Fixing to Change: A Best Practices Assessment of One-Stop Job Centers Working With Welfare Recipients. Background


The evolving nature of these workforce development models can be illustrated with the following example. We had just finished reviewing the new computer network designed to provide 14 different agencies on the Tarrant County Resource Connection campus with user-friendly communications and access to a cutting edge data system. The system has the capacity to automatically assess the potential eligibility of each client for all assistance programs on campus, and allow the case manager to enable each agency where the client is potentially eligible for help to gain controlled access to the appropriate information to help the client. We had tracked Donald Duck and other fictitious characters through the system, which was only hours away from being placed into operation. "It's not quite perfect yet," declared Sheryl Kenny, "but we're fixing to change that real quick."

"Fixing to change" is an appropriate description for much of the restructuring of state and local agencies around federal welfare reforms, One-Stop Job Centers, and the introduction of new technologies into social and human service delivery systems.(4)  Systems are being redesigned to place a stronger emphasis on coordinating public resources to move welfare recipients into employment and hopefully, to self-sufficiency. In most local labor markets, these changes have only just begun, and oftentimes as the result of prompting by federal and state policy initiatives. However, in a few areas these changes have been underway for several years, frequently prompted by major upheavals in the structure of the local economy, and encouraged along with federal grant assistance.

While the concept of consolidated service delivery is not new, the Department of Labor's interest in bringing together employment and training programs under one roof has resulted in renewed interest in the One-Stop service delivery concept. One-Stop models take many forms; the Department of Labor lists four principles as keys to their idea of what constitutes a One-Stop:

  1. Universality,
  2. Customer choice,
  3. Integration, and
  4. Performance driven/outcome-based measures.

They have used these standards to make funding decisions to One-Stop models around the country, but the range of services provided by the different models often goes well beyond these four features.

The purpose of this study is to examine some of the most promising One-Stop models in five locations around the country to better understand what makes them work well and the potential they offer as a format for moving people from welfare to self-sufficiency. This study is not an attempt to provide a formal evaluation of these models, but rather to identify those approaches and practices that seem to be working well in different locations. From this information, this study also attempts to glean a better sense of the assistance that the One-Stop models might offer to welfare recipients of different backgrounds as they seek employment to support their families.