difficulties they had encountered with the One-Stop and whether or how these difficulties were resolved.
  • Previous Recipients were invited to comment on many of the topics raised with current recipients. In addition, they were invited to comment on how they found their current employment and how the One-Stop helped in that process. They were also invited to comment on any difficulties they had encountered in making the transition to employment, and whether or how the One-Stop had played a constructive role in that transition.
  • Employers of One-Stop clients (identified through the One-Stop) were invited to comment about their interaction with the One-Stop, including whether or how they had used its facilities or services.(5)  They were invited to comment on their experience with job seekers referred to them by the One-Stop, including those that were hired and retained and those that were not. Employers were also invited to comment on the nature of the local labor market, the general level of job readiness relative to One-Stop clients, and any job development activities they might have pursued in conjunction with the One-Stop.

Virtually every group was invited to be "President for the day" and offer their suggestions for improving the One-Stop and its related programs. Information and comments collected in these focus group discussions serve as the primary source of information for the analysis presented in Chapters 2 through 5 of this report.

In addition to the focus group discussions, each One-Stop was asked to provide administrative data on the characteristics of the welfare population in their service area, and for a random sample of anonymous One-Stop clients, limited data on the services provided or accessed via the One-Stop and subsequent records of employment and wages. This data request had three components:

  • Characteristics of welfare recipients in the service area: Aggregate data on households, dependents, and employment were requested.
  • Characteristics of welfare clients served by the One-Stop: Aggregate and individual sample data on households, dependents, employment, and services accessed were requested. Sample data (stripped of all personal identifiers) was requested for between 70 and 150 cases entering the One-Stop during a 12-month period.
  • Outcomes for welfare clients served: Aggregate and individual sample data on employment and training outcomes were requested, with sample outcome data matched to sample characteristics data.

As with any applied policy research project, the data available and provided did not always correspond to that desired and requested. However, a good faith effort was made by all parties to fulfill the requests, and the analysis attempts to make the most of the data provided. As a result, the data analysis for some of the One-Stop models is more robust than for others.

Organization of this Report

This report is organized into six chapters. Chapter 1 describes the selection of the One-Stop Models, summarizes the features of each model, and assesses the common and unique elements of each model. Chapter 2 identifies successful models and program elements, including those institutional factors that seem to be contributing factors. Chapter 3 discusses the question of what groups are best served by the One-Stop model, based on information from the focus group discussions. Chapter 4 examines the occupational strategies and employers who are working with the model One-Stop programs, including the linkages and levels of connection between public services and private employers. Chapter 5 discusses the linkages between the One-Stop models, welfare reform, and other public sector initiatives related to workforce development. Chapter 6 works with the data provided by the five models to develop an empirical assessment of the potential of these models for making successful transitions from welfare to self-sufficiency.

The Appendix to the report contains additional details on each of the model One-Stop programs included in the study.


4.  Note that the term "welfare" is used in this report as being synonymous with Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF).  Because the timeframe for this study encompassed the transition from AFDC to TANF, this term is used to avoid conceptual confusion.  Where a distinction between AFDC and TANF is necessary to articulate a change in policy, these more specific terms are used.

5.  In most cases, these employer focus groups were fairly representative of the employer community making the highest use of the One-Stop for hiring welfare clients.

Chapter 1: Five One-Stop Models

This study focuses on five local One-Stop models for its analysis. While these sites may not be the "five best One-Stop job center models" in the country, they were certainly considered among the best by their peers and other national associations and researchers at the time of site selection.

The five sites included are:

  • Workforce Development Center, Marshalltown, Iowa;
  • Kenosha County Job Center, Kenosha, Wisconsin;
  • Tarrant County Employment Network, Fort Worth, Texas;
  • Northwest Michigan JobNet, Traverse City, Michigan; and
  • Whatcom County NetWork Consortium, Bellingham, Washington.

These five selected locations work with most segments of the welfare population and have employed various methods and philosophies in providing service to this population. All have demonstrated some success at moving welfare recipients from cash assistance into work. Although not every useful aspect of the One-Stop concept can be captured by just five sites, these sites provide a broad spectrum of information and insight from which we can learn.

Site Selection

This project expands on work previously conducted for the Washington Employment Security Department (WESD) on national models for state one-stop-shop career center systems.(6) The selection of sites for in-depth analysis was aided by the information developed for the WESD project, which included a national review of one-stop-shop programs and in-depth field investigation and interviews with officials in Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin.(7) Additional information was also incorporated from U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) grants to 25 states, along with information available through phone interviews with analysts at the National Governor's Association, the National Association of Counties, and several other national organizations.(8)

This national scan was used to select five One-Stop models demonstrating success in providing employment and training programs to welfare clients. Three primary criteria were used for selecting the final sites for inclusion:

  • Focused on Welfare-to-Work: The site had to be actively and effectively working with the welfare population and getting them to work. Many One-Stops were established to address issues of local economic dislocation when major employers closed down operations, not welfare-to-work. As a result, this focus, though it is now increasing, was not present in all sites at the time of the study.
  • Established Track Record: One-Stop models had to have been established long enough to have demonstrated successful outcomes. Although the Department of Labor's One-Stop Initiative was launched in 1994, we quickly found out that relatively few states and local sites had One-Stop programs serving welfare clients for more than a few months by the fall of 1996, and most were still in some stage of start-up or transition.
  • Urban and Rural Diversity: We felt it imperative to include urban and rural models in order to reflect the diversity of welfare clients and different economic, social and institutional capacities and environments. Interestingly enough, most of the earliest models were located in small to medium-sized metropolitan areas where true collaboration among community institutions may be easier to achieve. As a result, the pool of large, urban models was much smaller than expected.  In addition to these three criteria, our selection was also guided, but ultimately not dictated by, the following secondary considerations:
  • DoL Implementation Funding: Although many states that received implementation funding from DoL were more advanced than others in their One-Stop systems, we intentionally looked for at least one site that did not receive this funding to better capture the range of approaches to the One-Stop concept.
  • Concentration of Welfare Clients: While we wanted to focus on service to welfare clients, we also wanted to understand how these clients were served in the context of a larger customer base. As a result, we may have excluded some sites with a proportionally very small welfare client base, but did not intentionally seek out sites with high concentrations of welfare clients.
  • Inclusion of Specific Services, Models or Methods: We did not limit our focus to a particular set of services in choosing sites. For us to decide what scope and method of service delivery we wanted to look at seemed counter-intuitive. If it was successful, then it was worth considering.
  • Geographic Distribution: Although we did keep geography in mind, we focused more on the urban/rural mix of sites than on the national distribution. A thorough geographic distribution is not possible with just five sites.
  • Previous Studies: We did not seek to exclude sites that had been the subject of previous studies and evaluations of One-Stops, largely because the questions we were focusing on, i.e., services for welfare clients, had not previously been examined in this context. One site did decline participation due to the fact that they were already being studied by three other federal and state agencies.  Staff from each of the organizations contacted provided valuable information about the progress of One-Stop systems in states as well as insight on which local models were working effectively with welfare clients.  From these conversations, twelve states emerged as the clear forerunners: Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In these states, we talked with state One-Stop contacts to get a clear sense of how the state structured their One-Stop system, how long their local sites had been in operation, and how interested they might be in participating in the study. State One-Stop officials were also helpful in identifying the local sites that were doing the best job of working with welfare clients. Based on these discussions, the five local sites were selected.

Brief Descriptions

Following is a short description of each of the five sites selected for study. Each description includes a summary of the state One-Stop and/or workforce system, the status of welfare reform, the local economy, the One-Stop model, its services and partners, and its data systems and budget. Additional information about each site is included in the Appendix.

Workforce Development Center, Marshalltown Iowa:

This Center is the collocation of seven agencies, including strong participation of the local community college, with oversight by a local Workforce Development Board. The welfare agency was intentionally not co-located with the Center. The Center serves a predominantly rural, four-county region with county satellite offices. Services and offices are partially integrated -- i.e., offices are clustered by program, program referrals are coordinated personally by staff, and the Resource Room is jointly staffed. Significant focus is placed on services to support community college education and training, despite recent declines in direct funding for education and training as part of Iowa's PROMISE JOBS program.

Kenosha County Job Center, Kenosha Wisconsin:

This Center offers one of the most integrated collocation models in the country, with a long list of state, county, non-profit and for-profit organizations co-located in a small shopping center. Applicants for welfare and other economic assistance benefits (Food Stamps, child care, health care, etc.) are assisted in the same reception area as all other Center users. Economic assistance, support services, job readiness, and job search are coordinated by case managers in interagency teams which work together in an open office arrangement. The Center serves this intermediate-sized urban location midway between Milwaukee and Chicago under the leadership of Kenosha County and the partners collocated there, with two satellite locations to serve rural portions of the county.

Tarrant County Resource Connection, Fort Worth Texas:

The Resource Connection offers a collocation model for 14 agencies in 12 buildings on a 92 acre campus near the South Campus of the Tarrant County Junior College and not far from several of the highest need areas of the county. The state welfare agency (not now co-located) is currently constructing offices on the campus, the former site of a state school for persons with mental retardation. Services are partially integrated with interagency collaboration aided by a state-of-the art data system for client intake, eligibility determination and referral, and case management that serves all partner agencies. Under the Texas JOBS Program, mandated work requirements were among the least restrictive of the sites examined, exempting parents with children under five years of age. Oversight is provided by an advisory board representing partner agencies, with the county taking the role as lead financial and management partner.

Northwest Michigan JobNet, Traverse City Michigan:

JobNet serves a predominantly rural, 10-county region on the south shore of Lake Michigan. Grand Traverse County is the primary urban center for a region that is emerging as a destination tourist location, but still suffers from structural changes in the automobile industry. The collocation model emerging at the central site in Traverse City brings together state employment services, JTPA, community college resources, and will soon include economic services (welfare) offices in a new facility. As in Marshalltown, services are partially integrated with offices clustered by program and program referrals handled personally. Outlying counties are currently served by four other sites, with an additional 3 sites anticipated. Oversight is provided by a local Workforce Development Board, with significant leadership by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments.

Whatcom County WorkNet Consortium, Bellingham Washington:

The WorkNet Consortium offers a "first stop" or "no wrong door" model of service integration for four partners in northwestern Washington. This model provides communications linkages for physically separate state employment services, economic services (including welfare), the area PIC, and technical and community colleges. Clients at any one of these sites can obtain information on and referral to the services in the rest of the system -- which also maintains a common Center for Workforce Training -- hence, the "first stop" or "no wrong door" concept. Unlike the other sites, the WorkNet Consortium did not have early funding from DoL, and was experiencing high unemployment relative to the national rate. At the time of our visit, Washington had not yet implemented its WorkFirst program and was in the midst of a short-lived attempt to tighten mandates for participation in the JOBS program under waivers from the federal law.

As these site summaries begin to illustrate, local institutional and economic circumstances, along with the evolutionary status of state welfare programs, can play a significant role in the design and focus of one-stop systems. As a result, it is important to pay close attention to these contextual factors as we assess the strengths and weaknesses of the different models.

Common Characteristics

All of the sites have a number of similar characteristics. Some of the similarities include similar origins of the initiative to create the One-Stop, a common set of core partners, programs and program elements, and a familiar set of personnel, space, technology, and state/local issues:

  • Origins: In each site visited, the creation of a One-Stop was one form of responding to a significant pattern or event of economic dislocation in the area or region's economy. The decline of the timber industry in Bellingham, the loss of the Chrysler plant in Kenosha, the loss of a major manufacturer in Marshalltown, the decline of the auto industry in Traverse City, and the closure of a state facility and military bases (along with the decline in the defense industry) in Fort Worth. In a few of these cases, these economic challenges provided the opportunity to pursue a One-Stop strategy that was already in progress, while in most, the crisis helped local leaders focus on the need for better integrated service delivery for employment and training services. In almost all cases, these efforts did not originate with the intent of boosting transitions from welfare to work, but with the goal of assisting dislocated workers to make successful career transitions out of declining industries.
  • Strong Local Economies: Despite the common origins in the dislocation of local economies, all of the One-Stop sites visited enjoyed strong economies at the time of the site visit. Unemployment rates for each location were well below the national average, with the exception of Bellingham, where unemployment was still well below previous peaks. In most cases, this meant that most of the resources of the One-Stop are now focused on welfare-to-work efforts and on assisting employers in employee recruitment.
  • Partners: Each One-Stop system has a minimum of four partners, although not all of them operate from a common location. These core partners include the state's primary employment services agency responsible for operating the federally mandated labor exchange, the local Private Industry Council or JTPA program service provider, the state or county agency responsible for operating the TANF program, and a local community or technical college. The one exception to this pattern is in Marshalltown, where the Department of Human Services has a working relationship with the Resource Center but is not co-located at the site or included in the Center's list of partners. In most cases, this partnership is mandated by state laws which frequently included other public agencies, although in all cases reviewed here, local One-Stop systems work closely with an even broader array of community-based organizations and other federal, state and local agencies than is required of them.
  • Programs: All of the One-Stop systems include a core set of federal programs, including JTPA, Wagner-Peyser labor exchange and employment services,(9) worker dislocation assistance, and JOBS. While the state or county agency responsible for operating the TANF program is, in all but one case, one of the core partners, TANF, Food Stamps, child care, and Medicaid programs were not typically administered as part of the One-Stop system. However, most sites also included several additional programs, several of which were targeted to special populations or designed around special circumstances or capacities in the local area.(10)
  • Welfare-to-Work Program Elements: All of the One-Stop systems have several common elements to their welfare-to-work programs, although in most cases, the design of these programs is in flux as each state implements TANF and, in most cases, additional state welfare reforms. In all cases, One-Stop welfare clients are treated to an orientation session and a workforce skills and barriers assessment (although this is changing some for states implementing a "work first" concept). Virtually all site managers considered this an important step, though some made greater use of assessment than others (see: Chapter 2, "Successful Program Elements"). Typically, clients are then directed toward some combination of job search, job readiness (using "job club" or job search skills workshops), GED or high school diploma completion, work experience, and/or life skills development.
  • Funding: The inclusion of several federally funded programs in the One-Stop systems results in some similarities in funding. In most cases, funds for workforce activities (JOBS and JTPA) tend to dominate other uses -- funding for Wagner-Peyser activities, though important, has dwindled, and most One-Stops interviewed indicated that they would have difficulty staffing their resource rooms without partner agency personnel. All but one (Bellingham) received start-up funding from DoL, and several received initial support to establish the One-Stop from local sources.
  • Personnel and Space Issues: Each of the One-Stop systems seeks to blend multiple personnel systems, some with collective bargaining agreements and some without, most with different pay scales and expectations about training, technology, and agency reporting requirements. Most, though not all of the One-Stops are in the midst of restructuring their physical space arrangements to achieve some greater level of integration or to improve service delivery. Three of the five sites were primary sites with similar, satellite facilities and outposts for serving less populated areas.
  • Technology and Database Issues: One-Stop systems invariably are struggling with efforts to use new technology to enhance job search and help integrate service delivery, regardless of location. In many cases, the principal issues revolve around shared access to data, state verses locally designed systems, and varying levels of staff comfort and skill among partners in working with computerized data systems. Most of the One-Stops that have developed their own data system have also experienced some difficulties blending their systems with state data systems and reporting requirements.
  • State/Local Issues: Each of the One-Stop sites visited is, or has been, a pioneer in the design of One-Stop employment services for that state. In most cases, much of the impetus and vision for the creation of these sites came from local community leaders, creating some ongoing tension between state agencies and local initiatives over issues of accountability and local control. These tensions typically focus on issues like data system design, performance measurements, and flexibility in interpreting program rules and regulations. In some cases, these tensions also arise from funding and job security issues, including declining caseloads, diminished funding, and state proposals for competitive bidding and the contracting out of employment services.

Major Differences

Several unique characteristics in each of the One-Stop systems underscore the diversity of local circumstances, capacities, and system designs. Differences in partnerships and integration, work requirements, data systems and funding reflect the variety of One-Stop responses to the welfare-to-work mandate. To some degree, the evolution of local One-Stop systems in the local economic, policy, and institutional environment is an ongoing, dynamic adjustment process, with different systems examined here illustrating different points on the learning curve. Major differences include:

  • Breadth of Partners: The number of state and local public and community-based agencies involved as partners in the different One-Stop systems ranges from 4 (Bellingham) to 18 (Kenosha). Both Tarrant County and Traverse City report 14 partners, while Marshalltown has 7 partner agencies. Those sites with high numbers of partners typically reflect the unique character and capacities of the site: in Traverse City, three different community colleges from the 10-county service area are included as partners, while in Tarrant County, several partners are providers of health care that are often not typically associated with One-Stop systems. Three of the sites (Marshalltown, Kenosha, and Tarrant County) have partnerships with community-based organizations, and only one site (Kenosha) has incorporated for-profit partners as part of their One-Stop system. Vocational rehabilitation agencies are partners in three of the five sites, and in some cases, this partnership has been reluctant and ultimately the result of state mandates.
  • Site and Service Integration: The level of integration of partners and services varies considerably. For example, in Bellingham, services are integrated by referral and coordination by system partners, but these services are often delivered in multiple locations by individual partners. Services for welfare clients in Bellingham, Marshalltown, Traverse City and Tarrant County all require referrals from economic assistance officials located in a separate facility. In the cases of Bellingham and Marshalltown, this separation is by design, while in the cases of Traverse City and Tarrant County, site changes currently in progress will bring welfare caseworkers on site. Kenosha offers the highest level of site and service integration, with TANF and other economic assistance services located on-site, and caseworkers from multiple partners working in the same space as a team. Several sites staff their resource rooms, available to all clients, with personnel from partners located on site.
  • Data Systems: The quality of data systems, and access to them, also varies among the One-Stop systems studied. Tarrant County's new, state of the art data system was developed by a private vendor, linking each of the 14 partners on its 92-acre campus. Intake can be accomplished via a user-friendly system at any computer terminal, and intake data is then automatically evaluated for potential eligibility for other programs on campus, allowing the caseworker to enable other partners to gain access to the appropriate client data (with confidentiality safeguards specific to each program). Kenosha has been perfecting its facility-wide data systems for 9 years, with an emphasis on using them to generate management level data to track client flows and program performance. Data sharing for client services is not an issue with the co-location of multi-agency teams. Traverse City's state Employment Security staff developed a common data system for case management that is being carefully introduced to other partner agencies, and adapted for use on a statewide basis. Bellingham has been using an earlier generation of the Tarrant County data system, but without state authorization to allow direct access to files across agency lines, diminishing the data system's usefulness as a tool for improving communications and coordination.
  • Work Requirements: Most of the states visited were tightening work requirements for TANF recipients. However, there were still a few variations that seemed to have significant implications. For example, in Texas, single parents with children under age 4 were exempt from work requirements, resulting in what appeared to be a significantly lower demand for employment services. By contrast, in Iowa, only parents with children under 6 months of age are exempt, while in Wisconsin, parents with children under 12 months were exempt at the time of our visit. The exemption window in Michigan was only 12 weeks, the same as what Wisconsin and Washington have moved to during the past year. Although it is difficult to draw a causal relationship based on observation, caseloads and the level of activity within the One-Stop central locations appeared to be higher in states with more stringent work requirements. Work requirements appeared to place greater strains on child care capacity in all sites, including Tarrant County where both child care capacity and work requirements were at lower levels.
  • Training Focus: Emphasis on providing training for welfare clients varied more than expected. Marshalltown places probably the greatest current emphasis on training, frequently using JTPA funds to provide transportation and child care services to recipients pursuing two-year degrees at the community college; some limited state funds and Pell grants are used to finance tuition at two- and four-year institutions. Kenosha focuses on GED or high school completion, employing a mix of intensive assessment and (for-profit) adult education services. Bellingham had probably the strongest training focus during the time frame for data collection, but at the time of our site visit they were rapidly shifting to a WorkFirst approach, rather than a "training first" approach, which is fairly consistent with the approach of Traverse City. Connecting welfare recipients with training on an ongoing basis after finding employment appears to be a challenge for all One-Stop systems, due largely to the demands on a working single parent's time and the lack of funding for child care, tuition and off-hours training opportunities.
  • Learning Curve: It is quite clear that each of the sites reviewed is at a somewhat different level of development. Kenosha has been developing its program and facility for 9 years, and still had not completed all of the space redesign when we conducted our site visit. Traverse City had been in operation for a few years, but still had yet to integrate all of its partners. Tarrant County was still fairly recent to its site, and has yet to incorporate their human services agency. Marshalltown has not been in operation long, but seems to have well established itself within the community. In most cases, One-Stop systems have moved beyond the old "gatekeeper" model for delivering employment services, and are beginning to provide self-service opportunities that improve access for more employers and job seekers and reserve labor intensive assistance for clients with special needs. Clearly, the development of a One-Stop can require anywhere from 3 to 5 years to bring partners together and to begin working through many of the coordination and joint operating challenges. It does not happen overnight, and even some of the best are still refining their approach after nearly 10 years.

