Coordination and Integration of Welfare and Workforce Development Systems. Implications for the Future


The current environment is very dynamic, with economic growth, a changing labor market, new funding sources, more local variation in welfare programs, and implementation of new workforce development policies. In this context, specific examples may quickly become outdated, but it is useful to consider implications for the future that look beyond the current description provided by this study.

Coordination can benefit the hard-to-serve client

It appears that the ability to access many referral services and take a more holistic approach to addressing barriers to work is especially important for the hard-to-serve client. Looking ahead, however, the increased reliance on technology may not meet the needs of those clients who require more personal attention. However, technology may free-up time for providers so that they can devote more attention to the hard-to-serve. Location, access, and referral mechanisms need to be considered from both vantage points  maximizing the effective use of technology and facilitating the progress of the hard-to-serve.

Coordination is a process, not an event

State and local responses to policy changes in the welfare and workforce development arenas reflect historical relationships as well as current policy objectives. Coordination models we observed have evolved over a number of years, and required time and energy on the part of agency staff over a sustained period.

Integration is a means, not an end

Integration should not be promoted for its own sake, but for the improvements it can bring to service delivery. Some of the desired service delivery outcomes can be accomplished in other ways, without a fully integrated system, and in some communities such alternative arrangements might offer the best solution.

Finally, the nature of underlying relationships between these two systems has not changed over time  those who coordinated historically found it easier to do so with WtW and other changes  good management and determination still drives successful coordination. Personality and informal mechanisms continue to be important factors that determine the success of coordination. Many of the barriers to coordination (turf issues, differing reporting requirements, and different philosophies) still exist, and probably always will. Because of the effort coordination requires and the significant barriers faced in some communities, systems with more limited coordination may be more effective in serving clients than poorly managed but technically more "coordinated" efforts.

Creative approaches are being spawned due to greater resources available per client, the need to address multiple barriers faced by many who are still in the welfare system, and the rapid expansion of computer technology and computer-based labor market information. Combined with the tight labor market, which is increasing employer involvement, the current environment offers unprecedented opportunities for partnerships aimed at finding employment for welfare clients and preparing them for better quality jobs. Policies that seek to enhance the factors that promote coordination and minimize barriers will support these efforts.