Coordination and Integration of Welfare and Workforce Development Systems. Coordination of the Welfare and Workforce Development Systems


While the studies discussed above raise issues about the coordination of employment and training services generally, a number of researchers have looked specifically at issues involving the coordination of the welfare and workforce development systems. Most of these efforts have focused on state-level integration, with less attention given to collaboration at the local level.

Researchers have identified two areas which specifically hindered the coordination between these two systems in the past (Bailis, 1989; Grubb et al., 1990). First, particularly in the early years of JTPA, the workforce system was not focused on providing services to the more disadvantaged individualsВ  the group typically served through the welfare system. Because of its performance standards, some JTPA programs emphasized the provision of services to the job-ready rather than to those who may need additional and more intensive services to become employed. Second, there have been differences in objectives and time frames between the two programs which hinder coordination. Even before the new welfare law, many welfare-to-work programs operated by the welfare system took a primary interest in efforts to find job placements quickly, and thus had less interest in placing clients in the longer-term training provided by the workforce system.

Several recent studies have focused on measuring the level of coordination between the workforce and welfare systems and have generally found relatively low levels of service coordination. The Urban Institute developed typologies which classify state-level agreements or arrangements between JTPA and welfare-to-work efforts (Nightingale, et al., 1997). These typologies document the extent to which formal state-level agreements exist between JTPA and welfare-to-work efforts or whether there have been major state-level reorganizations related to welfare reform. As described below, they identified four general models (or levels of interaction) and submodels (not listed):

  1. Structural Integration of Welfare and JTPA System at the State Level. The administration of JTPA and welfare-to-work programs is integrated within a single employment and training or workforce development agency at the state level.
  2. Formal Interaction between Welfare and JTPA System at the State Level. There is no state level integration per se, but the agency which administers JTPA has formal administrative responsibility for all or some aspects of TANF work programs, and/or the welfare agency has transferred all or some TANF work funds to the agency that administers JTPA.
  3. Formal Interaction between Welfare and Employment Security System (and indirect role for JTPA) at the State Level. A formal financial or non-financial agreement exists at the state level for the state Employment Service agency, which also administers JTPA, to provide some or all TANF work services locally.
  4. Minimal or no Formal Role for JTPA or Employment Security at the State Level. No formal state contracts or interagency management team.

This study found that major state-level restructuring due to welfare reform was rareВ  slightly less than one-half of the states fell into the category of little or no formal state-level relationships as of the summer of 1997 and only two states had fully integrated the two systems. However, the study emphasized that much of the responsibility for deciding the role of JTPA in welfare reform is maintained at the local level, and there may be greater levels of coordination than was evident in their state-level study.

Policy reports by the National Governors' Association (NGA) indicate that many states are involved in efforts to restructure the administration of workforce development programs and services provided. Moving ahead of the federal legislation, most states (39) have establish consolidated state-level human resource investment councils (HRICs) to promote state-level coordination and collaboration among workforce programs and 20 states have also established local workforce boards. However, as found in the Urban Institute study, the NGA reports also indicate that high levels of coordination between the workforce and welfare system are less common. The most common activity of the workforce system in welfare reform is the provision of job search, job placement, and employer outreach activities for TANF recipients (occurring in 29 states). In most of these states, TANF funds are transferred to the employment and training agency through a contract. Higher levels of service coordinationВ  such as using one-stop centers as the primary vehicles through which welfare recipients access employment-related services, occurred in nine states. NGA also found that the decision to contract with the workforce development agency is made at the local level, especially in states with county-administered welfare systems.

Pines and Callahan (1997) find some coordination between the workforce and welfare system, however, the coordination between these systems lagged behind service integration in the areas of school-to-work and one-stop shops. This study concludes that coordination was greater in these programs because the school-to-work and one-stop shops were specifically designed by federal sponsors to incorporate an integrated approach. The authors find that coordination occurs best when authority is devolved to the states but with either strong encouragement or a federal requirement for integrated planning and implementation.

Finally, one study (Elliott, et al., 1998) used site visits to 13 states to identify major workforce development issues and gauge how their workforce programs were being affected by the newly enacted welfare legislation. This study found that states' workforce development systems were maintaining their own identity and, in most cases, remained administratively distinct from welfare-to-work programs operated through TANF. Substantively, however, workforce development was being driven by the principles of welfare reform with its strong emphasis on rapid employment. In discussions with state workforce officials, this study identified three major areas for the workforce system to address in order to assist the poor in becoming self-sufficient: engaging employers in the program, redesigning education and training programs to complement the work-first orientation, and providing post-employment services.