Over time, it is likely that some of these differences will dissipate as innovations in data systems become more widespread and local centers move up the learning curve. However, differences in the breadth of partnerships and level of service integration are likely to persist, both within and across states. The differences among local areas within states will reflect the natural variation in the strength and depth of the institutional capacities and levels of need in each local area; they may also depend to some degree on the local flexibility allowed by different states. For example, one area may have special work and housing search services for farm workers while another may have special language-based services for legal immigrants. Some areas may have strong relationships with community colleges while others work more closely with the local K-12 school system. These differences might also not mean that different groups necessarily receive different levels of services, but they may receive their services in different ways.

Differences in partners may persist due to the unique characteristics of state and local policy and politics. In most cases, these differences may persist across states, due to differing levels of state control of local variation and contracting arrangements -- which are subject to a host of historical and political factors that reach far beyond just the issue of One-Stop Job Centers. For example, state control of welfare and employment services in one state such as Washington may result in different partners and levels of integration than in other states where welfare administration is subject to greater local control and variation, such as Wisconsin.

For these reasons, it is unrealistic to expect that a single One-Stop model will be appropriate for all localities. Similarly, it would be too simplistic to assume that all One-Stop Centers will be able to provide the same level or quality of services.


1.  Note that our goal was to highlight promising practices in One-Stop Centers and therefore the sites we selected and the people interviewed should not be considered a random or representative sample.

2.  Milwaukee is a good example of the first of these circumstances, Boston the second, and Renton (Seattle metropolitan area) the third.

3.  JOBS was the parallel employment and training program for AFDC clients.

4.  Note that the term "welfare" is used in this report as being synonymous with Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF).  Because the timeframe for this study encompassed the transition from AFDC to TANF, this term is used to avoid conceptual confusion.  Where a distinction between AFDC and TANF is necessary to articulate a change in policy, these more specific terms are used.

5.  In most cases, these employer focus groups were fairly representative of the employer community making the highest use of the One-Stop for hiring welfare clients.

6.  Robert Watrus, Emily Torkelson, and Elizabeth Flynn, One Stop Career Center Systems:  Lessons from the Field, Northwest Policy Center, Graduate School of Public Affairs, University of Washington, April 1996.

7.  The national review also included careful consideration of programs in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, and Texas.

8.  These included the Welfare Information Network, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, Interstate Conference of Employment Security Agencies, American Public Welfare Association. and the National Center on Education and the Economy.

9.  Wagner-Peyser programs are those labor exchange and employment services mandated by federal law and funded by DoL. These include the posting of job openings and job counseling and referral for job seekers.

10.  For example, the Marshalltown Resource Center includes the American Indian Council JTPA Program, while the Kenosha Job Center includes the United Migrant Opportunity Service.

Chapter 2: Successful Models and Program Elements

In many respects, all of the models reviewed by this study can be considered successful. They have established a new set of program and community relationships for using new technology and limited public resources to help welfare recipients find work. For veterans of social service and employment and training programs, this is no small accomplishment. However, "success" is frequently an elusive term, and in this context it requires some further definition.

Success in the context of this assessment of One-Stop models is intended to imply achievement of two objectives. First, it implies a service delivery system that meets the needs of families who seek help with employment barriers, and does not turn them away or let them slip through the cracks. Second, it implies a service delivery system that improves the prospects for a family to become self-sufficient, rather than simply lower caseloads by moving TANF recipients into low-wage work with little prospect for upward mobility.

While this assessment is not designed to definitively measure success, it is intended to identify some of the model design and programmatic elements that might lead to success, based on early observations and measurable patterns in client flows and outcomes. This section summarizes the authors' conclusions regarding the potential for success in the models reviewed, based on their observations and interviews with staff, clients, and employers.

Successful Models

It is important to note that in our national scan for successful models, we found very few One-Stop systems that had been operating for a period of time in large urban areas. Most of those that we did find were either overshadowed in their purported success by other sites within the same state, were simply too new to be usefully assessed, or did not sufficiently focus their services on welfare recipients.(11) Our sample of One-Stop models thus contains only one system in a major metropolitan area, Tarrant County (Fort Worth).

We infer from this experience that the One-Stop concept may be easier to implement, and in some cases, more appropriate to smaller metropolitan areas and rural business centers.  In many of these areas, One-Stop models may have emerged in part because it is easier to identify the appropriate institutions and resources for inclusion and exercise local leadership, without the complex systems and often overlapping constituencies and politics associated with human services in larger urban areas. However, the difficulty in establishing a One-Stop system may not reflect on the system's success, once established. As a result, it simply may be necessary to wait longer to evaluate the success of the One-Stop model in major urban labor markets.

In all of the sites visited, it was clear that established One-Stop systems have all had to address a similar set of challenges. Inclusion of partners, co-location or coordinated system approach, technology and data systems, facility management, contracting out -- all of these issues must be addressed and agreed to by multiple agencies for the One-Stop to be successful. To some degree, the "success" of a local One-Stop may depend on how long it has been working at resolving these issues, allowing the system to evolve as institutions and partners learn from their interaction and adapt to changes in federal and state policies and programs.

  • Service Integration and the Retention of Clients: Generally, it appeared that the greater the level of service integration, the better the One-Stop was able to retain clients after orientation. Of the five One-Stop models examined, the Kenosha County Job Center has been in operation the longest and has achieved the greatest service integration. With on-site registration for TANF and combined orientation to TANF and JOBS, the Job Center has minimized the potential for clients to slip through the cracks and fail to receive the service they need. Of course, some families are served via one-time diversion assistance, while others are able to secure other economic support services such as Food Stamps, health care, and/or child care assistance at the same facility. Still, nearly half of potential clients choose not to show up for the orientation, although the fall-off rate drops considerably after the orientation.

    This pattern is not uncommon in the other models, and may be even more pronounced when clients register for TANF at one location and are then referred to the One-Stop for employment related services. In Marshalltown and Bellingham, the decision to separate the location of these services was intentional. Site managers emphasized the need to be clear that the purpose of the One-Stop was to emphasize the employment objective, and to avoid confusing the message about why clients were there. In Bellingham, staff noted that the lack of co-location creates a "teachable moment," i.e., an opportunity to help clients develop the skills for getting from place to place. Marshalltown site managers estimated that roughly 40 percent of TANF referrals to PROMISE JOBS have been through the process before but dropped out.

    Both Tarrant County and Traverse City have plans to co-locate with their respective TANF administrative agencies, thus increasing the level of integration between welfare and employment services available through the One-Stop. While these moves are not seen as a panacea, managers at both sites felt that the difficulties in coordinating employment services for their TANF clients could be eased through co-location, and they were looking forward to including economic services case workers in their data networks.

  • Welfare vs. Employment Services: Co-location of welfare and employment services seems to offer significant net benefits for TANF clients and may improve relationships with welfare caseworkers. Some of the most negative comments by current and previous One-Stop welfare clients were reserved for TANF/economic services case workers in sites where these services were not co-located. TANF clients frequently contrasted the services they received at the One-Stop as supportive, encouraging, and customer friendly as compared with the more hostile environment of the welfare office. This contrast is not entirely surprising given that TANF caseworkers are tasked with the responsibility of determining the availability and amount of cash benefits. However, in most cases, One-Stop case workers have an equally unpopular task, that of sanctioning or reporting for sanction those welfare clients who have failed to meet their work requirements. This suggests that the need to play the role of benefit gatekeeper does not completely explain why One-Stop caseworkers seem to have a better relationship with their clients compared to TANF caseworkers.

    The contrast between client perceptions of welfare and employment case workers was not entirely absent in Kenosha, but was dramatically lower. Case workers and clients talked openly of their efforts to work through other staff members of a given service delivery team to ease tensions and work out solutions to the benefit of clients. These discussions reinforce what appear to be significant benefits from co-location with the TANF agency, namely an improvement in relations between welfare case workers and their clients, fewer opportunities for clients to fall between the cracks, and an improvement, or at least a perceived improvement in the quality of client service.

    In some respects, co-location can be thought of as the sharing of political or institutional capital of employment agencies with welfare agencies. The symbolism of applying for TANF benefits at the Job Center may have a net positive value for welfare recipients and the general public. By contrast, we saw no evidence of any negative stigma associated with co-location for traditional, non-welfare clients of employment service agencies. This issue is often raised as a potential concern, especially with organized labor constituencies of employment service agencies, but it is clearly the belief of the Kenosha managers that there is no negative stigma associated with seeking employment services in the same location where welfare clients receive services. Of course, the potential for this negative association is also diminished by the use of call centers to administer Unemployment Insurance benefits - which Wisconsin had fully implemented and other states were moving toward. In Bellingham, the staff noted that co-location would probably be to the benefit of TANF clients, especially younger clients.

  • Achieving Self-Sufficiency: It is not clear that any of the One-Stop models reviewed has had the resources to reliably expect that clients will achieve self-sufficiency. The experiences of the five One-Stop models is mixed in terms of improving the prospects of welfare families for achieving self-sufficiency. Most of the tracking information kept by these systems rarely goes beyond required 90-day follow-ups for JTPA and JOBS participants, hardly long enough to capture the long term self-sufficiency prospects for participants. None of the models has developed a follow-up prevention strategy to help families avoid returning to welfare, or to actively connect them to ongoing education and training activities once they leave JOBS and stop collecting welfare benefits. Several managers lamented the lack of resources for such efforts, while others noted the difficulties facing many single parents trying to pursue ongoing skill development when current wages and support programs are barely sufficient to make ends meet now.

    Nonetheless, informal ongoing support does take place as the personal bonds between clients and employment services staff are retained. In many cases, these are relationships developed over the course of several months, often when a client is completing an education or training program, working part time, and continuing to receive cash assistance. In rural communities and relatively small metropolitan areas, it is not difficult to maintain these relationships over time, but may be much more difficult in larger urban areas.

    While each of the One-Stop programs emphasizes the need for clients to develop a career plan, the philosophy and approach to implementing that plan varies considerably. For example, in Traverse City and Bellingham, clients are typically urged to "take a job, any job" and work their way up from there. In Marshalltown, case workers are emphatic in insisting that clients set their own goals, and then worked with them to help make their goals realistic and to chart a path toward them -- a path which frequently includes community college training. In Kenosha, labor market data systems (using touch screen technology) are used to help clients develop a realistic understanding of the opportunities in the local market, but they are urged to apply only for the jobs they want. Employment specialists there argue that this approach helps boost job retention, and in a tight labor market it is a viable option for many clients. Each of these strategies can create a path to long term self-sufficiency, though it is not at all clear which is the most effective, or appropriate to the individual circumstance.

Promising Program Elements

There are several promising program elements among the five One-Stop models. While the excellence of each of these elements may not imply overall program effectiveness, they do tend to help illustrate some of the activities being done well in the context of the One-Stop concept. Some highlights include:

  • In-Depth Assessment and Adult Education: Despite the current disfavor of assessment within the national policy community, Kenosha has developed an individualized, in-depth approach to skills and labor market assessment and education that seems particularly effective. Assessment typically lasts about 9 to 15 hours over the course of a two to three week motivational program; assessments are conducted in a classroom/lab facility, typically involving a variety of physical and written test instruments.(12) For clients who need a high school degree or GED, a customized curriculum is then developed, allowing clients to focus on their specific weaknesses. As a result, some clients are able to earn a high school diploma in as little as three weeks, where three months ago they would have been reluctant to try. The success of this program appears to depend on the customized curriculum for each individual client. Both the assessment and education enterprises are run by private, for-profit entities co-located within the One-Stop. Although Wisconsin's new W-2 program calls for eliminating assessment as a specific step in the process, Job Center officials indicated their hope to continue using assessment tools - possibly under a different name. They even hope to use increased flexibility with other funds to open these services up to a wider group of clients coming into their resource room.
  • Employer Outreach and One-Stop Design: In Traverse City, One-Stop managers actively solicited the suggestions and advice of the local business community in the original design of the One-Stop. This input focused on setting up the reception area and resource room for job seekers and employers. Ongoing meetings with this group of employers (which includes the human resource managers from some of the larger local companies) give One-Stop managers a chance to get informal feedback on their assessment, training and referral programs and help them keep abreast of developments within the employer community. These contacts also help keep the door open for contacts and requests from One-Stop case managers.
  • The Data System Linkage: Tarrant County's new data system is more than just a centralized mechanism for storing files, it is expected to form a communications system that allows case workers to communicate with each other, reducing paperwork and the number of phone calls and unproductive appointments necessary to line up multiple services for clients. Traverse City's experience with shared systems of this kind suggests the potential for freeing up some of the time that case workers must spend dealing with administrative issues, allowing them to provide more one-on-one services.
  • American Indian Council: Marshalltown includes the American Indian Council as one of it's partners, providing employment services for the Misquake Tribe in eastern Iowa. This DoL funded employment and training program has thrived in the context of the One-Stop environment, expanding referral and work experience opportunities for tribe members while providing an additional resource to serve a key population in this largely rural region.
  • Work Experience Access to Jobs: Clients and former clients in Bellingham emphasized the value of work experience positions in developing the confidence, skills, and job references necessary to land paying positions in similar fields. In focus groups at each of the sites, clients and former clients reported consistently positive experiences in work experience positions. Some of these positions were within partner agencies, while others were designed to help clients pursue their career interests.
  • Project Self-Sufficiency Program: One small, pilot program in Bellingham worked with single mothers to provide child care, case management support, and skill training in a limited selection of fields (office/clerical, certified nurse assistant, or industrial sewing) at the Bellingham Technical College. Our focus group with former TANF clients included a couple of program graduates who reported excellent employment outcomes, although at the time of our site visit, it did not look likely that recent TANF reforms would allow the pilot to continue. Client comments emphasized the benefits of lower caseloads and peer group support. Similar, targeted programs have been used at some of the other One-Stop sites. For example, Marshalltown works with the community college and a large nursing facility to provide certified nurse assistant (CNA) training, work experience, and employment.
  • Personal Relationships and Self-Confidence: As noted in the previous section, clients frequently noted how employment services workers would show a personal interest in the client's circumstance. Straight talk about personal habits, assistance with an interview wardrobe, one-on-one counseling or help in dealing with a household crisis -- acts of friendship which helped build self-confidence and self-esteem were some of the most powerful motivators for clients. Kenosha's Excel program, a three week motivational workshop that is scheduled around assessment and other early "work-related activities," was the only formal motivational program that received repeated praise from clients.

The degree to which these individual elements contribute to job retention and long term self-sufficiency remains unclear. Nonetheless, it was clear in discussions with clients and former clients that many of these elements played a critical role in their positive experiences within the One-Stop environment.

Remaining Challenges

This section is intended to identify some of the pitfalls raised in the focus groups, rather than serve as a laundry list of criticisms. Some of these pitfalls are common to all or most of the sites visited:

  • Location and Transportation: Young families who have been living under welfare rules that limit the amount of assets that can be held, such as the value of the family car, are poorly equipped to search for or retain work in rural or suburban locations. For many of these families, the location of the One-Stop, the location of work opportunities, the location of child care, the location of the doctor's office -- all of these can affect the success of a transition from welfare to work. In Tarrant County, the current One-Stop site was the result of a countywide effort to respond to the closure of a state school and make the best use of the facility. As a result, employment services were relocated from a more urban site to the current site which is located near an industrial park at the urban periphery, with only one bus line for public transit access. In Marshalltown, some clients drive as much as 50 or 60 miles one way to attend job club meetings, although the One-Stop staff also "ride the circuit" visiting the Center's outpost facilities once a week in each of the four counties in order to maintain contact with clients. Many of these rural clients must choose between lower-paying and less-skilled jobs closer to home and better opportunities that require a much longer commute. A similar pattern exists in Traverse City, where resort real estate prices in the city itself tend to drive welfare recipients into rural areas in search of affordable housing.(13) While JTPA funds are frequently used to fund gas and public transportation costs, several clients and managers suggested that small grants for auto repair would be one of the most useful tools in boosting job retention.
  • Child Care Funding, Availability, and Scheduling: Many of the clients expressed frustrations in dealing with child care, although in most instances, they had found a way to work with the subsidies provided. The most complaints were about availability and scheduling of part time child care and child care during the evenings and odd hours. This is of particular concern to job seekers looking for entry level work with employers that have second, third, or swing shifts where entry level workers typically start. Transportation issues can compound this difficulty as well.
  • Job Retention: As noted previously, none of the One-Stop models have well-developed strategy for helping clients retain their employment. As several case workers pointed out, virtually all clients are employable, but not all are capable of remaining employed. Some of the issues around job retention may be more tractable than others. For example, making arrangements for doctors visits and medical care for a chronically ill child may be problematic, but easier for a One-Stop staff to contend with than ongoing mental health or substance abuse problems.
  • Substance Abuse: One of the most frequently noted reasons for poor job retention by employers were issues of alcohol and substance abuse. Questions about how these difficulties were dealt with were raised with staff in each One-Stop site, yet very few case managers seemed to be particularly experienced in contending with these issues. In some cases, case workers felt the clients frequently did a good job in masking these issues when present at the One-Stop, but generally case workers seemed unprepared for confronting and contending with clients with substance abuse problems.
  • Ongoing Education and Training: Also noted previously was the lack of ongoing efforts to help former clients further their education and training. While it is understandable that young, working families have little time or money to pursue this option, its critical role in helping these families move to full self-sufficiency should not be overlooked. One alternative strategy might be to assist former clients look for opportunities to find better paying work, or an employer that offers more training opportunities, once the client has developed a track record and some skills in their first job. However, an active strategy in this regard may prove to be unwelcome in the employer community, and the availability of resources to assist clients who are successfully employed were quite limited in all sites.

Local Initiatives and State Systems

All of the sites visited are to some degree pioneers of the One-Stop concept within their state employment systems. In most cases, the design and emergence of the local One-Stop has more to do with local initiatives than with any redesign efforts initiated at the state level. In some instances, these model sites have been useful to state officials in structuring elements of their approach to One-Stop systems. In others, systems developed locally don't always match the designs subsequently developed by the state.

  • Response to Local Crises: Most of the local One-Stop initiatives were developed in response to significant, local economic crises when a major employer or industry either shut down operations or permanently laid off large numbers of workers. In some cases, such as Kenosha and Tarrant County, the local response was initiated by the chief executive in county government. In others, such as Bellingham and Marshalltown, the response came from the local PIC or workforce development board. In Traverse City, the response was more at the regional level, spearheaded by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. In most cases, representatives of the partner agencies spoke highly of the vision of the founding site manager as a driving force. In some instances, difficult political decisions and third party facilitation were necessary to overcome institutional resistance to the One-Stop concept. For example, in Kenosha, the county executive replaced the PIC leadership in order to gain its cooperation in establishing the Kenosha County Job Center.
  • Local Pioneers and State Initiatives: In some cases the local One-Stops were actually established before the state created its state system for integrating employment services. For example, the client information system developed by Traverse City was used as the prototype for the development of Michigan's statewide system. In Kenosha, a well developed local data system has led local officials to continue to press state officials to adopt better performance measures. At the same time, the PIC in the Kenosha area has been reluctant to reorganize itself under the state's expectations of a regional workforce development board. In at least one other site, state expectations about One-Stop partnerships have not always meshed well with established local sites. For example, the vocational rehabilitation community has in some areas been reluctant to participate despite mandates. This reluctance is typically based on concerns about the loss of agency identity and infrastructure designated to serve this specific population. In addition, some partnerships are not considered as politically or institutionally viable at the local level as they are at the state level -- this was considered to be the case for organized labor in at least one instance.
  • Local Flexibility: Most One-Stop managers expressed some concern about their freedom to experiment and attempt innovative approaches to delivering employment services, particularly as states develop their own systems. In most cases, local managers expressed support for federal block grant proposals for employment systems, and noted that states would also do well to avoid imposing categorical or absolute system requirements on the design of local One-Stops as well. In many respects, the tensions between state and local institutions are quite similar to those between federal and state agencies, and local agencies are often asking for the same kind of flexibility from states as the states are asking of the federal government.
  • State vs. Local Service Delivery Systems: Tensions between state and local agencies seem to persist regardless of whether the primary responsibility for administering human and employment services resides with state agencies or is shared with local governments. For example, in Washington and Michigan, both human services and employment services are administered by state agencies, with JTPA programs administered at the local level via the PIC (as in most areas). For the model One-Stops examined in these states, constructive interaction between state agency personnel at the local level has been critical to integrating employment services, yet achieving that level of communication and coordination at the state level has proven difficult. Some of the rigidity in fostering collaboration between these stovepipe state agencies may be due to the range of other services they offer, such as Unemployment Insurance (UI), that may not be considered essential to the One-Stop. However, even in Wisconsin, where UI claims are handled by phone via separate call centers and the county government has responsibility for administering TANF and other food, child care, and medical assistance, local flexibility in the design of One-Stop systems is still constrained by the state.
  • Contracting Out: In Texas and Iowa, state workforce development agencies have continued to actively entertain notions of contracting out for the provision of employment services at the regional or local area, typically under the assumption that these contracts would exert competitive pressures that would improve efficiencies and lower costs. While sufficient community capacity may exist in some urban areas to make "competition" a viable option, most smaller metropolitan and rural areas do not have duplicative capacities. As a result, contracting for services typically means that many of the same people end up delivering the services under a different organizational arrangement, such as for JTPA services in Marshalltown. In Tarrant County, most of the workforce services are contracted out to public and nonprofit entities. In nearby Dallas, most of these services are contracted out to private corporations. In both of these models, contracting out does not seem to result in parallel systems that compete head-to-head, but in new organizational arrangements of the existing labor supply and other local resources. It is unclear whether these alternative organizational configurations actually result in improved service quality and/or reduced costs.

