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

03/01/1999

All of the sites have a number of similar characteristics. Some of the similarities include similar origins of the initiative to create the One-Stop, a common set of core partners, programs and program elements, and a familiar set of personnel, space, technology, and state/local issues:

  • Origins: In each site visited, the creation of a One-Stop was one form of responding to a significant pattern or event of economic dislocation in the area or region's economy. The decline of the timber industry in Bellingham, the loss of the Chrysler plant in Kenosha, the loss of a major manufacturer in Marshalltown, the decline of the auto industry in Traverse City, and the closure of a state facility and military bases (along with the decline in the defense industry) in Fort Worth. In a few of these cases, these economic challenges provided the opportunity to pursue a One-Stop strategy that was already in progress, while in most, the crisis helped local leaders focus on the need for better integrated service delivery for employment and training services. In almost all cases, these efforts did not originate with the intent of boosting transitions from welfare to work, but with the goal of assisting dislocated workers to make successful career transitions out of declining industries.
  • Strong Local Economies: Despite the common origins in the dislocation of local economies, all of the One-Stop sites visited enjoyed strong economies at the time of the site visit. Unemployment rates for each location were well below the national average, with the exception of Bellingham, where unemployment was still well below previous peaks. In most cases, this meant that most of the resources of the One-Stop are now focused on welfare-to-work efforts and on assisting employers in employee recruitment.
  • Partners: Each One-Stop system has a minimum of four partners, although not all of them operate from a common location. These core partners include the state's primary employment services agency responsible for operating the federally mandated labor exchange, the local Private Industry Council or JTPA program service provider, the state or county agency responsible for operating the TANF program, and a local community or technical college. The one exception to this pattern is in Marshalltown, where the Department of Human Services has a working relationship with the Resource Center but is not co-located at the site or included in the Center's list of partners. In most cases, this partnership is mandated by state laws which frequently included other public agencies, although in all cases reviewed here, local One-Stop systems work closely with an even broader array of community-based organizations and other federal, state and local agencies than is required of them.
  • Programs: All of the One-Stop systems include a core set of federal programs, including JTPA, Wagner-Peyser labor exchange and employment services,(9) worker dislocation assistance, and JOBS. While the state or county agency responsible for operating the TANF program is, in all but one case, one of the core partners, TANF, Food Stamps, child care, and Medicaid programs were not typically administered as part of the One-Stop system. However, most sites also included several additional programs, several of which were targeted to special populations or designed around special circumstances or capacities in the local area.(10)
  • Welfare-to-Work Program Elements: All of the One-Stop systems have several common elements to their welfare-to-work programs, although in most cases, the design of these programs is in flux as each state implements TANF and, in most cases, additional state welfare reforms. In all cases, One-Stop welfare clients are treated to an orientation session and a workforce skills and barriers assessment (although this is changing some for states implementing a "work first" concept). Virtually all site managers considered this an important step, though some made greater use of assessment than others (see: Chapter 2, "Successful Program Elements"). Typically, clients are then directed toward some combination of job search, job readiness (using "job club" or job search skills workshops), GED or high school diploma completion, work experience, and/or life skills development.
  • Funding: The inclusion of several federally funded programs in the One-Stop systems results in some similarities in funding. In most cases, funds for workforce activities (JOBS and JTPA) tend to dominate other uses -- funding for Wagner-Peyser activities, though important, has dwindled, and most One-Stops interviewed indicated that they would have difficulty staffing their resource rooms without partner agency personnel. All but one (Bellingham) received start-up funding from DoL, and several received initial support to establish the One-Stop from local sources.
  • Personnel and Space Issues: Each of the One-Stop systems seeks to blend multiple personnel systems, some with collective bargaining agreements and some without, most with different pay scales and expectations about training, technology, and agency reporting requirements. Most, though not all of the One-Stops are in the midst of restructuring their physical space arrangements to achieve some greater level of integration or to improve service delivery. Three of the five sites were primary sites with similar, satellite facilities and outposts for serving less populated areas.
  • Technology and Database Issues: One-Stop systems invariably are struggling with efforts to use new technology to enhance job search and help integrate service delivery, regardless of location. In many cases, the principal issues revolve around shared access to data, state verses locally designed systems, and varying levels of staff comfort and skill among partners in working with computerized data systems. Most of the One-Stops that have developed their own data system have also experienced some difficulties blending their systems with state data systems and reporting requirements.
  • State/Local Issues: Each of the One-Stop sites visited is, or has been, a pioneer in the design of One-Stop employment services for that state. In most cases, much of the impetus and vision for the creation of these sites came from local community leaders, creating some ongoing tension between state agencies and local initiatives over issues of accountability and local control. These tensions typically focus on issues like data system design, performance measurements, and flexibility in interpreting program rules and regulations. In some cases, these tensions also arise from funding and job security issues, including declining caseloads, diminished funding, and state proposals for competitive bidding and the contracting out of employment services.