The Evaluation of the Tribal Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Initial Implementation Findings. Basic Education and Postsecondary Education and Training Services

01/29/2005

Despite the philosophy and constraints imposed by WtW, the tribal sites included in this study generally place more emphasis than nontribal WtW programs on providing preemployment education and training, and supported-work opportunities. Even under the amended WtW program rules, stand-alone preemployment training is limited to six months. While the regulations do not impose limits on postemployment E&T activities, coordination with TANF, which does have limits, may impose some TANF-related limits on WtW participants, and low funding levels may limit the duration of such activities. Despite these limits, tribes often go further than nontribal grantees in providing education and training.

This greater emphasis on preemployment education and training is related to several factors: a lack of available job openings on or near reservations, basic-skills deficiencies and lack of job-specific skills that limitimmediate job placement potential of many long-term TANF recipients, and preferences among participants and program administrators to take a longer-term approach to preparing individuals so that they can obtain better-paying, career-type jobs. In addition, the existence of 477 programs in several tribal sites (Klamath, Three Affiliated Tribes, White Earth) facilitates increased emphasis on education and training by merging funding across several sources and reducing constraints imposed by the WtW limit on preemployment training to six months.

Three Affiliated Tribes provides a good example of how some tribal WtW programs supplement the basic "work first" approach (an underpinning of WtW) by offering a range of education and training opportunities before and after employment. Under its 477 program, Three Affiliated Tribes combines funding from several sources--including WtW, NEW, WIA, and BIA Adult Vocational Training and Direct Employment--to make a range of educational and training services available to build educational credentials, job-related skills, and long-term employability of WtW participants. The main priority of Three Affiliated Tribes' 477 program is to enhance educational attainment and prospects for long-term employability of participating tribal members. Most education and training services are provided through courses at the Fort Berthold Community College (FBCC), a tribally controlled community college on the reservation (and at several other satellite locations on the reservation). Individuals who lack a high school degree can attend Adult Basic Education (ABE)/GED courses at FBCC. GED preparation ranges from 12 hours per week to 4 hours per week in other (more remote) locations on the reservation. The tribe requires TANF clients enrolled in fewer than 12 hours of GED per week to supplement their studies with paid work or unpaid work experience assignments. After 477 program participants attain a GED, they can move into postsecondary education, work experience, on-the-job training (OJT) slots, or unsubsidized work. Individuals with high school degrees or GEDs who are enrolled in the 477 program are encouraged to pursue postsecondary education--mostly two- and four-year degree programs or short-term training programs leading to a certificate.(3)

Most 477 participants become full-time students, generally taking 12 credit hours per semester. The 477 participants apply for Pell Grants, but if they are ineligible for such grants, the 477 program pays tuition.

While the Three Affiliated Tribes approach is among the most ambitious of the preemployment education and training initiatives funded (in part) by WtW, other tribal programs recognize the need to make basic education and postsecondary education and training available for WtW participants on a pre- and/or postemployment basis. For example, the same agency that operates the WtW program on the Klamath reservation also administers several programs aimed at improving employability. Klamath's College Assistance program funds tribal member studies at either two- or four-year institutions of higher education in any chosen field. The tribe's Adult Vocational Training program funds training for tribal members in the service area in any vocation or profession leading to a license or certification. Klamath's Adult Basic Education program provides tribal members in the service area with short-term, self- improvement funding for classes of interest, including the GED. The Johnson-O'Malley Act program provides supplemental education for any self-identified Native American attending public schools in prekindergarten through the 12th grade.

ABE is the main type of educational activity that the tribal programs we visited provide. Heavy use of ABE reflects the relatively high rates of school dropout on Indian reservations. WtW participants typically are referred to ABE programs (usually operated by local education authorities) on the reservation or in nearby towns. Participants usually attend ABE on a part-time basis--perhaps 8 to 12 hours a week--and are involved at the same time in other program activities (such as work experience, job search, or unsubsidized work).

Tribal WtW programs typically look to other funding sources to pay for training (for example, Pell Grants, JTPA/WIA). If other funding sources are unavailable, tribal programs use WtW funding to pay for short-term job training in high-demand occupations (such as clerical/computer skills, nurse's aide, truck driver).