    In Kenosha, where many services are contracted out to for-profit and non-profit organizations, it is useful to note that these arrangements generally grew out of the need to find a way of delivering the desired services, rather than from any theoretical assumptions about market forces and competition. For example, assessment work is done by a separate firm, and adult education services are provided by a for-profit organization formed by former staff of a larger non-profit community organization that had been running the program when it ran into financial difficulty, necessitating termination of the contract. The community college did bid on this service, but did not offer comparable service at a competitive price. In the case of this particular service, the delivery of service appears to be highly efficient and effective.

Other Institutional Factors

Several other institutional factors may contribute to the success or failure of a One-Stop, including shared systems administration, common technologies, budgeting, and differing pay scales and collective bargaining agreements.

  • Shared Systems Administration: Those One-Stop models that are highly integrated have typically developed a method of overhead charges to support shared systems, including everything from space and janitorial services to computer and data system capital costs and maintenance. Policies on these charges are generally worked out by the executive management team representing the major partner agencies, and administered by the managing agency. In Kenosha, for example, the facility lease is financed by the County through a contract with Goodwill Industries, and the physical space and administrative systems are managed under contract by a for-profit management firm headed by the One-Stop manager. In Tarrant County, the County owns the property and has responsibility for managing the administrative systems, with the Resource Connection Executive Director employed by the County. It should be noted that these shared data systems do require considerable design and training prior to effective operation in order to ensure system-wide understanding of the codes, measures and terminology used.
  • Technology: The importance of technology in the success of a One-Stop should not be underestimated. Easy to use, customer-friendly touch screen systems for labor market information and labor exchange registration and use are vital to encouraging the kind of self-service anticipated in the inverted pyramid model of service delivery.(14) These technologies improve the capacity of multiple agencies to staff the resource room, facilitating cross-training and staff appreciation of the broad array of resources available through partner agencies. Where a common data system is introduced, careful attention to the level of computer literacy in different partner agencies is necessary for training staff on the new system and getting them to use it effectively.
  • Consolidated Budgets: Of the five One-Stop models examined, only Kenosha had anything that remotely resembled a consolidated budget statement for the activities of the One-Stop. Most sites seemed unable, or unwilling, to prepare such a budget, which we would attribute to the lack of full integration of programs and services. The Kenosha budget (illustrated below), suggests quite clearly that the bulk of the funding for the activities at the Kenosha County Job Center goes to support human services, rather than employment services. This pattern may vary from site to site, with higher numbers for employment services in those systems where unemployment insurance claims are also processed at the One-Stop site, such as in Marshalltown or Traverse City. Nonetheless, these funding proportions reflect the general tightness of the labor market and the resulting emphasis on welfare-to-work rather than economic dislocation -- a very different focus for One-Stop job centers than when they were first conceived. However, the lack of consolidated budgets illustrates the fact that in all but the most integrated systems, the partner agencies continue to operate on a collaborative basis rather than as an integrated system.

Kenosha County Job Center -- Consolidated Budget

Program Annual Budget
JOBS Program $3,728,820
Economic Support Administration $3,163,391
Child Support $1,369,936
Prevention Services $1,078,064
Food Stamp Employment and Training $1,050,000
Senior Aides $410,000
Wisconsin Job Service $367,000
PIC-JTPA $360,000
Fraud Prevention $332,762
United Migrant Opportunity Service $60,000
Total $11,919,973

  • Multiple Collective Bargaining Units: In some of the One-Stop sites assessed, it was not uncommon for employees to be represented under several different collective bargaining agreements, while others were employed without representation and/or under contract. Given the overlapping design of some responsibilities in a One-Stop system, such as the staffing of a resource room, multiple agreements and different levels of coverage have the potential for raising several issues about roles and responsibilities in the workplace. However, none of the managers indicated that this was an unmanageable challenge, but simply that it was another issue that required careful negotiation and management attention. In one of the more integrated sites, one public manager noted that he had a higher rate of grievances filed at the One-Stop than in other operations, but this may be more a reflection of the diversity of the agency's other operations than a reflection on the One-Stop work environment.
  • Wage Disparities: In the focus groups held with One-Stop staff, it became clear that for most sites there were considerable wage disparities between different agency personnel. In some of these sites, these differences did not appear to the staff to match differences in caseloads or the difficulty of cases. Staff acknowledged that in some sites, these disparities caused some tensions, while in other sites, staff from different agencies had little awareness of the disparities that did exist. In most cases where wage or workload disparities were an issue, staff reported that they had been reasonably successful in working through the tensions at the staff level, although in most cases there remained some level of discomfort with the realities of these compensation differentials. This did not appear to be an issue that had been raised or addressed to any degree at the management level.

President for the Day

In each of the focus groups, participants were encouraged to offer their suggestions for improving the welfare and employment systems as part of the closing dialogue. Participants would ask what changes they would make if they were appointed "President-for-the-Day" with special powers over Congress and the states. What additional help could be provided, rules changed, or emphasis shift would make these two systems work better individually and together? This question provided focus group participants an opportunity to talk about both what worked for them (and hence, more is needed) and what didn't work for them. This question provoked a number of heated discussions, thoughtful comments, laughter, and affirmations of the One-Stop concept.

Responses reported here are grouped by the type of focus group. Surprisingly, few participants in any of the groups called for dramatic spending increases in costly programs, major shifts in policy, or significant changes in work requirements. Instead, participants generally offered specific, relatively modest suggestions for improvements:

  • Management: Several concerns were raised by managers that focused on two primary areas: expanding resources and interagency coordination, primarily at the state level. Perhaps the most common concern was to provide more support for training activities, both up-front and on-going. As one manager put it, "I'd like to have more funding to add several specific skill training modules, and the programmatic authority to carry it out without pushing people into the labor market with so few skills." The lack of funding or programmatic basis to continue education and training for those who are successful in finding work and getting off of welfare troubled several managers. Increasing program flexibility with current funding -- especially the development of a federal block grant for employment and training programs -- appealed to most of the participating managers. A few felt that state agencies needed to hear the same message. Several expressed frustration with the clash of cultures between state agencies.
  • Staff: Focus groups with caseworkers, employment specialists, and other line staff within the One-Stop systems tended to focus on the increasing difficulties of helping those who remain on TANF rolls as caseloads decline. While caseloads vary from agency to agency within a given One-Stop, in most locations it was clear that improving economies with declining caseloads, an increasing proportion of those TANF recipients still receiving assistance are having serious difficulties securing and retaining employment. In many cases, these families have multiple problems that case managers are unable to address in the context of the program due to lack of resources for ongoing assistance. Some felt that more on-the-job training and work experience opportunities were needed. Staff did note the lack of funds for intensive workshops, transportation assistance, and follow-up (other than the JTPA 90-day tracking follow-up). At most sites, line staff felt that too many program rules and procedures are set at the state level, sometimes requiring enforcement when it is not in the best interests of the client and overall program objectives: "Allow local communities to establish the outcomes to promote customer satisfaction."
  • Current Participants: The number one change that current TANF participants wanted to see in "the system" was an effective reform of child support - they really want to see the welfare system make absent fathers pay. In many cases, current TANF participants saw their dependence on TANF as the direct result of the failure of the child support system. The second most pressing concern was about child care - how much, where and when - with many participants expressing particular frustration about the lack of part time and swing shift child care or care for children with special medical needs. Transportation problems also ranked high on the list. Several noted the importance of "full service" assistance from case managers and employment counselors who took extra one-on-one time to help with wardrobe, hygiene, transportation, child care, and the other logistical challenges associated with finding and keeping a job. Assistance with what would seem like incidental problems, especially car repair, often was seen as a personal investment that provided additional motivation to the recipient. A few urged greater attention to transitional benefits to ensure that clients about to make it don't get dropped through the cracks. Although none of the participants expressed a specific desire to see changes in the work requirements, some noted concerns about exhausting benefits, while others were concerned with work requirements for pregnant women, given employer's reluctance to hire them. Several stated that they wanted to see a benefit cut-off for "system abusers," but had few specific suggestions for making such a cut-off operational. These opinions seemed to reflect a concern about stigmatizing public assistance and to some degree, a certain intolerance or lack of appreciation of others' circumstances. In a few cases, participants voiced frustration at being expected to "take a job, any job" rather than being allowed more time to develop skills and look for a more desirable job in terms of skill, potential, and wages.
  • Former Participants: Views of former participants echoed those of the current participants in many respects. Many current participants and most former participants found the work requirements distasteful at first, but after getting into it, they were frequently quite grateful for "the push." More than one noted that the work requirement was "...the best thing that ever happened to me, I am so much happier now..." A few suggested that non-custodial parents be given the same work requirements and employment services. Some felt that lower caseload rates would help provide the one-on-one assistance they found most important. Others noted that it would be helpful to have a little more flexibility on work hours and give counselors more discretion (rather than have them exercise it without the authority.) Most former participants said that in order for them to continue pursuing education and training now that they are working, it would require One-Stops and training programs to be available at night, with child care, in order for them to surmount the logistics. Many of these workers are single parents, who need to spend time with their children, and have to worry about the logistics of dinner and homework, not to mention having the energy level to try and upgrade their skills at the same time. As a result, very few former participants had continued their skill development after leaving the program (outside of work,) and most sites had very few resources to assist them. Some comments focused on employers and the need for more jobs at higher wages, including increasing the minimum wage. These comments generally support the need to connect these workers with jobs and/or employers that can offer them a career ladder of wage progression that is attached to training they receive on the job, rather than separate, stand-along programs.
  • Employers: Employers who actively hire from the One-Stop labor pool were pretty clear about what they thought would work. First, most wanted a single point of contact with employment related agencies where they could post an opening. Employers in some sites were quite satisfied that they were receiving this service, while others reported posting job listings with as many as six different public agencies or schools. Second, most were quite willing to train new hires if they were job ready and reasonably motivated - most said they were not looking for subsidies, just reliable workers, although a few argued for incentives. Many expressed concerns about basic job readiness, i.e., familiarity with the work environment and work ethic, and a few wanted improved screening of participants for substance abuse problems prior to referral. Many expressed satisfaction with the programs and the hires they had made, and a few (typically nursing facilities and sheltered workshops) were actively collaborating with One-Stop partners to link training and employment opportunities for TANF recipients. In one location, employers suggested a performance driven federal block grant available at the local level. In general, employers were well aware of the shortcomings of the child care system -- a few large employers are trying to address this on an in-house, contractual basis, but most felt that the demand for their products and services did not support higher wages or benefits.


11.  Milwaukee is a good example of the first of these circumstances, Boston the second, and Renton (Seattle metropolitan area) the third.

12.  Testing of abilities includes vocabulary, reading, spelling, language, math, and problem solving. The COPSystem is used to test interests, abilities and work values. Wonderlic tests are also used. Career exploration assessment covers assets and barriers, testing results, program opportunities, labor market opportunities, occupational videos, career counseling and setting employment goals.

13.  On a more positive note, the Kenosha County Job Center is located reasonably near to the center of town on a busy arterial, and as we were told by clients, the bus drivers frequently direct job seekers to the Center. However, even in this location, clients complained that the community college was not easily accessible.

14.  The "inverted pyramid model" of service delivery refers to the use of technology to provide self-service assistance to the broadest possible set of clients when they first contact or enter the agency, reserving more individualized (and labor intensive) services for those who demonstrate a higher need for more intensive services. This model is often contrasted with the traditional "gatekeeper" model of service delivery, where all clients must first be assessed and then assigned to the right combination of services. The inverted pyramid assumes that many clients are capable of getting what they want or need on their own, while the gatekeeper model tends to waste valuable time and resources screening the access of these clients to the resources they seek.

Chapter 3: Challenges in Reaching the Welfare Population

Not all One-Stop clients have the same abilities or employment needs, and by design, not all clients will receive the same services. The intent of the inverted pyramid model of One-Stop service delivery is to provide multiple points of access to a variety of services, beginning with easily accessed self-service opportunities and culminating with intensive, one-on-one services for clients with the greatest needs.

Many of the early One-Stop models were initially designed to assist dislocated workers re-tool their skills and careers, helping them help themselves and opening opportunities for lifelong learning as they adjust their skills to changes in the economy. However, a robust economic recovery has eagerly absorbed much of this experienced labor pool, often transforming One-Stop centers into employer recruitment centers rather than career make-over centers. In this context, the self-service job matching and education, training, and career planning systems in most of the model One-Stops have proven to be more than adequate to service the experienced labor force.

With the advent of welfare reforms at the federal and state level, One-Stop systems have been thrust into the somewhat different role of helping individuals with relatively few skills and little work experience enter the labor force. This has brought a whole new set of partners, funding sources, and clients to the One-Stop concept. Under this new mandate, it is important to ask which of the One-Stop's customer groups are being well served - and whether any of these customer groups are being underserved by the different models examined. While this is not an attempt to evaluate individual One-Stop systems, it is intended to recognize that One-Stop clients in general, and TANF recipients in particular, are not homogeneous groups, but rather have diverse abilities and needs that may or may not be well-served by different service delivery models.

This chapter examines the issues of access, services, and follow-up in the One-Stop models - what happens at the front end, the middle, and the end. This assessment is then placed in the evolutionary context of One-Stop systems by asking what might happen to these designs in the event of the next economic recession.

Engaging the One-Stop System

There are several points at which TANF recipients may have difficulty in gaining access to the employment and training services provided by One-Stop systems. First is the challenge of getting TANF recipients through the door, given that some are reluctant to participate on their own. Second, there may be issues of location and logistics affected by system design. And finally, there are issues of retention and follow-through with this population.

  • Work Requirements Matter: One thing that became very clear to us in focus groups with current and former participants was that many would simply not have come to the One-Stop without some mandatory work or participation requirement. Equally clear from these meetings is the fact that once most recipients have become fully engaged in work search activities, they are glad they came and many wished they'd come earlier. Frequently, the issue is not a reluctance to work, but a lack of self-esteem or lack of self-confidence in their ability to juggle family and work challenges. Job readiness programs and a warm, encouraging environment that breaks the challenges down into discreet, achievable goals and opens doors to new opportunities seem to overcome this initial trepidation.

    In Tarrant County, the lack of tight work requirements (64.5 percent of TANF recipients are exempt from state work requirements) is compounded by the fact that benefit levels are very low, suggesting that those who continue to remain on the welfare rolls have very little in the way of skills or work experience. Not surprisingly, our focus group discussions indicate that those TANF recipients with the least skills or experience are also the most reluctant to participate in work search, making it doubly difficult to get this segment of the TANF population to actively engage One-Stop services. This was evident in discussions with management and staff about client flow through the Resource Center and local participation rates.  This is not to say that as a group, TANF recipients are reluctant to work. Probably at least a third of the current and former TANF participants in our focus groups indicated that they had sought or would have sought One-Stop services without requirement or prodding. Additional TANF participants told stories of seeking out employment assistance once they had stabilized their personal and family circumstances, without being forced to do so. Several spoke of earlier, unsuccessful work or work search experiences. Nonetheless, a significant portion were clear about appreciating a "kick in the butt," as one participant put it.

  • Falling Through the Cracks: The fall-off between initial registration for TANF benefits and participation in a JOBS or One-Stop work-search activities can be quite considerable. In Iowa, those PROMISE JOBS participants who fail to comply with work requirements have their benefits restricted are placed on the Limited Benefits Plan (LPB).(15) Over 30 percent of those placed on LBP failed to even make an appointment for orientation to work-search activities, and 58 percent failed to keep their orientation appointment(16) -- suggesting that most of the sanctions for failing to comply with work requirements occur at the very beginning of the process. In Kenosha, managers estimate that fully 50 percent of initial WorkFirst registrants were dropping out before entering or completing the orientation process, but like Iowa, the dropout rate declined dramatically following completion of the orientation sessions.

    What happens to those who fall between the cracks? In Kenosha, anecdotal information suggests that many find employment on their own, with a small increase in homelessness and doubling-up of families. Many of those that drop out but are unsuccessful end up re-registering - only 10 percent to 20 percent of the registrants are new to the system, about one-quarter are persons who have been through the program before, and most of the rest are repeaters who didn't make it through orientation the first time. In Iowa, just over half of those placed on LBP decide to participate in the program and have their benefits restored (before losing them entirely), and nearly two-thirds of those who don't decide to participate drop out of the LBP early as well - this latter group tends to be slightly older and better educated, suggesting better employment prospects.(17)

    The dramatic fall-off of TANF applicants between registration and orientation to One-Stop services is not encouraging. However, given that this fall-off occurs almost regardless of whether the welfare office is co-located with the One-Stop suggests that many TANF applicants are either intimidated or turned-off by the work requirements: this fall-off does not appear to be related to confusion over where to turn for help or how to find the One-Stop office. For those TANF applicants with such low self-esteem that work search is intimidating, this pattern suggests that more outreach may be necessary to engage them in One-Stop services. However, none of the One-Stop sites seemed to have sufficient resources to permit this kind of outreach, and referrals to other agencies for mental health services seemed to be problematic at best.

  • Transportation and Network Factors: One of the serious challenges to full access to One-Stop services for TANF clients are transportation problems. In virtually every site visited, current TANF participants raised transportation as a serious problem. Access to the One-Stop (Marshalltown and Tarrant County), to training (Kenosha's community college is not co-located, and is not close), and to work (Traverse City) are impeded either by long commutes or poor public transit services, or both. As noted in Chapter Two, transportation problems are often related to the location of affordable housing. In addition, in pre-reform years, most of the states had fairly strict rules about the value of any vehicles a family could own and still be eligible for AFDC. For example, in Washington State, AFDC recipients could not own a car worth more than $1,500 - making it difficult for a family to maintain a reliable, non-public source of transportation to work. While some of these rules have changed with welfare reform (Washington raised its limit to $5,000), this issue continues to remain very important for working One-Stops with low-income clients.

    One possible approach to this problem, at least for access to One-Stop services, would be to provide computer-based communication networks for One-Stop clients. These connections could be provided either through personal computers or via the facilities of partners with multiple locations, such as schools, libraries, and other public agencies. While some of the job-matching services are currently available in this manner at some of the sites (including the use of kiosks), we did not encounter much discussion of this approach to providing services to TANF clientele (beyond Michigan's experience with "smart cards").(18) Given the current evolutionary status of shared data systems, it is understandable that this kind of approach may be contemplated, but simply has not yet been developed. Alternatively, both clients and service providers may be concerned about the lack of confidentiality of some electronic communications such as e-mail.

Improving Service Integration vs. Service Reduction

The efficiencies created as employment services are integrated are creating concerns among front line staff about potential staff reductions, particularly as TANF caseloads decline. Long term funding plans in at least one state visited suggest that this concern is not unfounded, raising several important questions about the purpose and design of service integration.

