The pattern of activities that people are initially assigned to after attending orientation helps illustrate a program's employment-preparation strategy. Assignment patterns in Columbus confirm that the programs were education-focused: As Figure 3.1 shows, the most common first assignment in both programs was basic education.
More people in the traditional program than in the integrated program were never assigned to an activity in the two-year follow-up period (one-half in the traditional program compared with just under one-third in the integrated program). This difference, however, merely reflects the difference in orientation attendance rates: In both programs 20 percent of those who attended orientation were never assigned to an activity (not shown in Figure 3.1). Both programs had a formal upfront deferral policy at the time of orientation in which they temporarily excused from the program people with possible barriers to participation. It is likely that some of those not assigned to an activity were formally deferred, while others "fell through the cracks."
The integrated program engaged a higher proportion of people in program activities. As Table 3.1 shows, just over one-half of the integrated group members participated in a JOBS activity for at least one day during the follow-up period compared with about one-third of the traditional group. This statistically significant difference is partly explained by the higher attendance rate at program orientation, the gateway to program activities, in the integrated program.
If only those who attended orientation are considered a nonexperimental comparison because orientation attenders in the integrated program may have different characteristics than attenders in the traditional program the participation rate is higher in the integrated program than in the traditional program (64 percent compared with 54 percent, shown in the lower panel of the table).(6) As noted, the same proportion of orientation attenders in each program were assigned to an activity; however, a smaller proportion of those assigned actually attended an activity in the traditional program. In other words, integrated case managers were more successful than traditional JOBS case managers in impelling people to attend activities. This probably reflects the integrated case managers' closer monitoring of participation and quicker follow-up regarding attendance problems, as reported in Chapter 2. Integrated group members may also have taken the sanction threat more seriously than traditional group members. The two-year participation rates for orientation attenders in the Columbus programs are in the range of previously studied programs.(7)
Participation patterns confirm that the Columbus programs were education-focused. In both programs people most commonly took part in education activities. Some people in each program participated in job search activities, unpaid work experience, and life skills workshops. Not surprisingly, for people who entered the programs without a high school diploma or GED (nongraduates), basic education was by far the most common activity. (See Appendix Table B.1.) Participation among graduates was more varied, but education and training including basic education, post-secondary education (primarily courses for college credit at a two-year college), and vocational training were more common than job search or other activities.