Fixing to Change: A Best Practices Assessment of One-Stop Job Centers Working With Welfare Recipients. The Community College Connection


In most cases, the strongest connection between local educational institutions and the One-Stop was with the local community or technical college. In Marshalltown, for example, the Promise JOBS counselors were hired under contract with the local community college, which was located just across the freeway. A significant proportion of the Promise JOBS participants in Marshalltown were enrolled or expected to be enrolled in community college coursework. In Bellingham, a high share of the program participants in the focus groups were similarly connected to the local technical college - although this connection is likely to change under Washington's new WorkFirst program.

However, connections to community or technical colleges were not the same in all locations. For example, in Kenosha, program participants complained that the location of Gateway Technical College was inconvenient relative to the Job Center. Even though the College is a partner in the Job Center, its presence at the Center was not as strong as in other sites, especially with adult education services being provided by an independent contractor. By contrast, the One-Stop center in neighboring Waukesha County is located on the community college campus - established and paid for in part by the community college, and serving almost as an employment placement center for the college's students and graduates.

There are several factors that seem to affect the relationship between the community or technical college and the One-Stop systems. The first is simply a function of local institutional history and personalities of the participants. Leadership in some community colleges simply does not see welfare clients as a primary client base.(25) In some cases, the emphasis on "work first" models for welfare reform, which tend to de-emphasize post-secondary education and training, may be causing community colleges to discount their relationships with welfare-to-work programs. Unless these welfare reform initiatives make some provision for follow-up encouragement and support for education and training once participants find employment, the relationships with community colleges may deteriorate. On the other hand, active involvement by the community college in the One-Stop system from the start seems to bring a greater emphasis on the need for this kind of follow-up support and encouragement.