One of the key factors helping to propel federally funded employment agencies toward One-Stop models is the long term decline in funding for these services. During the last two decades, federal funding for many of the basic job matching services has remained roughly constant in nominal terms, creating a significant decline in terms of the purchasing power of these resources. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult for states to continue to provide employment services in a staff intensive manner where employment counselors meet and work individually with job seekers. By moving to a One-Stop model, the intent is to use new, electronic or computer technologies to provide wider access to a broad spectrum of employment services on a self-serve basis, and target more intensive, one-on-one assistance for those relatively few clients with more complex needs.

In essence, this approach, often referred to as the "inverted pyramid" model, is intended to reallocate scarce resources to improve service to job seekers and employers. In many cases, both of these customer groups are capable of gaining more access to more information and services under a self-serve model than under the traditional gate-keeper model of employment agencies. Job-seekers can access computerized data bases at the One-Stop or from off-site and post their own resume and conduct their own job search, while employers can post their job listings and do key-word searches to recruit employees through posted resumes. Jointly staffed, self-service resources at the One-Stop should also free up staff time to provide more in-depth assistance to high need clients, such as long term TANF beneficiaries with few labor market skills or start-up businesses. While these benefits were affirmed by the One-Stop models examined, several focus groups also raised questions about whether the One-Stop model under current welfare reforms and work requirements tends to "invert the pyramid and cut off the bottom."

In particular, some of the One-Stop staff and current participant groups were concerned that the resources derived from efficiencies on the self-service end of the pyramid may not be reallocated to helping families with multiple problems. Instead, they fear that these efficiencies may be used to justify a slowdown in budget increases (less than inflation) or staff reductions for the primary partners, while poorly prepared parents are being pushed into the labor market with insufficient preparation. This is of particular concern for clients without a high school education, little or no work experience, and substance abuse or physical or mental health problems.

It was our sense in talking with managers, staff, and clients, that those TANF clients best served by the One-Stop model tend to be persons who are capable of meeting their needs through self-service, or would benefit from adult education, life skills training, job search workshops, and general motivational counseling. The groups that may not fare as well are those with substance abuse or physical or mental health problems, in part because One-Stop services do not appear to be well equipped for identifying these problems and working with them. Several case managers argued that while these clients may certainly be employable, they may not be able to stay employed for long periods of time or find employment that will lead to self-sufficiency.(19) Further, it is unclear whether their referral networks are strong enough to ensure that clients with these difficulties are served well by the entire system - that they are not simply "handed off" and thus disconnected from whatever benefits they might derive from employment related services.

The challenge of serving clients with multiple problems is becoming greater for One-Stops in areas where TANF caseloads have declined the most. In most of the locations visited, between 20 percent and 30 percent of TANF clients are "high needs" cases that require one-on-one assistance. Typically these are clients who are much less likely to make a successful transition to self-sufficiency ("who will never get off," according to one caseworker), and who also require significantly more staff resources than the typical TANF client who is searching for employment. As TANF caseloads decline dramatically, these more difficult, resource-intensive cases will account for a higher percentage of the total caseload. This was noted in Marshalltown, where the statewide number of PROMISE JOBS cases has declined from 40,000 to 28,000 in recent years. A similar pattern was emphasized in Kenosha, where the number of welfare cases has fallen by two-thirds, but staff estimate that only 20 percent of the current welfare referrals to employment services are new to the welfare system.(20)

Despite the dramatic declines in the number of TANF cases in places like Iowa and Wisconsin, caseloads do not seem to have declined for other services such as Food Stamps, child care, or medical assistance. Nowhere is this pattern more apparent than in Wisconsin, where food, child care, and health care assistance have been "de-linked" to welfare eligibility. State spending on these assistance programs has actually risen, and at the same time, the administration of these cases has become more complex as economic support specialists must now assess family needs for these services based on independent sets of qualifying criteria. Nonetheless, state policy makers in Wisconsin have indicated their expectation that staff resources can be reduced in the future due to declines in welfare caseloads.

This pattern is clearly unsettling to many caseworkers, and certainly raises questions about how much depth of service One-Stops are expected to provide for clients with high needs. It also calls into question whether the objective of work requirements is to simply lower TANF caseloads by moving clients into low-wage jobs or to provide sufficient and in some cases long term economic support for working parents to gain the experience and skills to become self-sufficient.

Follow-Up and Lifelong Learning Goals

The difficulties with repeat referrals and job retention raise several important questions about the efficacy of follow-up contacts to One-Stop drop outs and program completers. Most of the One-Stop systems visited were well accustomed to conducting follow-up surveys for JOBS clients, typically at 90-days or in some cases, four months following exit from the program. However, few indicated that they conducted any systematic follow-ups to offer services for continuing training/education or counseling on job conflicts and job retention.

In many respects, it is probably appropriate that One-Stop staff not be too aggressive in pursuing welfare applicants or recipients who have been referred for employment services but fail to show up or drop out. Some of these people will undoubtedly find employment on their own, while others may simply prefer to not receive welfare payments, or prefer a short term, reduced payment, rather than engage in welfare-to-work programs. In all of these instances, the referred client is exercising choice in a manner that may effectively screen out those welfare referrals who lack the motivation to engage and complete the programs offered at the One-Stop. However, there may be some referred clients who face logistical hurdles, or who have significant, compounding problems that either emerged recently or were not picked up in the initial assessment by the welfare agency. While none of the sites identified any useful mechanisms for being alert to these possibilities, the development of some sort of strategy for improving early engagement could prove to be valuable, both for the clients but also for the efficient allocation of One-Stop staff resources. Our sense is that for most TANF clients that make it through the initial orientation period, One-Stop staff typically have the opportunity to try and address these issues before the clients drop out.

Some sort of triage strategy in following up with program completers may also valuable. Some of the staff in Tarrant County indicated that they do some follow-up work with completers, but didn't relate any particular organized approach. At most sites, much of the follow-up contact with program completers seemed to occur either through recidivism or through personal friendships developed between clients and staff during the One-Stop experience. This latter contact seemed to be somewhat more prevalent in the rural areas, but was frequently mentioned in focus groups with program completers.(21) Clearly, some follow-up contacts targeted to clients most likely to have difficulty retaining employment might be aimed at dealing with job conflicts and other home/work logistical issues that would improve employment retention. For the most part, this kind of follow-up is not practiced due to the limitations of time and resources, and it does not appear that any of the sites have done any systematic analysis that would allow them to target those clients most likely to have difficulty retaining employment.

As noted earlier, former participants were very clear about the changes necessary for most One-Stop systems in order to be useful in expanding education and training opportunities to help former welfare recipients move beyond entry-level work and wages. Evening and weekend hours and child care during these times were perhaps the most important ingredients in promoting lifelong learning for these clients. In most respects, these needs are likely to be quite similar to the needs of other mainstream, working families that seek to boost their careers and standards of living. If One-Stop systems are to truly become "career centers," they will need to redesign their services to more closely match the needs of their customers, including those who are currently working. Only through this kind of redesign will One-Stops be able to fully address the lifelong education and training aspects of the One-Stop concept.

What Happens When the Economy Goes Bust?

The shift in focus from economic dislocation to welfare-to-work has been a major transformation in the One-Stop concept, resulting in part from the general improvement in the national economy. No longer are the One-Stops that we examined inundated with experienced workers looking to retool their skills to find high wage employment. True, many of these systems continue to assist experienced workers in this process, but most have turned the focus of their organizations and resources onto the task of moving welfare clients into long term employment. But what happens when the business cycle inevitably turns down, employers stop hiring, and the surge of unemployment, even among experienced workers, floods the One-Stop system? Will the focus of One-Stop systems shift back to experienced workers, or will increasing TANF rolls provoke an even greater frenzy of welfare-to-work services, even if the prospects for employment have declined?

In terms of the sheer volume of client flows, it is entirely possible that many One-Stops will be able to serve much greater numbers of experienced job seekers than before via easier access to self-service job search tools. In many cases, the services provided to the cyclically unemployed clientele may have actually improved since the last recession, due to better access to labor market information and computerized job search systems. However, one area of potential conflict is in the use of on-site facilities, such as the One-Stop's resource room and computers and other office equipment made available to all job seekers. A significant influx of cyclically unemployed but more experienced workers could tend to displace those seeking to move from welfare to work, or vice versa. For example, many job clubs for welfare recipients use the resource room for resume preparation and job search activities. Under high demand, it may become necessary to schedule these limited facilities for such designated uses, limiting the access of other job seekers.

Unfortunately, as the ranks of the unemployed grow in a recession, the TANF rolls are also likely to increase as TANF recipients find fewer employment opportunities. If the recession lasts too long, more and more families may exhaust their unemployment benefits without finding employment, forcing them to rely on TANF assistance. These circumstances will place much greater stresses on the staff intensive activities of One-Stop systems, especially those intended to provide one-on-one or small group job counseling for TANF recipients.

In the past, increases in TANF caseloads have been matched with increases in federal funds, however, now that TANF is no longer a federal entitlement these federal dollars are not likely to be forthcoming in the event of a recession. In fact, state revenues typically fall during a recession, creating fierce competition between education, transportation, corrections and other established state services for these limited funds - and any tax increases a state legislature is bold enough to propose. In this context, it is highly unlikely that many states or local governments will raise funding to address the needs of higher TANF caseloads. The lack of funding and increasing TANF caseloads will cause severe financial and caseload strains for most One-Stop systems during the next recession - very possibly creating the circumstances for yet another set of "welfare reforms" by states. To the extent that these "reforms" are driven by an inhospitable labor market and fiscal necessity, the quality of One-Stop services for TANF clients is likely to suffer.

Thus, when the next (inevitable) recession occurs, the factor that may have the greatest impact on the design, funding, and function of One-Stop systems may have more to do with the rate of growth in TANF caseloads than with the unemployment rate and the numbers of cyclically unemployed job seekers.


15.  PROMISE JOBS participants who do not meet the work requirements of the Family Investment Agreement are placed on the Limited Benefit Plan. The LBP provides three months of reduced benefits, followed by 12 months of no cash benefits for the entire family, although non-cash assistance such as Food Stamps and Medicaid continue. At the end of the six-month period, recipients can reapply for benefits, but must comply with their Family Investment Agreement. No reconsideration is given for subsequent failure to comply.

16.  Thomas Fraker, Lucia Nixon, Jan Losby, Carol Prindle, and John Else, Iowa's Limited Benefit Plan, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., May 1997, p. 26. Note that these data are for Iowa as a whole, and not the Marshalltown service area.

17.  Ibid., pp. 32-39.

18.  Smart cards provide clients with a single identification card that carries with it most of their basic information (coded on the magnetic strip) to use with several different agencies. Michigan experienced some start-up difficulties in connection with their attempt to implement this concept.

19.  One group of clients that have particular difficulty in achieving self-sufficiency are those with several children, given the income needs of the family. A few clients in our focus groups had four or five children, which tends to raise their target wage.

20.  Note that Kenosha also reports only 23 percent recidivism rate for JOBS program completers. These two measures are not necessarily inconsistent - many of the welfare referrals may be for welfare applicants who never fully engaged in the JOBS program, but dropped out prior to completion of the orientation and motivation component.

21.  This is undoubtedly due in part to the methodology for drawing the completer focus groups. Although One-Stop managers were asked to invite a cross-section of former clients representing a variety of experiences and views, in reality, several of the former participants that actually showed up were likely those who had tended to remain in contact with One-Stop staff.

Chapter 4: Occupations and Employers

Preparing welfare recipients for the world of work is a challenging task in One-Stop systems beset with current or potential reductions in education and training funds. However, One-Stop staff have developed a number of effective ways of helping these job seekers set and achieve realistic employment goals. Employers, too, have helped to create employment and training opportunities, while at the same time they have learned to structure their work environments to contend with the realities of the typically low-skilled workforce seeking to move from welfare to work.

Reduced Education, Training, and Screening

All of the One-Stop sites visited are in states that are undergoing either a first or second generation set of welfare reforms that tend to de-emphasize education and training programs and instead, focus on immediate job search and other work experience or work search activities. In most cases, this shift dramatically limits the occupational options facing many TANF recipients as they face the job market. No longer may they have the luxury of contemplating occupational choices that entail a community college or bachelors' degree, and in many places even a community or technical college training certificate program may be unavailable. Instead, these options are now reserved for workers to pursue (generally with their own resources on their own time) after they have found employment. As a result, TANF recipients seeking employment are often limited to a set of employers who offer entry-level employment at relatively low wages.

The bulk of the low-wage employment in today's economy is concentrated in relatively few firms, typically in the service and retail sectors.(22) Many of these employers hire large numbers of low-wage workers but offer few opportunities for upward mobility in terms of skill acquisition or wages; this is due largely to the occupational structure of the firms and industries offering low-wage employment.(23) In most cases, these employers are willing to provide new hires with the minimal training necessary to perform low-skill tasks, but most of these skills are job or firm specific and are not easily transferred to the rest of the labor market.(24) Most, though not all, of the employers represented in our focus groups confirmed this profile, suggesting that in most local areas, there are likely to be no more than a few dozen key employers of low-skill workers. It is important to note, however, that the lack of advancement opportunity in most low-wage employment is not the fault of the employer. To move up the wage scale, most low-wage workers will need to change employers, and possibly industries, in order to find employers whose firms offer the opportunity for real wage and skill progression.

Part of the redesign of employment services under the One-Stop concept has been to eliminate the laborious, one-on-one intake of job seeker interviews with job counselors that were seen as a key component of screening and referring applicants to employers. While these methods are still used in some One-Stop systems, they are also augmented with self-service listings of job openings and applicants that allow job seekers and employers to self-screen each other. Some One-Stop managers and staff noted that they have found job seekers to be somewhat more severe in judging their skills in this process, which further limits their employment options. On the other hand, employers of TANF recipients frequently expressed their desire for more and better screening of referrals by One-Stop systems, although for the most part, their interests in screening focused more on screening for job readiness and substance abuse problems than for skill levels. According to most employment services personnel, this is not an uncommon complaint by employers, who are often under the impression that state employment service centers have the resources to conduct in-depth testing and screening for all referrals, which is clearly not the case. Screening for things like motivation and substance abuse are simply not possible under a self-service system.

Lower levels of education, training, and screening - combined with the tighter labor market - have led employers to become increasingly familiar with challenges and opportunities of working with the welfare-to-work population. These trends have also raised the importance of providing welfare recipients who are looking for work with a realistic understanding of the local labor market.

Managing Career Expectations

It is a delicate balance that One-Stop staff must strike between motivating TANF recipients toward job search and long-term employment goals while at the same time giving them a realistic appreciation of what to expect in their first job. Typically, this process begins with some form of motivational exercises designed to help participants set some long term goals for themselves -- to articulate what it is they want to achieve for themselves and their families. The second step is to help participants begin to understand what it might take to achieve these goals.

As part of this second step, One-Stop staff will typically use local labor market information to help develop realistic expectations about current employment opportunities and career ladders. This process also helps acquaint participants with the self-service resources available through the One-Stop, giving them assistance in learning to use a variety of computer and written resource materials. Touch screen systems, such as that used in Kenosha, are particularly useful in helping even the most computer-phobic participants gain access to electronic data systems. Because these systems use recognizable maps, visual graphics, and immediately useful information, they are particularly effective in drawing participants into the exploration of the local labor market. With this experience as a base, introducing participants to America's Job Bank and other resources via the Internet is only a few steps away.

As noted in Chapter 3, the on-going education and training linkage between the first job and the desired career track may be the weakest part of most One-Stop systems for TANF recipients. Focus groups with former participants made it clear that once they found their first job, the difficulties of juggling family and work life made it difficult to pursue their initial goals without continued support and assistance. Nonetheless, this process opens up a whole new world of resources for these clients as they struggle with their careers and future employment challenges. Just the process of learning to use these tools frequently provides a boost in self-confidence as job seekers gain a greater sense of control in understanding the labor market that they are trying to enter.

Valuing Work Experience

One important tool in helping TANF recipients with little or no work experience move from welfare-to-work is community work experience. In most of the sites reviewed, TANF participants were placed in community work experience positions as a condition for continuing to receive cash assistance if they were unable to find actual employment. In some cases, private employers received a wage subsidy for employing participants. Current and former participants were almost completely unanimous in their praise of work experience employment as an opportunity to develop workplace skills and build their resume and references. And generally, employers were also quite pleased with their experiences in hiring TANF recipients under a work experience program. Several of these employers reported finding opportunities of hiring these workers on their permanent payroll.

Employer reactions to work experience often reflected the way in which the employer treated the worker. Several employers, both public and private, reported hiring work experience workers on a permanent basis, often noting the loyalty and sense of responsibility these workers brought to their jobs. Others emphasized their approach of treating work experience workers the same as all other employees, not hesitating to offer constructive criticism or praise where warranted. Most of these employers were quite pleased with their experience, and indicated a willingness to have more work experience employees. However, some employers, typically nonprofit or public agencies, seemed to be less sure of how to treat work experience workers, assigning them occasionally to make-work or remedial tasks. One public agency employer described a worker who "spent too much time on the phone trying to organize her personal life, like trying to arrange doctor appointments for her sick child," only to be chastised by other private sector employers for being too rigid. In general, employers that held work experience workers to the same standards as their other employees tended to report the greatest satisfaction.

Typical Occupations

Given the distribution of low-skill, entry-level jobs in today's economy and the narrow scope of education and training funding under most state welfare reforms, it appears that many of the One-Stop welfare-to-work programs tend to place their clients in a fairly limited set of typical occupations. In some cases, these occupational paths are emphasized by design through specific training and employment agreements with large employers. The following list is based on the occupations listed by employers as well as current and former program participants:

  • Certified Nurse Assistant: By far the most prevalent occupation we encountered in our focus groups was that of Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), or in some cases, other health care services. In both Marshalltown and Bellingham, the One-Stop had a formal arrangement with large, local health care providers to offer specific training courses at the local community or technical college that would prepare workers for providing basic personal care services for hospital and nursing home patients.
  • Clerical Support: At most sites, focus group participants indicated that they had employment in clerical support positions, frequently in partner agencies, both public and non-profit. In several cases, these workers had been placed in these positions as work experience slots and were later brought on as permanent employees.
  • Sorting and Packaging: Several of the employers, and some of the current participants, identified sorting and packaging employment activities in a variety of light manufacturing settings. These jobs typically involve a modest level of job-specific skill provided by the employer after the hire.
  • Light Manufacturing: A few light manufacturing employers reported positive experience in hiring former TANF workers. Generally these were persons with at least a high school education and some work experience.
  • Retail Trade: A couple of former participants had found placement in retail establishments - some in Goodwill Industries type sheltered work environments, and others in stores like Wal-Mart. One store manager had promoted several hires from One-Stop welfare-to-work programs, noting a slightly stronger sense of loyalty and work ethic.
  • Cleaning, Landscaping, Etc.: A few, generally male, former participants had started their own cleaning or landscaping businesses, and one current participant was training to launch an appliance repair business. Most of these workers also had at least a high school education and previous work experience. Generally these individuals were more self-motivated - none of the One-Stop models that we reviewed had programs designed specifically to foster this kind of self-employment - most saw this kind of option as something that would work for only a limited portion of TANF participants.

One employer that was present in at least three of the locations was Manpower, Inc. As a temporary employment agency, Manpower can often offer One-Stop clients a useful point of access to employment opportunities, and they frequently share their listings with the One-Stop employment services. However, they also tend to do more job readiness and skill screening than the One-Stop, and not all welfare-to-work clients may be deemed "job ready" by their standards.

Not all One-Stop clients moving from welfare to work move into low-skilled employment. For example, in Marshalltown, a few who have been able to combine Pell grants and JTPA assistance for child care and transportation have been able to complete two-year degree programs. One older parent was able to secure computer training and a position using computer-assisted design technology.

