The Evaluation of the Tribal Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Initial Implementation Findings. Subsidized/Supported Work as a Bridge to Full-Time, Unsubsidized Work


Tribal programs offer temporary subsidized- and supported-work experience positions, for several reasons: lack of readily available jobs, geographic isolation of some reservations, and lack of work experience and job-specific skills among many of those served. These temporary activities are aimed at acclimatizing WtW participants to the "world of work" (for example, showing up on time, getting along with coworkers, and exhibiting appropriate work attitudes), building job-specific skills and experience, acquiring job references and building resumes, and generally improving their chances of landing a full-time job. Such positions also help some WtW participants to meet requirements under TANF (if they are subject to them) to be involved in work activities at least 30 hours per week. In some instances, grantees use subsidized work--particularly OJT--as a direct avenue for promoting full-time work, by establishing the expectation that employers will hire the worker if he or she successfully completes the trial work period.

The types of work experience slots, their duration, and the subsidy provided to employers vary both across and within programs and across participants. Following are examples of the types of subsidized work tribal programs use:

  • Klamath. The Klamath Tribes use work experience to develop skills needed to seek, maintain, and be successful in unsubsidized jobs. Employment sites are chosen based on the potential for related employment after the work experience period. Emphasis is placed on governmental and nonprofit agencies, which often have openings for clerical, service, and other positions. The job and length of the work experience are tailored to a WtW participant's needs and capabilities, but duration is limited to 90 days. During the final five weeks of work experience, participants are granted at least eight hours per week to search for unsubsidized employment.
  • Navajo Nation. Work experience is a key component of the Navajo WtW program. WtW funds subsidize 100 percent of the WtW participant's salary and pay for support services. Participants are placed either in a full-time position (1,000 hours over a six-month period) or in a part-time work experience position (generally providing half as many hours). Participants placed in full-time positions are typically the most job-ready (they need less work experience before taking a full-time job). Participants who are attending GED classes, and therefore unavailable for full-time work, are typically placed in part-time positions.

Tribal WtW programs such as those operated by the Klamath Tribes and Navajo Nation provide a continuum of employment services, helping participants with widely varying capabilities. Many WtW participants come to programs with less than a high school degree and little or no previous work experience. Therefore, programs offer work experience slots that enable participants to mix work with improving basic skills. Individuals entering such work slots (usually part-time positions with tribal agencies) typically engage in about 20 hours of work per week. They then participate in several other activities aimed at enhancing employability (for example, 8 to 12 hours of GED preparation and several hours of job readiness preparation or job search activity). Participants in such slots are generally paid using WtW, NEW, or TANF funds (or with other employment and training funds if the program is a 477 program) at or near a minimum-wage level.

Tribal WtW programs also use OJT to ease the transition from welfare to unsubsidized work. Such slots typically are used for individuals who are more job ready than those entering work experience slots, but who are still unable to obtain unsubsidized employment on their own or who need additional training to secure longer-term, higher-paying positions. This alternative is available to all tribal WtW programs; the programs included in this study use OJT sparingly, however, because of difficulty in finding employers to sponsor OJTs and a preference for securing unsubsidized rather than subsidized positions whenever possible.

When OJT is used, tribal WtW administrators negotiate slots with local employers to include both productive work and training. Some OJT is arranged through referral to another program, such as WIA/JTPA. The training component of OJT typically begins with an initial orientation to the job. For example, the employer sponsoring the OJT provides a one- or two-week orientation in a classroom setting or a one-on-one meeting with a supervisor, providing guidance on general workplace policies, as well as instruction on how to perform actual work tasks. Employers typically assign a work supervisor or instructor to provide detailed instruction and help with work tasks and to monitor performance and troubleshoot problems as they emerge in the workplace. Workplace instruction is sometimes accompanied by more formal instruction in a classroom setting, either directly by the employer or at a nearby educational institution, to build job-specific skills and productivity.

As under WIA and in other nontribal WtW programs, OJT slots at the tribal WtW sites visited in this study are for up to six months. The tribal WtW programs typically pay 50 percent of the worker's wage. If the individual successfully completes training, the employer is expected to hire him or her as a full-time employee (with full benefits) at the end of the training period. Tribal programs indicate that, in identifying OJT slots, they looked for positions in high-demand occupations, with long-term employment prospects, advancement potential, and an attractive package of fringe benefits (especially health care). They also look for employers willing to commit supervisory staff to provide hands-on training and mentoring.