Employer Views on Job Readiness and Employee Retention

Focus group discussions with employers brought out several candid and insightful comments that suggest a remarkably thorough understanding of the low-skill, low-wage labor force. Employers not only shared their views on the services provided by the One-Stop systems, but also some of their insights on screening job applicants and improving employee retention in tight labor markets. These insights include:

  • Employment Screening: While some employers conduct initial interviews at the One-Stop facility, a couple of employers noted that they have found it very useful to have job applicants visit the work site before hiring them. Their argument is that they want to ensure a good match between the work and the employee, and the employee needs to see and experience the work environment before feeling comfortable with the job. For example, some low-wage positions have smells, noise or security systems that are discomforting enough to affect turnover rates if employers aren't careful about these issues. Prospective hires also need to be familiar with how to get there - including any mass transit or other commuting issues.
  • Job Readiness: In some locations, the local labor market was so tight that some employers indicated a willingness to hire anyone that would show up to work everyday, regardless of skill level. Work ethic issues seemed to vary by location. For example, in Traverse City, one human resources manager noted that he had worked in several regions in the country and had never found a labor force more ready and eager to work. Another business owner in Bellingham reported just the opposite, citing repeated instances of employees not reporting to work and not bothering to call to say they couldn't, or wouldn't be coming to work. Most employers emphasized their willingness to train workers for entry level work, but cautioned that One-Stop programs must push hard to ensure that persons referred to them should be familiar enough with basic work rules regarding substance abuse, punctuality, dress, and appropriate behavior.
  • Employee Retention: Generally the message from employers on attracting and retaining employees in a tight market was to treat them with respect, to let them know they are valued, and to be flexible within clear limits. One employer said that if an employee's car was in the shop or the employee had to get themselves or a child to a doctor's appointment during the work day, the employer had an agreement with a cab company to provide a cab ride at the company's expense. She said it didn't cost much, relative to lost work days, and it really made and impression on employees - not to mention a big reduction in stories about failed auto transportation. Several employers expressed concern about child care, some of whom had taken steps to provide or subsidize child care. One employer argued that his flexible work schedule allowed him to poach employees from his competitor at lower wages, while another employer with a rigid, 10-hour a day, 4-day a week work schedule reported extreme difficulties with turnover among young parents.
  • Know Your Labor Force: Several employers noted that it is important to gauge the trade-off between fringe benefits and wages according to the characteristics of your desired labor force. Some employers voiced frustration with employees who would leave a job with health and pension benefits for another job with only a slightly higher wage rate. However, most of these footloose employees were younger, with relatively little appreciation of the value of the benefits offered.

Employer Outreach and Involvement

Some of the One-Stop sites have a long and close relationship with the employers in their communities, based on their services to the "mainstream" labor market, while others are just beginning their employer outreach efforts. Economic development services have been incorporated in some One-Stop systems. However, in general, few sites have spent much time developing an advisory group of employers interested and concerned with facilitating the transition from welfare to work.

Most of the connections between One-Stops and employers revolved around serving the skilled and semi-skilled labor markets. For example, the Kenosha County Job Center sends representatives to Japan (compliments of the US Department of Defense) to recruit exiting military personnel with skills that would be attractive to local employers. In Traverse City, local employers have actively helped structure the programs and physical space at the One-Stop in order to handle the flow of UI claims along with JTPA and welfare-to-work clients. Employers were quite adamant about the need to coordinate employment services among several agencies, preferring to have one phone number, or website, where they could list an opening and thus get access to several sites within the employment network. Most employers track these patterns well, and resent having to contact several public agencies such as schools and colleges to list the same opening.

A few sites have incorporated economic development services into their One-Stop systems. In Marshalltown, the community college has the authority under state law to issue bonds that can be used to finance training for employment expansions, dedicating the revenues from the resulting wage growth in the area to retire the bonds. In Traverse City, local economic development councils are active members of the One-Stop partnership. While many retail and service employers tend to view economic development as a boon that boosts the demand for their goods and services, not all employers welcome economic development efforts, due to their impact on the local wages and the resulting competition for skilled employees. Nonetheless, those programs that emphasize training as an integral part of economic development activities appear to be best received by the employers in the focus groups.

Some sites were just beginning their efforts at systematic employer outreach, even though several maintain an account executive approach to employer relations with their regular customers, i.e., maintaining one point of contact for all services provided via the One-Stop. In Waukesha County, a sister One-Stop model to Kenosha County in Wisconsin, a computerized data base is used by multiple partners for employer outreach, combining summary information about the firm with an historical record of contacts and notes from the different agencies and individuals that have worked with the firm. Out of 11,000 employers in Waukesha County, roughly 1,000 employers are regular clients. However, this data base - and the employer wage and tax records maintained by the state - have not yet been used to develop a strategic outreach plan to reach key employers.


22.  James L. McIntire, Marsha D. Brown, and Jan Nordlund, Minimum Wage Study: The Impacts of the Minimum Wage Initiative in Washington State, Institute for Public Policy and Management, University of Washington, January 1991.

23.  James L. McIntire, "The Employer's Decision to Train Low-Wage Workers," unpublished dissertation, Department of Economics, University of Washington, 1993.

24.  Ibid.

25.  It is useful to note that in the Waukesha illustration, the County has 11,000 employers and only 400 welfare cases.

Chapter 5: Links to Other Policy Initiatives

Welfare-to-work activities are just one of the policy initiatives around which One-Stop systems are organized. Other initiatives based in the U.S. Department of Labor are also driving the move toward One-Stop systems. These include the move to Unemployment Insurance (UI) call centers for processing all UI claims and the school-to-work transition initiative. The connections between One-Stop systems and community colleges are also important in the national move to boost access to these educational opportunities via tuition subsidies. And finally, the status and availability of economic assistance for working families - for child care, food, health, and housing - may prove to be an important factor in determining the efficacy of One-Stop systems in helping these families become self-sufficient.

Unemployment Insurance Call Centers

State employment services agencies have been undergoing significant redesign in response to changes in technology, customer demands, and the declining purchasing power of federal aid to support these services. One of the critical elements in this transformation has been the shift of many states to the use of call centers for the filing and processing of UI claims, eliminating the need for numerous local unemployment offices. For example, in Wisconsin, 54 local UI offices were consolidated into two call centers, one in Milwaukee and one in Madison.

The rationale for this redesign was to create greater efficiencies for both the employment agency and its customers. UI call centers in Wisconsin have reduced space requirements and building maintenance by 50 percent, and have incorporated an automatic profiling process for immediate referral of long-term dislocated workers to employment services. Wisconsin estimates that this move reduced their staffing requirements by 25 percent, saving roughly $1 million annually in administrative costs. In addition, they estimate that customers realize as much as $11 million in benefits through the elimination of long drives to local offices, parking, standing in lines, child care, and service response time.

The move to call centers has a significant impact on the design of the employment service delivery system at the local level. Without the overhead support of local UI workers, many local Job Service centers have been financially compelled to relocate and/or collaborate with other partners in the same space. This financial pressure is one of the most compelling factors driving the development of One-Stop employment service systems. In Kenosha, no UI claims are processed or serviced at the Kenosha County Job Center and all employment services are provided under contract. Most of Kenosha's employment specialists were quite clear that without the collaborative efforts of their partners, they would not have the resources to staff their resource room and provide job search and placement counseling for their welfare and other clients. Thus, the move to UI call centers has made the development of One-Stop systems a necessity if employment services are going to continue to be made available.

The net effect of these linked policy initiatives on employment services does not necessarily have to be negative. Again, in Wisconsin, which combined these efforts with the implementation of JobNet, its computer-based touchscreen employment exchange system, reports significant improvements in job referrals and employment rates for registered job seekers.

Not all states are moving toward these complementary systems at the same rate. For example, in Michigan, initial claims were still handled in person by the Michigan Employment Service Agency (MESA) at the One-Stop office, but all subsequent claims contacts were handled by phone. However, not long after our site visit, Governor Engler announced his intent to abolish MESA, although it is unclear what this might mean for the UI claims process. In Marshalltown, UI claims were still handled at the Workforce Development Resource Center. In Bellingham, UI claims were handled by the Employment Security Department in a separate building near the Center for Workforce Training; although the state plans to implement UI call centers within the next 18 months. Thus, as some of these states move to UI call centers, the financial pressures for maintaining local facilities and overhead may intensify the mandate for local collaboration among the remaining workforce development services.


During the early 1990s, several initiatives were launched to try and improve the transition from school to work for many young workers (e.g. School to Work Opportunities Act). The thrust of this initiative was to provide persons still in high school a greater connectivity to the expectations, realities, and opportunities of the workplace. This experience is hoped to provide students with a better appreciation of the value and use of the education and training they are receiving, and to help them think and plan realistically about how to start and shape a productive career.

The connection between this policy initiative and the One-Stop models visited was rather weak. A few of the One-Stop managers reported serious and systematic efforts to reach out to the school system, going to make presentations about the labor market and career services available at the One-Stop, and in at least one case, inviting classes to visit on field trips. However, there was little evidence that the One-Stop systems are being used to bring employers and schools together to any great degree, nor was there any real indication that schools are making greater use of the local labor market information available at the One-Stop to help students understand the world of work they are about to enter.

The relationship between promoting the transition from welfare-to-work and school-to-work did not appear to be a major concern in our discussions with One-Stop officials. For many, the school-to-work initiatives lacked any programmatic significance, either as a result of lack of resources (time, staff, and funding) or disinterest on the part of local public school (K-12) officials. Only in Tarrant County was the local school district an active participant in the One-Stop partnership. In this instance, the school district provided the adult education component of the One-Stop services, and seemed to be genuinely interested in strengthening and expanding this partnership.

The Community College Connection

In most cases, the strongest connection between local educational institutions and the One-Stop was with the local community or technical college. In Marshalltown, for example, the Promise JOBS counselors were hired under contract with the local community college, which was located just across the freeway. A significant proportion of the Promise JOBS participants in Marshalltown were enrolled or expected to be enrolled in community college coursework. In Bellingham, a high share of the program participants in the focus groups were similarly connected to the local technical college - although this connection is likely to change under Washington's new WorkFirst program.

However, connections to community or technical colleges were not the same in all locations. For example, in Kenosha, program participants complained that the location of Gateway Technical College was inconvenient relative to the Job Center. Even though the College is a partner in the Job Center, its presence at the Center was not as strong as in other sites, especially with adult education services being provided by an independent contractor. By contrast, the One-Stop center in neighboring Waukesha County is located on the community college campus - established and paid for in part by the community college, and serving almost as an employment placement center for the college's students and graduates.

There are several factors that seem to affect the relationship between the community or technical college and the One-Stop systems. The first is simply a function of local institutional history and personalities of the participants. Leadership in some community colleges simply does not see welfare clients as a primary client base.(25) In some cases, the emphasis on "work first" models for welfare reform, which tend to de-emphasize post-secondary education and training, may be causing community colleges to discount their relationships with welfare-to-work programs. Unless these welfare reform initiatives make some provision for follow-up encouragement and support for education and training once participants find employment, the relationships with community colleges may deteriorate. On the other hand, active involvement by the community college in the One-Stop system from the start seems to bring a greater emphasis on the need for this kind of follow-up support and encouragement.

Economic Support for Working Families

If "successful" One-Stop service delivery models are defined as those that lead parents from welfare to self-sufficiency, then the focus of the One-Stop programs needs to expand beyond employment services to include a wider array of economic supports for parents who work for low wages. Many of these supports are clearly acknowledged in the welfare-to-work process, including the provision of child care, health care, and transportation assistance. However, in most of the One-Stop models assessed by this report, these benefits are phased out after welfare recipients find employment that raises their incomes past the threshold for cash assistance.

In most cases, health care coverage (generally Medicaid) is phased out for adults 12 months after termination of cash welfare assistance.(26) Child care and transportation assistance are somewhat more problematic, generally tied to JTPA enrollment and thus dependent to some degree on local design. In most cases, funds for child care seemed to be adequate for participants in the focus groups with the exception of children with health needs, although availability of child care to match many low-wage work schedules and geographical locations is still a problem. In most cases, the added funding for child care that accompanied the federal legislation has helped make the process of job search more palatable, but the reality of the low-wage labor market is that most families who have made the transition from welfare to low-wage work cannot often afford unsubsidized child care. Even some states that have dramatically increased child care funding from their own resources, such as Washington, still find that these combined federal and state resources fall far short of the support that is needed.(27)

Housing assistance is also problematic. Nationally, over 30 percent of AFDC recipients also received federal housing assistance in the late 1980s.(28) This proportion seemed to vary considerably in the sites visited, based on anecdotal information provided during focus groups. Tarrant County seemed to be the only location where most current welfare recipients lived in public housing or received Section 8 housing assistance. This is not surprising, since it was by far the largest urban area included. It would appear that the overlap between cash welfare assistance and public housing assistance declines as the service delivery areas become more rural. As a result, most of the current program participants in the focus groups did not receive housing assistance. Under most publicly financed housing assistance programs, housing costs are kept to 30 percent of a household's monthly income, and families are rarely ever forced out of publicly owned housing. However, some families earning higher incomes may loose their eligibility for tenant based Section 8 assistance, but generally only after their incomes rise above 80 percent of the area median family income.

Because federal Food Stamp and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) assistance eligibility is based on income rather than other program eligibility, this support continues to be available to many parents who find low-wage work. Thus, the real household budget challenges for parents working at low-wage jobs continue to be child care, housing, and health care.

Of the sites visited, Kenosha seemed to have the most complete set of economic supports available to serve parents trying to reach self-sufficiency via low-wage employment. Wisconsin's W-2 program is designed to provide both health care and child care for working families on a sliding fee scale based on income, rather than program eligibility. Additional economic supports, such as Food Stamps, can be accessed at the One-Stop as well. Economic service workers in Kenosha (and Waukesha as well) note that the caseloads for these programs have remained relatively constant while welfare caseloads have dropped over time. This pattern illustrates the importance of these services in maintaining working families as they acquire the work experience and on-the-job skills necessary to earn higher wages. Nonetheless, several welfare advocates continue to question whether the levels of co-payments for some of these services are appropriately scaled, recognizing that many families may not reach self-sufficiency until their income reach or exceed roughly 200 percent of poverty.(29)

This concern was repeated in most of our site interviews. One-Stop caseworkers continually raised the question of whether welfare reform meant moving families from welfare to low-wage work, or from welfare to self-sufficiency. Most of these workers tried hard to prepare families for the struggles of making ends meet once they left the TANF program, making sure they understood issues of eligibility for other assistance programs. However, given the lack of resources for follow-up education and training, many of these workers remained skeptical of whether a higher proportion of their clients would achieve long term self-sufficiency, and many expressed concern about the prospects for higher need clients who now make up a larger proportion of their current caseloads.

Thus, the availability of economic support services is often critical to achieving self-sufficiency for working parents. Although many of these services are provided by state or local public agencies, it is important to note that in some states roughly half of the funding for these services is provided by federal aid.(30) Planned reductions in discretionary federal spending by roughly 10 percent (adjusted for inflation) during the next 5 years may mean that some of the federal aid for these services will be at risk, and that the demands on state resources to provide these support services may grow over time.(31) Certainly as some of the states achieve significant reductions in welfare caseloads, state policy makers will need to be increasingly concerned about the roll of these and other support services (such as mental health and substance abuse treatment) if they expect the caseload decline to continue.


26.  Children might continue to be covered under Medicaid, depending on family income and the level of coverage in a given state.

27.  Richard Brandon and Carol Naito, Financing Child Care in Washington State, Human Services Policy Center, University of Washington, October 1997.

28.  Sandra J. Newman, "The Implications of Welfare Reform for the Housing Assistance System," Paper presented to the 1995 APPAM Research Conference, Washington DC, November 1995.

29.  James McIntire, Richard Brandon, Robert DeWeese, Carol Naito, Julie So, and Abhay Thatte, Policy Choices for Working Families in Washington: A Baseline Analysis of State Economic Support for Working Families, Fiscal Policy Center, University of Washington, March 1997.

30.  Ibid.

31.  James McIntire and Julie So, Impacts of the 1998 Budget Agreements on King County, Fiscal Policy Center, University of Washington, June 1997.

Chapter 6: Empirical Evidence of Success

Most analysts would agree that real success in moving welfare recipients to self-sufficiency should be measurable in terms of employment and wage outcomes. The data we have been able to gather on the one-stop models presented in this study do indicate that for the most part, these models have been at least partially successful. В However, these data also highlight some of the gaps and limitations in the One-Stop concept as it has been implemented so far. To the degree that most states' welfare reform programs and all of the models examined are still evolving, this by no means is a final commentary on the potential for one-stop centers to meet the needs of families moving from welfare to self-sufficiency.


The original design of this research called for the collection of administrative data from welfare, employment services, and unemployment insurance records to assess the characteristics of welfare participants at different stages in their contact One-Stop services. Specifically, participating One-Stop models were asked to provide three types of data:

  • General Characteristics: General characteristics of the welfare population within the service area of the One-Stop center.
  • Administrative Records: Administrative records for a sample of One-Stop welfare clients referred to the One-Stop during a 12-month period, generally calendar 1996. Records were expected to contain characteristics data (age, number of dependents, education, etc.) along with some measures of the length, type, and/or intensity of services provided, along with data on termination reasons.
  • Unemployment Insurance Records: Unemployment insurance records for the sample of clients for the most recent eight quarters, including industry of employer, wage and salary payments, and hours.

The first and last of these requested data proved to be difficult to gather and/or acquire. In the case of the general characteristics of the welfare population, the sites examined had little or no historical data tracking these measures. Acquisition of unemployment insurance data also proved to be very difficult, due to the lack of data sharing agreements between agencies and their authority to share this information with outside researchers.

Fortunately, the administrative records for some of the sites proved to offer sufficient characteristic, service, termination, and follow-up data to permit some limited, empirical assessment of three of the One-Stop models examined -- Tarrant County, Traverse City, and Bellingham. Records from Iowa simply did not contain enough observations to include in this analysis. Administrative records from Kenosha were quite extensive with regard to the services provided, termination, and follow-up outcomes, but we were not able to match these records with the characteristics of the clients served. As a result, our analysis of Kenosha is limited to that which might be gleaned from the aggregate data contained in quarterly management reports.

Policy Changes and Limitations of the Data

The data presented in this chapter were gathered during one of the most tumultuous years for welfare policies in recent history. Many states implemented their own welfare reforms in the wake of the federal welfare policy changes. As a result, the empirical measures presented typically reflect characteristics, services and outcomes over the course of multiple policy regimes, or during times when a new policy regime was anticipated and preparations were being made for transition. Typically, the new policies meant increased work and work search requirements, which may have the effect of motivating higher levels of service use and completion, and result in higher levels of accepting initial employment. This study does not attempt to differentiate any of the measures reported according to changes in policy, recognizing that to do so would introduce too many variables and uncertainties into the sampling frame and would imply a level of analytic rigor that would be unsupported by the methodology. Rather, the basis for this approach is the assumption that for the current time, state and local welfare programs are in a state of flux, and any assessment of One-Stop employment services models should simply take this changing policy environment into account.

As a result, the conclusions that can be reached based on the data presented here may be limited. Note that the time frames, measures, and definitions vary from site to site, making each data set unique and not strictly comparable to data from other sites. Nonetheless, these data do help us understand which subgroups of welfare recipients seem to be getting better access to services or are having trouble with the One-Stop systems.

Kenosha County Job Center

Despite the very impressive shared data system for providing client services in the Kenosha County Job Center, we were unable to obtain a sample of client service records that contained even limited client characteristics. Instead, our analysis is based on a series of fourth quarter reports (cumulative) for calendar year 1996. These internal reports are produced quarterly for purposes of Center management, tracking some very basic client characteristics and outcomes for clients with dependents under age 2 years and clients with children between 2-18 years old. All cases are included, including repeat clients. These data are summarized in Table 1. In addition, these reports track the use of different services offered by the One-Stop (summarized in Chart 1).

Table 1
Kenosha County Job Center

All JOBS Age Youngest Dependent Voc
Employed <=29 hours >29 hours FT Job Retained
1 yr >2yr % Wage % Wage 30 days 180days
All JOBS 100% 26.1% 67.8% 5.7% 4.8% 42.7% 12.5% $5.72 30.2% $6.22 100% 26%
Age Youngest Dependent
   1 year 27.8% 100% n.a. 5.1% 4.6% 46.6% 13.6% $5.34 33.1% $5.95 100% 26%
   2-18 years 72.2% n.a. 100% 5.3% 4.9% 41.2% 12.2% $5.82 29.0% $6.30 100% 26%
   White 58.4% 58.9% 58.1% n.a. n.a. 55.3% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
   African American 26.7% 26.7% 27.1% n.a. n.a. 30.9% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
   Hispanic 14.1% 13.6% 13.9% n.a. n.a. 13.2% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
   Asian 0.7% 0.1% 0.7% n.a. n.a. 0.4% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
   Native American 0.1% 0.0% 0.1% n.a. n.a. 0.2% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Years of Education
   <12 46.6% 46.8% 47.8% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
   12/GED 37.4% 39.3% 37.4% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
   13-15 13.2% 12.9% 13.3% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
   16+ 1.3% 1.0% 1.5% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Rural 10.7% 10.6% 11.3% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.

Overall, more than half of the welfare clients served have graduated from high school or have a GED, and about 15 percent have at least one year of higher education or training. More than 40 percent of the Kenosha clients are nonwhite. Key observations about the data from the Kenosha County Job Center include:

  • Age of Youngest Dependent: Fewer than 30 percent of the JOBS participants served by the Center have children younger than 2 years old, indicating that a large majority of clients are not entering the welfare system as the consequence of a pregnancy.(32) There are no significant demographic or educational differences between clients with children under age 2 and those with children over 2 years of age.
  • Vocational Skills Training: Only about 10 percent of clients are referred to specific vocational skills training and about 6 percent are actively participating in the training. Clients with children under age 2 are much more likely to enroll once referred to training than are clients with older children.
  • Work Experience Leading to Employment: Most work experience placements lead to employment, although this is not the most common route to employment. Roughly 5 percent of all clients are placed in community work experience positions leading to employment. These employment results from work experience placements tend to be slightly higher for clients with children over the age of 2 years.
  • Employment: About 43 percent of all clients are employed, and almost three-quarters are employed full time (more than 29 hours per week). Employment rates, both full-time and part-time, are slightly higher for clients with children under 2 years of age.
  • Wages: Wages tend to be about $.50 per hour higher for full-time verses part-time employment, with parents of younger children tending to work for slightly lower wages.
  • Job Retention: Full-time unemployed clients appear to have little difficulty with short-term (30 days) job retention, but may have greater difficulty retaining employment on a long-term (180 days) basis. However, this measure may not accurately reflect actual employment patterns, since the question reflects "retention of full-time placement" employment, and some workers may have changed employers during the interim.

Chart 1
Services:  Kenosha County Job Center

Service Component Referrals* Participants Participation
Service Unit
Motivational Workshop 731 453 62.0% 16.4%
Group Assessment 788 482 61.2% 17.4%
Vocational Exploration 758 380 50.1% 13.7%
Individual Assessment 53 35 66.0% 1.3%
Job Seeking Skills Workshop 162 73 45.1% 2.6%
Job Search 1,262 806 63.9% 29.1%
Community Work Experience 454 161 35.5% 5.8%
Vocational Training 62 62 100.0% 2.2%
Adult Learning Lab 229 208 90.8% 7.5%
BA and BS Degree Programs 18 18 100.0% 0.7%
Other 166 89 53.6% 3.2%
TOTAL 4,683 2,767 59.1% 100.0%

* Includes multiple referrals, note that the number of participants is roughly half of the participation rate.

These data tend to confirm earlier characterizations of the Kenosha County Job Center based on focus group interviews, indicating a strong emphasis on motivation, assessment, and job search with a relatively good track record for short-term employment. Although it is difficult to tell from this data, case managers felt that the difficulty of cases was increasing -- an observation that would be supported by the fact that over 45 percent of JOBS clients had not completed their high school degree or GED.

  • Job Search: Job search accounted for roughly 30 percent of the individual service elements provided to clients; nearly two-thirds of those referred to job search actually participated as shown below.
  • High Use Services: Almost 50 percent of the other service elements provided were divided pretty equally among the motivational workshop, group assessment, and vocational exploration. All of these services are provided in group settings for entering groups of clients. The adult learning lab and community work experience accounted for the next highest service volumes.
  • Individual Assessment and Job Search Skills Workshop: Both of these activities combined accounted for fewer than 5 percent of service volume. Individual assessment was the only service for which there was a significant differential in participation (relative to referrals) between clients with older and younger children; clients with children under age 2 had a much higher participation rate.

Tarrant County Employment Network

The Tarrant County Employment Network provided us with a sample of 72 JOBS cases drawn from entering participants during calendar year 1996. This sample included information about client characteristics, case manager contacts, long term welfare recipiency, and status at termination from the JOBS program. No consistent data were available regarding wages and hours for those employed, nor follow-up data regarding employment retention.

Overall, JOBS participants at the Employment Network tend to be older, non-white, with a high number of dependents and low levels of education. Over 62 percent have no high school diploma or GED, more than half are over age 25, and 44 percent have three or more dependents. Fewer than one-third are white, and more than half have participated in the welfare system for 36 or more of the 60 months prior to entry to the JOBS program. It is useful to note that about 36 percent of all clients included in this data analysis were currently active in the JOBS program at the end of calendar 1996.

Note that the "termination status" reported in the table below lists a series of mutually exclusive reasons/status at termination. Some were current participants, some were employed, others received assessment only, while others completed a GED or were referred to training.

These data tend to confirm earlier characterizations of the Employment Network's client population. Key observations about the Tarrant County Employment Network data include:

  • Case Manager Contacts: Age and length of time in the welfare system seem to have little relationship to the number of case manager contacts.(33) However, African American and Native American clients appear to have significantly fewer case manager contacts on average. Clients with no dependents (a very small group) also tend to have fewer contacts, while those with three or more dependents tend to have significantly more case manager contacts. The same is true for the large majority of clients with fewer than 12 years of education or equivalent (GED). These variations in case manager contact may not be well understood - they may mean that more clients are out of compliance, are reluctant to seek help, or that fewer services are being made available to these groups.
  • Long Term Welfare Participation: There were no significant racial or ethnic differences in long term welfare participation.(34) Clients with only one child tended to be less likely to have extensive prior experience with the welfare system, although those with two dependents tend to have more prior welfare experience than those clients with three or more children. Age does seem to be correlated with long term welfare participation, particularly for teens and those age 40 and older; and participants with a high school diploma or GED tend to have higher long term participation rates as well.
  • Length of JOBS Participation:(35) Overall, the average length of participation was 162 days for the sample analyzed. African American and Native American clients tend to have a disproportionate share of short periods of participation in the JOBS program, a corollary observation their lower average number of case manager contacts. The number of dependents appears to be correlated with the length of JOBS participation, while clients age 40 and older tend to be over-represented in both short and long-term program participation. Education seems to have a slight positive impact on the distribution of short participation cases.
  • Assessment Only: About 7 percent of all JOBS clients at the Employment Network participate in assessment only prior to termination. This proportion is double for African American clients, and about half for clients of other races/ethnicity. The data suggest higher rates of termination after assessment for clients with only one dependent and those between the ages of 25 and 39, and for those with a high school diploma, GED, or some college.
  • Employment at Termination: Overall, about 17 percent of JOBS clients were employed at the time their participation in the JOBS program was terminated. Employment rates are considerably higher for African American and Native American participants, reaching nearly one third of all participants in these racial/ethnic groups. The employment rate averages 40 percent for clients with two dependents, but is much lower for clients with one, or three or more dependents. Employment rates also tend to be higher for clients in their late teens and early twenties, and for those age 40 and older. There appears to be a strong correlation between years of education and employment - clients without a high school diploma or GED (over 62 percent of all JOBS clients) have an employment rate of only 7 percent.
  • Education and Training Outcomes: Over 30 percent of JOBS participants at the Employment Network terminate their JOBS participation following an increased grade level, referral to training, or completion of a GED. Younger clients, and those with two dependents, tend to have a higher education and training outcomes at termination.
  • Negative Termination: Overall, roughly 17 percent of JOBS participants are terminated for negative reasons, such as the failure to comply with work participation or eligibility rules. This rate is considerably higher for clients with two dependents and those age 40 and over.

Table 2
Tarrant County Employment Network

  All Jobs Ave
Length of Participation Termination Status (exclusive outcomes)
Active Assess Employ GED Refer to
All JOBS 100.0% 32.5 54.2% 25.0% 25.0% 162.0 36.1% 6.9% 16.7% 20.8% 4.2% 5.6% 16.7%
Female 97.2% 32.6 55.7% 25.7% 25.7% 162.2 35.7% 7.1% 17.1% 21.4% 4.3% 5.7% 15.7%
Single Parent 83.3% 33.2 53.3% 26.7% 26.7% 165.3 35.0% 8.3% 13.3% 20.0% 5.0% 5.0% 18.3%
Long-Term Welfare 54.2% 35.4 100.0% 25.6% 25.6% 157.2 33.3% 5.1% 17.9% 25.6% 7.7% 0.0% 20.5%
White 31.9% 36.5 52.2% 26.1% 30.4% 171.2 39.1% 4.3% 8.7% 34.8% 4.3% 4.3% 13.0%
African American 27.8% 20.2 60.0% 35.0% 25.0% 159.7 15.0% 15.0% 30.0% 15.0% 10.0% 5.0% 20.0%
Hispanic 36.1% 40.4 53.9% 15.4% 19.2% 152.7 50.0% 3.9% 11.5% 15.4% 0.0% 7.7% 15.4%
Asian 0.0% * * * * * * * * * * * *
Native American 4.2% 14.3 33.3% 33.3% 33.3% 187.7 33.3% 0.0% 33.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 33.3%
No. of Dependents
0 2.8% 13.5 50.0% 50.0% 0.0% 81.5 50.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 50.0%
1 25.0% 25.5 38.9% 27.8% 11.1% 139.6 33.3% 11.1% 16.7% 16.7% 5.6% 11.1% 11.1%
2 27.8% 24.0 65.0% 25.0% 30.0% 178.7 10.0% 5.0% 40.0% 30.0% 0.0% 0.0% 30.0%
3+ 44.4% 42.8 56.3% 21.9% 31.3% 169.1 53.1% 6.3% 3.1% 18.7% 6.3% 6.3% 9.4%
<19 11.1% 33.1 25.0% 25.0% 0.0% 126.0 25.0% 0.0% 0.0% 25.0% 0.0% 37.5% 12.5%
19-24 33.3% 30.1 54.2% 25.0% 33.3% 177.6 33.3% 4.2% 29.2% 25.0% 4.2% 0.0% 16.7%
25-39 51.4% 35.8 59.5% 21.6% 24.3% 161.9 40.5% 10.8% 10.8% 18.9% 5.4% 2.7% 16.2%
40+ 4.2% 8.7 66.7% 66.7% 33.3% 134.3 33.3% 0.0% 33.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 33.3%
Years Education
<12 62.5% 41.0 51.1% 20.0% 31.1% 178.4 35.6% 0.0% 6.7% 28.9% 4.4% 8.9% 22.2%
12 27.8% 20.0 65.0% 35.0% 10.0% 119.8 40.0% 15.0% 30.0% 10.0% 5.0% 0.0% 10.0%
13-15 9.7% 13.4 42.9% 28.6% 28.6% 177.1 28.6% 28.6% 42.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
16+ 0.0% * * * * * * * * * * * *

*  Insufficient cell size for accurate reporting.

Northwest Michigan JobNet

The Northwest Michigan JobNet provided us with a sample of 150 cases entering their system between mid-1996 and mid-1997. These data included basic characteristics (excluding years of education and number of dependents), number of services and amount of supplemental cash assistance provided, termination data, and employment, wage and hours data.

In general, the welfare population served by Northwest Michigan JobNet appears to be rural, predominantly white, older than 25 years, with a slightly higher proportion of males than perhaps some other sites. Less than one-third of JobNet clients fell into the target group for potentially difficult and complex cases, including clients with a preceding welfare cases, older children, or less than 24 years of age with no high school degree or work experience.(36)  Key observations based on the data provided by the Northwest Michigan JobNet include:

  • Number of Services: Most JOBS participants, nearly half, received multiple services via JobNet, while roughly 20 percent received no services and the remaining one-third had used one service. Rural clients and older clients tended to receive slightly more services, as well as those clients with preceding welfare cases. The small number of African American clients in the sample received significantly fewer services than the rest -- likely a reflection of their significantly shorter length of participation
  • Orientation Only: In total, about 9 percent of JOBS participants terminated their enrollment after receiving only the orientation to the program. This proportion was at least twice as high for African Americans and for both younger and older clients, especially those younger clients with no high school degree, GED, or work experience. To some degree, this measure reflects those JOBS participants who voluntarily choose not to participate for one reason or another.
  • Termination for Non-Compliance: Just over 10 percent of JOBS participants were terminated for non-compliance. This measure was lower for younger and rural clients, and higher for those with preceding welfare cases, African American clients, and Hispanic clients.
  • Length of Participation: Overall, the average length of participation was 81 days. The relatively small group of African Americans in the sample had much shorter periods of participation, as did a large share of clients under age 19. The group with the lowest share of short JOBS program attachments was that with ages 25 to 39 years. Hispanic clients tended to have disproportionately short and long program stays.
  • Supplemental Assistance: Just over half of all JOBS participants received some form of supplemental grant assistance for auto repairs, transportation, and other incidental assistance. Clients with preceding cases and those clients age 40 or more tended to be more likely to receive this assistance. Total supplemental assistance per client generally averaged between $150 and $315 per recipient, with Hispanic clients receiving the lowest amounts ($38 on average) and older clients receiving the highest ($360 on average).

Table 3
Northwest Michigan JobNet

    Termination Employed Length of Participation Supplemental Assistance
All JOBS Services Orient Only Non-Comply Employ Ave Wage Ave Hrs Shortest Quartile Longest Quartile Ave Days Receive Average
None Single Multiple
All JOBS 100.0% 19.3% 34.0% 46.7% 8.7% 10.7% 45.3% $ 5.89 31.8 25.3% 25.3% 81.4 52.0% $ 234.78
Female 75.3% 18.6% 36.3% 45.1% 8.0% 10.6% 46.9% $ 5.68 30.5 24.8% 28.3% 84.0 52.2% $ 223.27
Rural 54.7% 23.2% 26.8% 50.0% 11.0% 6.1% 46.3% $ 6.02 32.5 29.3% 20.7% 77.3 46.3% $ 152.77
Target Group
Preceding Case 10.7% 18.8% 25.0% 56.3% 6.3% 18.7% 37.5% $ 5.83 29.8 37.5% 31.3% 79.6 62.5% $ 311.73
Older Children 2.0% * * * * * * * * * * * * *
<24, no HS/Wk Exp 16.7% 32.0% 32.0% 36.0% 20.0% 4.0% 44.0% $ 5.74 33.7 36.0% 24.0% 73.0 44.0% $ 126.48
White 90.7% 19.1% 33.1% 47.8% 8.1% 10.3% 45.6% $ 5.93 31.9 24.3% 25.7% 82.3 52.2% $ 238.04
African American 4.0% 33.3% 50.0% 16.7% 33.3% 16.7% 16.7% $ 5.50 20.0 50.0% 0.0% 45.8 50.0% $ 312.32
Hispanic 4.0% 16.7% 33.3% 50.0% 0.0% 16.7% 50.0% $ 5.58 36.7 33.3% 33.3% 82.2 50.0% $ 37.88
Native American 1.3% * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Asian 0.0% * * * * * * * * * * * * *
<19 4.7% 42.9% 14.3% 42.9% 28.6% 0.0% 42.9% $ 5.08 28.3 42.9% 28.6% 63.1 42.9% $ 115.07
19-24 32.0% 22.9% 35.4% 41.7% 8.3% 10.4% 37.5% $ 6.00 33.6 29.2% 22.9% 79.7 45.8% $ 215.51
25-39 50.0% 14.7% 38.7% 46.7% 4.0% 12.0% 52.0% $ 5.86 31.3 18.7% 25.3% 86.3 54.7% $ 217.04
40+ 13.3% 20.0% 20.0% 60.0% 20.0% 10.0% 40.0% $ 6.12 31.9 35.0% 30.0% 73.3 60.0% $ 360.66

*  Insufficient cell size for accurate reporting.

  • Employment: Roughly 45 percent of JOBS participants were employed upon termination. Clients in their early 20s and those with preceding welfare cases had slightly lower employment rates, while African American clients had employment rates that were significantly lower. Over half of the clients ages 25 to 39 were employed upon termination.
  • Wages: The average wage for JOBS placements was about $5.90 per hour, with no significant variation in wage rates for different demographic groups other than the average of $5.08 per hour for clients under age 19. Note that this latter average wage is below the federal minimum wage. Younger workers have a slightly lower average hourly wage.
  • Hours: Hours worked by JOBS participants average almost 32 hours per week, with little variation by demographic group, other than African American clients, whose hours average only 20 hours per week.

In interpreting these data, it is useful to remember that both African American and Hispanic categories have very few observations (4 percent of the total for each), and so it is difficult to draw strong conclusions about these observations. Nonetheless, these data do tend to confirm earlier characterizations of the site in terms of the strong local emphasis on a full time work ethic. The low percentage of clients with preceding welfare cases provides a strong contrast with Tarrant County, Texas, where over half of all clients were long term welfare recipients.

Whatcom County NetWork Consortium

The Whatcom County NetWork Consortium provided us with a sample of 97 welfare clients who had used one or more of the services of the Consortium during calendar 1996. In addition to basic client characteristics, these data included information about the number of services provided, length of participation, and employment and wages upon follow-up.

Generally, the client base for Whatcom County is better educated and has fewer dependents than some of the other sites. Only 21 percent of all clients lack a high school diploma or GED, and 55 percent have only one dependent. Slightly more than one-third had worked during the preceding 26 weeks, with the bulk of the racial/ethnic minority group comprised of Hispanic clients. Key observations based on the data provided by the Whatcom County NetWork Consortium include:

  • Services: About 46 percent of NetWork Consortium clients receive one service, while the rest of the clients receive an average of between three and four services. A significantly higher proportion of clients who have worked during the past 26 weeks receive multiple services, as do clients who are age 40 and older. On the other hand, nearly three-quarters of Hispanic clients receive only one service, and over 60 percent of clients with more than a high school education receive only one service.

Table 4
Whatcom County NetWork Consortium

    Services Length of Participation Follow-Up
  All TANF Single Multiple Ave # Multiple Shortest Quartile Longest Quartile Average Length Employed Average Wage
All TANF 100.0% 46.4% 53.6% 3.6 24.7% 24.7% 212.4 33.0% $ 8.61
Female 84.5% 46.3% 53.7% 3.7 24.4% 25.6% 219.1 29.3% $ 7.93
Single Parent 77.3% 44.0% 56.0% 3.6 24.0% 26.7% 220.7 29.3% $ 8.30
Worked in past 26 Weeks 36.1% 34.3% 65.7% 3.4 17.1% 31.4% 255.3 51.4% $ 9.34
White 79.4% 42.9% 57.1% 3.5 23.4% 26.0% 223.4 36.4% $ 9.00
African American 1.0% * * * * * * * *
Hispanic 15.5% 73.3% 26.7% 4.2 26.7% 13.3% 146.7 20.0% $ 5.50
Asian 2.1% * * * * * * * *
Native American 2.1% * * * * * * * *
Number of Dependents
1 54.6% 47.2% 52.8% 3.9 24.5% 26.4% 203.0 34.0% $ 8.20
2 24.7% 41.7% 58.3% 3.2 25.0% 20.8% 211.5 41.7% $ 8.72
3+ 20.7% 50.0% 50.0% 3.5 25.0% 25.0% 238.3 20.0% $ 10.17
<19 8.2% 50.0% 50.0% 4.5 37.5% 25.0% 158.0 50.0% $ 5.88
19-24 34.0% 51.5% 48.5% 4.2 27.3% 18.2% 184.4 27.3% $ 8.47
25-39 44.3% 48.8% 51.2% 2.9 27.9% 20.9% 191.8 32.6% $ 9.79
40+ 13.4% 23.1% 76.9% 3.9 0.0% 53.9% 384.8 38.5% $ 7.73
Years of Education
<12 20.6% 40.0% 60.0% 4.0 25.0% 30.0% 211.3 30.0% $ 7.25
12 62.9% 45.9% 54.1% 3.4 21.3% 21.3% 205.1 37.7% $ 8.61
13-15 13.4% 61.5% 38.5% 3.8 46.2% 23.1% 206.5 23.1% $ 11.32
16+ 3.1% * * * * * * * *

*  Insufficient cell size for accurate reporting.

  • Length of Participation: On average, clients participate in NetWork Consortium services for a total of 212 days. While this would appear considerably longer than in other sites examined, it is important to note that the sampling frame here may not correspond to those in other sites.(37) Clients with recent work experience are disproportionately represented in the longest quartile of participation, as are clients age 40 and above, and clients with less than a high school diploma or GED. Clients with more than a high school education are over represented in the shortest quartile of participation, while clients age 40 and older, and those with recent work experience are under represented in the shortest quartile.
  • Follow-Up Employment: One-third of all NetWork Consortium clients reported being employed at the 90-day follow-up contact. For those clients with recent work experience and clients age 19 and below, the employment rate was over 50 percent, while for Hispanic clients and clients with three or more dependents, the employment rate was only 20 percent. Clients with higher levels of education also report lower rates of employment.
  • Follow-Up Wages: Wages for NetWork Consortium clients employed at follow-up (90 days after termination) average $8.61 per hour, considerably higher than other sites reviewed. However, this site also has substantially more hourly wage variation among different groups. Clients with post high school education and those with three or more dependents earn the highest hourly wages on average. Clients between ages 25 and 40, those with recent work experience, and white clients are all groups that earn wages that are higher than the average for all clients. Hispanic clients and clients age 18 and younger earn less than $6.00 per hour on average. Clients age 40 and over, and clients with less than a high school education average less than $8.00 per hour.

Which Clients Are Best Served by One-Stop Systems?

The preceding unique data sets seem to confirm the answers identified through focus group interviews, i.e., that welfare clients without a high school education, clients with large numbers of dependents, and clients who are older tend to have greater needs, use more services, take longer to progress through the system, and have less encouraging employment outcomes. While this information is not particularly new, the fact that One-Stop systems are tending to provide these clients with more services and assistance is encouraging, even if the employment outcomes are not entirely comparable with those of other clients. Of course, it should not go unnoted that the corollary of this pattern is also valuable information, that welfare clients with more education, fewer dependents, and young enough to be resilient in the job market are consuming relatively fewer services and are progressing faster through the system.

These data also confirm some of the difficulties facing One-Stop systems. Non-compliance seems to range from 10 percent to 17 percent. High proportions of welfare clients continue to drop out after the orientation session, and length of participation and employment rates seem to suggest that some groups of welfare recipients are either slipping through the cracks or are not responding well to the services provided. For example, Hispanic clients in the Washington State site have a high proportion of single service cases, a low average length of participation, and a low employment rate and wage rate upon follow-up. A similar pattern emerges for African American clients in Traverse City. Both of these cases involve only small samples of these subgroups and as such, limit our ability to generalize, but the presence of this type of pattern should be cause for caution.

The variation in the characteristics of the populations served across sites illustrates the need for flexibility in defining services and designing service systems that respond to unique local needs. Differences in local economies are very important in understanding the types of work skills necessary to be successful, yet differences in education levels, age distribution, number of dependents, and racial/ethnic diversity also persist, requiring careful attention to unique local design issues.


32.  These figures represent only a cross-section of client characteristics in time, and therefore would not capture the longitudinal effects of entrances of pregnant women who remain in the system for long periods of time. However, this observation was confirmed by Kenosha Job Center managers.

33.  One exception appears to be clients age 40 years and over, who have a lower number of case manager contacts. However, the small number of clients in this group makes it difficult to draw conclusions about this group.

34.  "Long term" is defined as 36 or more months of welfare participation during the preceeding 60 months.

35.  Note that the length of participation in the JOBS program is measured from entry until the end of calendar 1996.

36.  Note that "complex cases" were defined and targeted by the One-Stop.

37.  Note that in the case of the NetWork Consortium, the sample included clients served during calendar 1996, and was not limited to clients entering the system during that year.

Appendix: One-Stop Model Summaries

Workforce Development Center, Marshalltown, Iowa

The Workforce Development Center serves a 4-county area in eastern central Iowa that is largely rural. Marshalltown itself is a city of approximately 25,000. Roughly 15 percent of Marshalltown's population is of Hispanic origin. Surrounding counties served are very rural, and driving distance to the Center can be as much as 80 miles.

  • State Workforce System: 1996 legislation created a consolidated Workforce Development Department, formalizing the structure of the state Workforce Development Council and calling for the creation of local boards to select service providers and monitor local workforce development centers. Local centers must include DoL funded programs (JTPA Titles II and III, Employment Services, Veterans Employment Services, Senior Community Service Employment, and Unemployment Insurance), as well as the Food Stamp Employment and Training Program and the state's PROMISE JOBS program for welfare clients. Participation of a variety of other partners is "strongly encouraged." Service delivery plans are approved by local and state boards, with an emphasis on performance-based community service provider contracts.
  • Welfare Reform: Iowa was one of the first states to enact a comprehensive welfare reform package under federal waivers in October 1993. The new benefit system, called the Family Investment Program or FIP, took the place of Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and made changes to the Food Stamp Program. Each FIP participant is required to develop a Family Investment Agreement (FIA) which outlines the steps the individual will take toward self-sufficiency, including education, job training, and employment. Caregivers with children under age 6 months are exempt from this requirement. PROMISE JOBS is the employment and training program under which FIAs are to be carried out.

    Those who enroll in FIP but fail to meet the program requirements are transferred into the Limited Benefits Plan (LBP). Most LBP participants end up in the program due to non-compliance with the FIP. The LBP provides three months of reduced benefits, followed by six months of no cash benefits for the entire family, although non-cash assistance such as Food Stamps and Medicaid continue. At the end of the six-month period, recipients can reapply to the FIP but must develop and comply with their FIA. If recipients fail to meet the requirements of the FIP a second time, the case is referred back into the LBP. The second time around, no cash benefits are provided for six-months and there is no option for reconsideration for either LBP or FIP after the allotted time has expired.

  • Local Economy: The impact of the nation's farm crisis in Iowa during the early and mid 1980's caused significant hardship and restructuring of the local economy. During the late 1980s, Marshalltown experienced major, permanent lay-offs by its largest employer, a manufacturing company paying some of the area's highest wages and benefits. However, during the most recent recovery cycle the region's economy has expanded and changed dramatically, resulting in an unemployment rate of just over 3 percent in the county at the time of our site visit. Despite the strong economy, job turnover in the adjacent rural counties served by the Workforce Development Center was quite low. Current job listings in some counties were extremely limited at the time of the visit.
  • Location and Physical Space: Marshalltown is located on the freeway about 40 miles northeast of Des Moines. The Workforce Development Center is located between the center of town and the freeway, with the Iowa Valley Community College within walking distance on the other side of the freeway. The Center is housed in a two-story building constructed specifically for it's use. Visitors walk into a large reception area and a receptionist is on hand to direct them to services. The first floor accommodates a large meeting space, offices for most program staff and a computer training lab. The second floor provides classroom space, more computers, a job research space, and a video conferencing center. Most staff have individual offices, clustered by program and surrounding an open office arrangement for the Center director.
  • General Concept: The Center provides service based on an inverted pyramid concept. The Center is organized to encourage clients, as a first step, to serve themselves in the Resource Room or in other areas of the Center. Center staff have found that most client needs can be met through the self-service offerings. In our interviews, the most frequently repeated phrase was focused on the client-oriented goal setting: "you can set your own goals here, what do you want to do?" For those who require additional assistance, various groups are provided in order to meet specific needs including resume workshops, computer skills, and career assessments. As a last step, clients needing intensive services can obtain one-on-one service from on-site staff. This framework for service delivery means the Center can meet the needs of most job seekers while focusing staff time on areas where the need is greatest.

    Promise Jobs Program: Since Promise Jobs participants who aren't engaging in the system are usually enrolled in the LBP, most of the clients seen by the Workforce Development Center are FIP enrollees. Most client FIAs call for participation in one of two job clubs offered by the Center. These clubs are viewed as the first step towards gainful employment. The first type of club is called Living Skills and focuses on basic programs for those clients who are facing multiple barriers to employment. Through this program, clients work in a group setting and with case managers to improve self-esteem and life skills, and address other barriers to prepare for the next level of job club called Job Readiness. The Job Readiness program is designed to assist clients with job search skills. Job seeking information, dress and interview workshops, and support networks are all provided through this program.

    The Center's Promise Jobs program places a fairly heavy emphasis on community college training, and provides some limited state resources to support education and training for enrolled clients. Most of this direct assistance comes in the form of childcare and transportation support for clients enrolled in school. Tuition financing is generally provided via Pell Grants and loans.

  • Partners: Marshalltown's Promise Jobs program is managed under contract by the Iowa Valley Community College District. Co-located agencies at the Resource Center include:
    • Iowa Department of Workforce Development
    • Iowa Valley Community College District
    • Iowa Department of Vocational Rehabilitation
    • American Indian Council
    • Mid-Iowa Community Action
    • Institute for Social and Economic Development

    The state welfare agency, the Department of Human Services (DHS), was intentionally not located at the Marshalltown Center. The purpose of this design was to avoid a confusion of purposes for welfare clients, separating the agency responsible for cash assistance from the Center' focus on jobs, training and self-sufficiency.

  • Job-Seeker Services: The Resource Center offers a wide array of services for both job seekers and employers. On-site agencies provide the following services for job seekers:
    • Vocational rehabilitation
    • Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA)
    • GED (General Education Development) tests
    • American Indian Council JTPA Program
    • Title IV-A
    • Career assessment
    • Veterans benefits
    • Unemployment insurance
    • Resource center
  • Employer Services: The Center has several services designed specifically to meet employer needs. These include:
    • Recruitment, selection and assist in hiring of employees
    • Employment information seminars
    • Downsizing assistance
    • Workplace basics
    • Manufacturing and industrial technology training
    • Communication skills
    • Computer applications
    • Business management
    • Conferences, meeting rooms, teleconferences and interactive communications network
  • Data Systems and Fiscal Planning: The Center relies on the DHS to send monthly activity reports for all PROMISE JOBS participants located in the Center's Service Delivery Area (SDA). These reports include information about those participants that have earnings in that month, those that have FIAs and those that need to develop FIAs. The Center uses class schedules and grades to track participants that are in school. The Center can access the DHS database and works closely with income maintenance workers at DHS. Activity in the Center is monitored through sign-in sheets, staff notes, and PROMISE JOBS forms. This information is entered into an on-site database.

    Marshalltown does not have a formal budget for the Center. Operational funds come from the many different programs located on-site and the Department of Human Services.

Kenosha County Job Center, Kenosha, Wisconsin

The Kenosha County Job Center serves in southeastern Wisconsin. The County is located south of Milwaukee and Racine along Lake Michigan and just north of the Illinois boarder. The County has a mix of both urban and rural areas, with a population of approximately 135,000 people. The major urban area is the City of Kenosha, with a population of 85,000 people, located midway along the transit corridor between Milwaukee and Chicago. Ethnically, the County is 90 percent European-American, 4 percent African-American, and 5 percent Hispanic-American.

  • State Workforce System: The One-Stop shop concept has been part of Wisconsin's service delivery efforts since 1986, collocated with JTPA and Job Service Offices in the southwest corner of the state. In 1987, Wisconsin's legislature provided funding for welfare reform pilots in four of the state's 17 service delivery areas. In 1988, the Wisconsin Jobs Council was created to review employment and training plans from local areas, and in 1989, the State Collaborative Planning Team was formed to formalize the local structure of these initiatives. This Team included managers from the 9 different agencies, including Corrections, Development, Health and Social Services, Industry Labor and Human Relations, Public Instruction, Veterans Affairs, the Educational Approvement Board, the Council on Vocational Education, and the Technical College System Board.(38)

    In 1994, the Human Resource Investment Council was created by order of the Governor, replacing the Wisconsin Jobs Council, with the intent of providing oversight and direction to all education and employment and training programs. In addition to the Local Collaborative Planning Teams that have been assembled in each of the 17 service delivery levels, Human Resource Investment Boards were envisioned to be created in all local areas. However, there has been some local resistance to overlaying these local policy boards in some service delivery areas where the integration of services preceded this organizational structure. In 1996, the state Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations was merged with the Department of Health and Social Services, consolidating some of the key One-Stop players in the state.(39)

  • Welfare Reform: Wisconsin has been a leader in developing the WorkFirst concept for the JOBS program. The version of these reforms in operation at the time of our site visit emphasized the elimination of the time lag between registration for cash assistance and work activity, requiring work activity for all welfare recipients whose youngest child was 12 months or older. Clients registered for welfare benefits at the Job Center, and received an orientation to AFDC and JOBS on the same day. Clients were then expected to engage in a simulated, 32 hour work week of program activities, with placement into a work situation within 11 weeks. Work placement included full- or part-time unsubsidized employment, on-the-job training positions, work supplementation (subsidized employment), and community work experience. Persons with educational barriers (generally the lack of high school equivalency) could be excepted from the work requirements, although the simulated work week must be maintained.

    Starting in September 1997, Wisconsin Works (W-2) was to be implemented, replacing the WorkFirst program by making cash assistance available only through work or participation in worklike activities. Participation is mandatory for all parents whose youngest child is over 12 weeks old; assistance for disabled and grandparent or child only families has been shifted out of the W-2 program. No cash grants are provided to work ready participants, who are eligible for child care and medical assistance on an income-based, sliding fee schedule. A trial job subsidy is available, with the subsidy flowing through the employer. Participants must engage in 4 weeks of work search after TANF application prior to assessment. Those unable to find unsubsidized or subsidized employment must engage in community service employment for 30 hours per week, and up to 10 hours per week of education and training. Transitional clients (based on assessment by the state Vocational Rehabilitation agency) must engage in 28 hours of work activity each week, and up to 12 hours of education and training. Trial jobs and community service jobs are eligible for subsidies up to 6 months, with one 3 month extension, for a program maximum of 24 months for all jobs. Transitional benefits are limited to 24 months, with some potential for extensions.(40)

  • Local Economy: The area has rebounded from the closing of a major automobile manufacturing complex in 1988, diversifying its economic base in manufacturing, retail, and tourism. The county unemployment rate at the time of our visit hovered around 3 percent. Roughly 40 percent of the resident work force commutes outside of the county for employment, yet 12 percent of the total county employment is comprised of commuters into the county. Although Kenosha County is linked with Racine County to the north and Walworth County to the west for purposes of the JTPA service delivery area, this commuting pattern suggests that the effective labor market is composed of Kenosha County, WI and Lake County, IL.(41)
  • Location and Physical Space: The Job Center has been in operation since 1990, and is located in a shopping mall on a primary bus route in the City of Kenosha. The Job Center has about 62,000 square feet of space, roughly 75 percent of the shopping mall, including on-site child care for parents using the facility. It provides all community employment and training activities and economic support programs for the county, although some access is provided to rural areas of the county via satellite offices. Over 18 agencies operating more than 20 programs are part of the Center. The programs and staff are fully integrated. A single general reception area and a unified telephone system serve all agencies in the facility. In most program areas, staff are seated according to function and integrated service teams, not according to agency affiliation. The Job Search Resource Room, used for job search and placement services for all clients, is staffed on a multi-agency and multi-program basis.
  • General Concept: The Kenosha County Job Center is probably one of the most fully integrated One-Stop models in the country. The Center has integrated its programs, staff, central services, and physical environment based on the needs of its customers. This integration blends public, non-profit, and private sector service providers via inter-agency agreements and contractual relationships that have been developed over time with strong local leadership and support through the Center's executive management structure. The most frequently repeated phrase during our interviews was that "everyone is employable, with no exceptions," reflecting a strong normative/motivational element in the program design. Participants also report being advised not to apply for just any job -- "don't apply for the job unless you want it" -- recognizing that employment retention depends on a good match between job seeker and employer. The Center's attention to customer needs is not limited to job seekers, but also encompasses an active array of employer outreach services.
  • Kenosha County JOBS Program: In May 1997, the Center was preparing for the W-2 changes to go into effect. The JOBS program for public assistance recipients in place at the time of the site-visit was directly geared at getting people into jobs and helping them become self-sufficient. From the moment an individual applies for cash benefits, the message of economic self-sufficiency begins. The first step is to explore alternatives to enrollment in welfare and JOBS, redirecting the applicant to other community resources when appropriate. If an individual is approved for benefits and enrolls, he or she becomes a mandatory participant in the JOBS program and scheduled for an orientation. The JOBS program included the following major elements:
    • Job Preparation Services: Orientation, motivational workshop, job seeking skills workshop, assessment, vocational exploration, job search, and case management.
    • Educational Services: Basic education, vocational skills training, customized training, other education, and case management.
    • Work Activities: Full-time employment, part-time employment, community work experience, other work experience, on-the-job training, work supplementation, and case management.

    Under W-2, Center managers expect to break down the job preparation services into discrete modules and make some of these services, such as assessment, available to a broader range of Center clients.

  • Partners: The collocated partner agencies are:
    • Adult Educators, Inc.
    • Child Care Resource and Referral of Greater Racine and Kenosha
    • Children's Service Society of Wisconsin
    • Community Action Agency - WIC Program
    • Gateway Technical College
    • Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc.
    • Hoppe - Orendorff, CPA
    • Job Corps
    • Kenosha County Department of Human Services
    • Kenosha Unified Head Start
    • Labor Management Council
    • LJJ - Associates In Management Services, Inc.
    • Professional Services Group, Inc.
    • Senior Community Services of Southeastern Wisconsin
    • Southeastern Wisconsin Private Industry Council, Inc.
    • Systems Management, Inc.
    • United Migrant Opportunity Service
    • Wisconsin Job Service
  • Services for All Users: Services available for all uses of the Center include:
    • Career information system
    • Labor market information
    • Education and training information
    • Hiring requirements
    • Referrals
    • Job Search Assistance
    • Community programs
    • Resume preparation
    • Computer, phone and fax access
    • Typing and WP tests and skills
    • General aptitude test
    • Other tests
    • On-site interviews
  • Programs: Programs located on-site are:
    • Fully integrated and consolidated public welfare delivery system
    • Labor Exchange and Employment Security
    • Mandatory Work Search Program of the Unemployment Compensation System
    • Dislocated Worker Programs
    • Older Worker Programs
    • Senior Community Service Employment Program
    • Veterans' Program
    • Job Training Partnership Act Programs
    • Economic Support Programs
    • Child Care Resource and Referral
    • Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training Program
    • Child Support Enforcement
    • Child Care Services
    • Migrant Seasonal Farm Workers Program
    • Children First
    • SSI Advocacy
    • Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
    • Extension Food and Nutrition Education Program
    • Food Stamp Employment and Training Program
    • Job Corps Recruitment
    • Child Health Screening
    • Head Start
    • Trade Adjustment Assistance
  • Data Systems and Fiscal Planning: The Center has developed and maintains a central data system for managing and tracking public assistance clients. This data system is valuable from a management perspective, as it allows managers to track client flows and outcomes on a monthly basis. However, this system is not as heavily used for individual case management, since JOBS case managers, economic support specialists, and job placement specialists are all collocated as a unit. Labor market data systems include two statewide systems: Career Visions, the Wisconsin Career Information System, and JOBNET, an automated touch screen system for posting resumes and job openings and conducting job title and key word searches. In addition, local labor market information is provided by a regional labor market analyst.

    Kenosha County contracts with Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc., to lease and maintain the Job Center. As the leaseholder of the facility, Goodwill provides a variety of host services. Many of the direct services are provided non-profit and for-profit organizations under contract with public partners. Following is a consolidated program budget for the Job Center for 1996:

    Program Annual Budget
    JOBS Program $3,728,820
    Economic Support Administration $3,163,391
    Child Support $1,369,936
    Prevention Services $1,078,064
    Food Stamp Employment and Training $1,050,000
    Senior Aides $410,000
    Wisconsin Job Service $367,000
    PIC-JTPA $360,000
    Fraud Prevention $332,762
    United Migrant Opportunity Service $60,000
    Total $11,919,973

    The executive management team for the Job Center is composed of a single upper level management representative from each of the participating agencies. Policy guidance and oversight is provided by the Kenosha County Executive and the Human Services Board. The Southeastern Wisconsin service delivery area does not have a separate Human Resource Investment Board or Workforce Development Board.

Tarrant County Resource Connection Career Center, Fort Worth, TX

Tarrant County has the sixth highest population density in Texas, with an employed population of just over 700,000. The southeastern quadrant of the county (where the Resource Connection is located) contains 4 zip codes that accounted for 44 percent of calls to the United Way Call for Help line in 1996. This area also has 4 of the 7 zip code areas with the highest concentrations of mandatory work participation clients.

  • State Workforce System: Texas has a history of workforce program coordination and collocation dating back to the 1970s, but the evolution of its current system started in 1993 with legislation calling for the creation of the Texas Council on Workforce and Economic Competitiveness. Once established in 1995, this Council replaced 5 advisory bodies, taking responsibility for planning, developing, and evaluating an integrated workforce system. The Council provides the overall development goals and policies which guide the Texas Workforce Commission, which was established in 1996 as a "super agency" responsible for administering workforce development programs. The Commission consolidated the workforce programs from 8 different state agencies, including Unemployment Insurance and most employment services, JTPA and literacy programs, adult education and apprenticeship training, post-secondary vocational and technical training, JOBS and Food Stamp Employment and Training, school-to-work planning, senior citizen employment, child care, and community service activities. State legislation called for the establishment of One-Stop Career Centers and encouraged the formation of local workforce development boards, but allowed local areas to retain separate advisory and governing boards such as PICs and Job Service Employer Committees. Job training funds were also converted to block grants to local boards.
  • Welfare Reform: In November 1996, Texas implemented a new schedule of benefits under a five-year waiver which differs from the new Federal TANF rules. For parents with a GED, high school diploma or at least 18 months of work experience, benefits are limited to one year. For those with 6 to 17 months of work experience or 11th grade education (but no GED or diploma), benefits are limited to two years. Parents with no GED and less than an 11th grade education could receive up to 4 years of benefits. Anyone with work experience in 18 out of the past 24 months receives only one year of benefits before work is required. All welfare recipients are required to participate in the Texas JOBS program; those who fail to participate are subject to a $78/month sanction (from an average benefit rate of $188/month). However, any single parent with a child under age 5 is exempt from JOBS participation and work requirements as long as they are not teenagers. Persons who are disabled or do not have reliable transportation are also exempt. This schedule of benefits suggests that the least skilled parents and those with young children tend to have the fewest immediate incentives for engaging the Center's resources. At the time of our site visit, some parents had been sanctioned but in general, the time limits had not yet really taken effect.
  • Local Economy: The Fort Worth area's economy received several shocks during the early and mid-1990s, with the closure of Carswell Air Force Base, the loss of some primary industries and several major defense contracts. However, by early 1997, the economy had responded vigorously and unemployment in Tarrant County had fallen to 3.9 percent, compared with a statewide unemployment rate of 5.4 percent. Employers actively participating in the Resource Connection tend to be concentrated among hospital, hotel, and electronic technology industries, with strong demands for housekeeping, janitorial, entry level clerical, data entry, and electronic assembly and technician jobs.
  • Location and Physical Space: The Resource Connection is located on a 92-acre campus just outside of the beltway on the south side of Fort Worth. The site is in the middle of a 270-acre campus that was formerly used by the Fort Worth State School for individuals with mental retardation. The South Campus of the Tarrant County Junior College is nearby, and adjacent lands are either vacant or used for low income housing, commercial and industrial purposes. The Resource Connection campus contains 14 buildings, 2 of which are used for support purposes and the remainder (each with approximately 39,000 square feet) have been renovated to house the various collocated partners. The Texas Department of Human Services is currently constructing a new administrative building on the campus; at the time of our visit, this agency was not collocated. All of the partners/buildings on campus are linked using common computerized intake and referral system that operates on a state of the art local area computer network.
  • General Concept: The Resource Connection Career Center reflects remarkable local leadership in establishing a significant infrastructure for interagency collocation and collaboration. The conversion of the state school -- closed by court order -- into the site for the Resource Connection is a demonstration of turning crisis into opportunity. The Resource Connection Career Center is one of seven one-stop job centers in Tarrant County, yet this site offers a much broader array of partner connections than any other. At the time of our visit, only about 27 percent of welfare recipients were subject to mandatory job search and benefit cutoffs had not yet taken full effect. As a result, there was a general sense that the facility was still new and its capacity somewhat underutilized. However, the staff seemed to be experienced at working with a client base that has a disproportionate share of longer term welfare recipients.
  • Texas JOBS Program: Welfare recipients subject to mandatory work search are referred by the Department of Human Services to the Texas Workforce Commission JOBS facilitator at the Resource Connection Career Center. Clients work with career counselors and employment resource specialists to assess the steps they will need to take in order to transition into work. Depending on the needs of the client, integrated case management is sometimes used as a means of providing the best cross-section of services to the individual. The JOBS case manager provides comprehensive employment and training services, and assists clients in referrals to appropriate resources for increasing education and job related skills. Staff have developed several special programs for JOBS clients. One of the most popular is a two-hour resume workshop conducted by Tarrant County Employment Network staff. Another is a life-skills training program offered by an on-site social worker. This two-day program is offered twice a month, and covers topics such as resume writing, interviewing skills, conflict management, job retention, and budgeting.
  • Partners: The Memorandum of Understanding that establishes the organizational framework for the Resource Connection Career Center identifies 14 partner agencies:
    • Dallas Inter-tribal Center, Employment and Training Office
    • Fort Worth Independent School District
    • Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth
    • Resource Connection Welcome Center
    • Tarrant County Community Supervision and Corrections
    • Tarrant County Department of Human Services
    • Tarrant County Employment Network
    • Tarrant County Junior College
    • Tarrant County Veterans Services
    • Texas Department of Human Services
    • Texas Rehabilitation Commission
    • Texas Workforce Commission
    • The Working Connection MASTERS Program
    • UTA Educational Opportunities Center

    The Welcome Center is responsible for intake and initial referral of clients. The Tarrant County Employment Network staffs the job search resource room and provides most of the employment services functions. The Texas Workforce Commission staffs the basic labor exchange services, including computerized job matching services. Adult education is provided by the Fort Worth Independent School District, and vocational evaluation and training is provided by Goodwill Industries.

  • Services: Service delivery begins at the Welcome Center, which is staffed by a multi-agency team of information resource specialists and counselors. A Resource Room is available to drop-in customers and provides access to the Internet and an automated resource and referral network provided through local United Way. Individuals have access to a variety of services through the Resource Connection Career Center, including:
    • Dislocated worker training,
    • Veterans services
    • Job placement and career counseling,
    • Vocational aptitude and interest assessment,
    • Vocational training workshops,
    • Career resource library,
    • Phone, fax and computer facilities,
    • Employer resource room,
    • Adult and youth learning centers,
    • Unemployment compensation,
    • Job readiness and job search seminars and workshops,
    • JOBS,
    • Case management and counseling.
  • Data Systems and Fiscal Planning: The Resource Connection has implemented a computerized intake and referral system with advanced, easy to use interface. All partner agencies are connected to the system through a local area network that using software developed by Data Systems International that has been customized to the agencies and site.

    Tarrant County is the lead agency in the Resource Connection and as such, has lead responsibility for most management functions, including contracting, tenant selection, rents, and hiring the Resource Connection Executive Director. The Resource Connection Advisory Board -- responsible for policy, community relations, and major financial development strategy -- is composed of 8 members, including the County Judge and/or one Commissioner.(42) Partner agencies were responsible for their rehabilitation costs for their own facilities. Operation of the physical plant is funded via leases with participating anchor agencies, including maintenance, utilities, administration, and a sinking fund/contingency fund assessment. No comprehensive budget is maintained; individual agencies retain responsibility for financing services and other operating costs.

Northwest Michigan JOBNET, Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City is the primary population center in the 10 county area of Northwest Michigan. The region is largely rural, with four small cities and many small villages. Grand Traverse County (including Traverse City) is on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, and has a permanent population of 70,000 which swells to 100,000 during the early summer with migrant labor for the cherry crop and the onset of the tourist season.

  • State Workforce System: [see REDBOOK] The concept of integrated service delivery in Michigan emerged in the mid-1980s when the state attempted to institute the Michigan Opportunity Card. Eligible state residents were to receive a card that provided access to a range of social services and was intended to streamline eligibility, give providers basic client information, and create a mechanism to ensure continuity of service. While the card was never fully institutionalized, it spurred service providers to pursue greater collaborative efforts. These efforts began to jell in Northwest Michigan in 1991 with the leadership of the area Private Industry Council and Council of Governments, while at the same time the state began to pull together workforce programs under the Michigan Jobs Commission. The Michigan Employment Security Agency (MESA) was the last agency to join this constellation. A total of 26 Local Workforce Development Boards with mandatory partners were established under the state framework, with Northwest Michigan's being the largest geographical area.
  • Welfare Reform: Michigan currently operates a Work First program in the context of the new Federal TANF program. All TANF applicants are referred to Work First by the Family Independence Agency (FIA). Work First is fully integrated into JOBNET's One-Stop system, which requires 20 hours per week participation for one-parent families and 35 hours per week for one parent in two-parent families and 20 hours per week for the other parent. Participation in a joint orientation to Work First and JOBNET is mandatory for continued processing of the Work First application for cash benefits. Only parents with children under 12 weeks of age are exempt. Continued satisfactory participation in Work First is mandatory for the continuation of benefits; after "two strikes," clients who fail to participate are referred back to FIA for sanction. Those not working must be engaged in a highly structured job search program. Design calls for continued contact to pursue education and training once 90 days of employment retention has been achieved.
  • Local Economy: The 10-county region of Northwestern Michigan spans a mix of relatively high income, low unemployment counties in the northern part of the region with lower income, high unemployment counties to the south and inland. For example, in Grand Traverse County, the heart of the region's tourism industry, the unemployment rate was about 4 percent at the time of our visit (June 1997), while in Manistee County, still struggling to recover from auto industry related layoffs of the 1980s, unemployment was between 8 percent and 9 percent. The region has focused on diversifying the local economy, with some success in expanding manufacturing and high technology industries, especially in Grand Traverse County. However, with the importance of both tourism and the cherry harvest, even this area is subject to seasonal swings in employment opportunities and labor market conditions.
  • Location and Physical Space: The Traverse City JOBNET offices are the central hub of what is envisioned to be a network of 8 sites scattered throughout Northwestern Michigan. At the time of our visit, 5 of the 8 sites were open and operating, and Traverse City was preparing a new location that would bring together several of its partners in a single facility designed for that purpose. The current JOBNET office, located between residential and industrial areas not too far from a main thoroughfare, houses JTPA and MESA staff and provides a resource area adjacent to the reception desk. Most of the Work First counseling and job search activities are located across the street. FIA is not currently collocated with JOBNET, and some of the management team for JOBNET is housed at Northwestern Michigan College. The new offices will accommodate a representative from FIA.
  • General Concept: The Work First element of the JOBNET program places a heavy emphasis on immediate job search and placement, with case management attention to individualized support services and follow-up education and training activities. Participants noted that they were urged to "take a job, any job, and then work your way up." Considerable attention has been paid to the development of common data systems for case management as a tool for fostering collaboration and freeing scarce resources for high touch counseling and follow-up. Reading the JOBNET literature and talking with staff and local businesses, one gets the sense of a strong local vision that is in a multi-year process of being methodically developed one step at a time, almost regardless of state leadership and timetable.
  • Work First Program: Following referral from FIA to JOBNET, Work First applicants participate in a joint Work First and JOBNET orientation. Usually, the JOBNET intake and initial assessment with a case manager occur during the initial contact with the JOBNET office; applicants are immediately entered into the labor exchange computer system as part of the intake. Following the orientation, those who continue to participate enter a highly structured job search program that includes the development of a Personal Plan of Action (PPA), assistance and referral for basic support services (such as child care, health care, clothing allowance, and transportation), and a job club offering assistance in job search skills, resume writing, interviewing, and labor market information. Case managers continue to work with individual clients on their support service needs as they look for work and once they have found employment. For those participants who chose to do so, they may continue to work with case managers to find ways of pursuing education and training needs once employment retention for 90 days is a achieved -- whether subsidized work experience or unsubsidized employment.
  • Partners: The primary partner organizations of the Northwest JOBNET are:
    • Northwest Michigan Council of Governments
    • Michigan Employment Security Agency
    • Michigan Rehabilitation Services
    • Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District and Career Tech Center
    • Char-Em Intermediate School District
    • Wexford-Missaukee Intermediate School District and Career Tech Center
    • Manistee Schools Cooperative
    • Northwest Michigan College
    • North Central Michigan College
    • West Shore Community College
    • Family Independence Agency
    • Local Economic Development Councils
    • Private Rehabilitation Agencies
    • Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Michigan.

    The primary partners in the Traverse City JOBNET office include JTPA contract employees, MESA, and Michigan Rehabilitation Services.

  • Services: The following services can be received directly in the Traverse City JOBNET offices:
    • Common intake system
    • Information and referral
    • Self-service resources
    • Assessment
    • Job search skills workshops
    • Resume lab
    • Interview lab
    • Employability planning and counseling
    • Education, training and financial aid assistance
    • Case management
    • Job seeker support groups
    • Rehabilitation assessment, planning and support
    • Basic education and workforce literacy skills
    • Orientation for public assistance recipients
    • Job referral and placement
    • Unemployment insurance
    • Connection to subsidized training
    • Child care resource and referral
    • Supportive services to enhance employability
    • Special services for target populations (UI profiling customers, job club for Work First, etc.)
    • Comprehensive business services.
  • Data Systems and Fiscal Planning: The Northwest Michigan JOBNET blends two data systems in order to provide One-Stop service to their clients. MESA's employer records and job orders and automated labor exchange are kept on MAJIC, while the Automated Case Management System (ACMS) maintains a shared database of client records. The ACMS system was developed by the Northwest Michigan JOBNET, and is used to provide information across agencies on common intake questions, assessment, career advancement plans and PPAs, case notes, and other program-specific data and records of service. JOBNET staff use e-mail for internal communications, along with an automated appointment scheduling system.

    Management of the Northwest Michigan JOBNET is provided by the Advisory Committee, which consists of management staff appointed by the area Workforce Development Board (formerly the PIC). This group oversees the system design, implementation, and development, as well as being responsible for system changes, pooling of resources, barrier removal, and evaluation of outcomes. No unified budget is maintained for all JOBNET partners.

Whatcom County WorkNet Consortium, Bellingham, Washington

Whatcom County is located in the northwest corner of Washington State. Canada boarders to the north, the Cascade mountain range rises to the east and the Pacific Ocean lies to the west. Seattle is 100 miles to the south. Bellingham (population 55,000) is the urban center of the county and has strong historical ties to the major Pacific Northwest industries of timber, fishing, and trade. As evidence of the area's ties to natural resources, two thirds of the county is located within the North Cascades National Park.

  • State Workforce System: The attention of policymakers to the state's workforce system started in the early 1990s with a major study of human capital development. Study recommendations led to the creation of the Workforce Development Board in 1992, with broad representation of state agencies and community interests. The Board has responsibility for policy oversight and evaluation of the state's workforce system, including school-to-work, community and technical colleges, and employment services provided by several state and local agencies, yet the Board has no significant control over individual agency budgets and policy and program decisions. Although local boards were envisioned in the original legislation, they have yet to be created. Movement toward an integrated career center system began in 1994, with the creation of a One-Stop Career Center System Management Team composed of cabinet-level state officials and senior representatives from business, labor, and community groups. The 1995 vision of this group called for integrating employment and training services to make them easier to use, and consolidating programs were coordination and efficiencies can result.

    Some local areas in western Washington, such as Whatcom County, began developing their own versions of One-Stop centers as early as 1992, while others are just now establishing their own unique local designs.

  • Welfare Reform: Washington State experimented with two different welfare reform efforts prior to enactment of its current WorkFirst program in 1997. At the time of our site visit, the welfare program in place was operating under a set of waivers from the federal TANF law. Welfare recipients with children over age 3 were required to enroll in the JOBS program (administered by the state's Employment Security Department), although the definition of work under this program was inclusive of a variety of education and training activities. Beginning in 1995, cash benefits for recipients were reduced after 48 months. It is unclear how many recipients were sanctioned during the relatively short period that this program was in place, and there is some sense that follow-up for no-shows was lax. Generally, this program was focused more heavily on supporting welfare recipients while they completed education and training prior to searching for employment that would provide self-sufficiency.

    By contrast, the WorkFirst program places heavy emphasis on job search immediately after application for cash assistance and prior to assessment for job skills and employability, representing a significant shift from "education and training first" "to "work first." Only parents with children under 12 months and caretakers are generally exempt from work requirements. Participants are expected to accept the first available job. Increased funding is made available for child care, although reimbursement rates have been reduced and sliding fee schedule co-payments instituted.

  • Local economy: The natural resource industries of timber and fishing had long served this area as base industries, but declines in these industries have meant the loss of many high wage, often seasonal jobs. A boom in retail trade during the early 1990s was fed largely by a strong influx of Canadian shoppers and the growth of a large retail mall on the outskirts of Bellingham. However, an increasingly stronger American dollar relative to the Canadian dollar has severely depleted this stimulus to the local economy. As a result, the unemployment rate in Whatcom County at the time of our site visit was just under 6 percent, despite much lower state and national unemployment rates.
  • Location and Physical Space: The Center for Workforce Training provides the focus for the WorkNet Consortium. The Center is located in downtown Bellingham, adjacent to the Northwest Private Industry Council offices and across the street from state Employment Security Department offices. The Center houses a computer lab, classrooms, conference room, career development and job search center, and staff offices. In addition to the Center, designated locations provide information on all available services, any eligibility requirements, and where and how to access services. Designated sites include: job service centers (Employment Security Department), PIC offices, community and technical colleges, community service offices (Department of Social and Health Services), and career development centers.
  • General Concept: The WorkNet Consortium is designed as a "first stop," or "no wrong door" system that depends more on collaboration of partners than on collocation of services. For example, all partner agencies can refer clients to a common three-day orientation class which is held weekly and covers self-assessment, career exploration, communication and job search skills, labor market information, resume writing, and interviewing skills. The class is taught by Employment Security and/or PIC staff, and when the client completes the class he/she returns to the referring agency, which acts as case manager. Interagency work teams are the primary mechanism used in the development of an integrated service delivery system, led by a design team which meets every four to six weeks to identify tasks. Mid-managers and line staff form subgroups that have the responsibility to set up the structure to achieve these tasks. A common set of Workforce Skill Standards are used to facilitate service planning and communication among the partner agencies and to set performance goals.
  • JOBS Program: At the time of our site visit, the JOBS Program was administered by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Local DSHS social workers arranged counseling and support services, and referred clients to Employment Security Department employment specialists to provide employment and training services, arranged training at educational institutions, and helped co-enroll and/or transition participants into other programs that offer complementary employment and training services, such as JTPA. JOBS components included assessment, basic education, high school and GED completion, ESL instruction, job readiness activities, work experience, postsecondary vocational training, and job search/placement. Child care, medical, and dental services were available for as long as one year after a recipient was employed and no longer receiving an AFDC grant.
  • Partners: The primary partners in the WorkNet Consortium are:
    • Bellingham Technical College
    • Employment Security Department, Bellingham Job Service Center
    • Department of Social and Human Services, Bellingham Community Services Division
    • Northwest Private Industry Council

    The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, which is part of the Department of Social and Health Services, is also included in this partnership.

  • Services: The services made available through WorkNet include:
    • First-stop services:  program information and eligibility, initial assessment, and referral
    • In-depth assessment
    • Career planning
    • Employability plan
    • Case management
    • Workforce preparation
    • Employer linkages
    • Work-based job training
    • Job match and job search services
    • Basic academic skills
    • Classroom training
    • Support services (child care, transportation subsidy, job readiness, counseling, needs-based payments, and follow-up assistance)
  • Programs: The following programs are available through the WorkNet Consortium:
    • JTPA Titles IIA, IIB, IIC, Older Workers and EDWAA Title III
    • JTPA 8 percent Education Coordination Grant
    • JOBS
    • Community and technical college financial aid programs, including state training assistance and Pell Grants, and occupational training program prerequisites assessment information
    • Dislocated Workers
    • Trade Adjustment Assistance
    • Claimant Placement Program
    • Commissioner Approved Training and Timber Retraining Benefits
    • Workforce Training Trust Fund Services
    • Wagner-Peyser functions
    • Adult Basic Education
    • ESL and GED training through community and technical colleges
  • Data Systems and Fiscal Planning: WorkNet Consortium partner agencies have access to a first generation version of the Data Systems International computer system for client intake, referral, and case management. However, none of these agencies have been granted (state) legal authority to share this data across agency lines, making it necessary for agencies to maintain parallel data sets. Additional data resources include Internet access to America's Jobs, standard occupational and industrial labor market and labor exchange data (from the Employment Security Department), and community resource information. The Center for Workforce Training is co-funded and co-managed by the four partner agencies.


38.  Northwest Policy Center, One-Stop Career Centers.....

39.  Social Policy Research Associates, "State of Wisconsin One-Stop Profile," Menlo Park, CA, March 1996.

40.  Thomas Kaplan, "Evaluating comprehensive state welfare reforms: An overview." Focus, Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Vol. 18, No. 3, Spring 1997.

41.  Kenosha County Job Center, "Expect Success," Kenosha WI.

42.  The County Judge is the chief administrative officer for Tarrant County; four Commissioners are elected from districts.