Fixing to Change: A Best Practices Assessment of One-Stop Job Centers Working With Welfare Recipients. Kenosha County Job Center, Kenosha, Wisconsin


The Kenosha County Job Center serves in southeastern Wisconsin. The County is located south of Milwaukee and Racine along Lake Michigan and just north of the Illinois boarder. The County has a mix of both urban and rural areas, with a population of approximately 135,000 people. The major urban area is the City of Kenosha, with a population of 85,000 people, located midway along the transit corridor between Milwaukee and Chicago. Ethnically, the County is 90 percent European-American, 4 percent African-American, and 5 percent Hispanic-American.

  • State Workforce System: The One-Stop shop concept has been part of Wisconsin's service delivery efforts since 1986, collocated with JTPA and Job Service Offices in the southwest corner of the state. In 1987, Wisconsin's legislature provided funding for welfare reform pilots in four of the state's 17 service delivery areas. In 1988, the Wisconsin Jobs Council was created to review employment and training plans from local areas, and in 1989, the State Collaborative Planning Team was formed to formalize the local structure of these initiatives. This Team included managers from the 9 different agencies, including Corrections, Development, Health and Social Services, Industry Labor and Human Relations, Public Instruction, Veterans Affairs, the Educational Approvement Board, the Council on Vocational Education, and the Technical College System Board.(38)

    In 1994, the Human Resource Investment Council was created by order of the Governor, replacing the Wisconsin Jobs Council, with the intent of providing oversight and direction to all education and employment and training programs. In addition to the Local Collaborative Planning Teams that have been assembled in each of the 17 service delivery levels, Human Resource Investment Boards were envisioned to be created in all local areas. However, there has been some local resistance to overlaying these local policy boards in some service delivery areas where the integration of services preceded this organizational structure. In 1996, the state Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations was merged with the Department of Health and Social Services, consolidating some of the key One-Stop players in the state.(39)

  • Welfare Reform: Wisconsin has been a leader in developing the WorkFirst concept for the JOBS program. The version of these reforms in operation at the time of our site visit emphasized the elimination of the time lag between registration for cash assistance and work activity, requiring work activity for all welfare recipients whose youngest child was 12 months or older. Clients registered for welfare benefits at the Job Center, and received an orientation to AFDC and JOBS on the same day. Clients were then expected to engage in a simulated, 32 hour work week of program activities, with placement into a work situation within 11 weeks. Work placement included full- or part-time unsubsidized employment, on-the-job training positions, work supplementation (subsidized employment), and community work experience. Persons with educational barriers (generally the lack of high school equivalency) could be excepted from the work requirements, although the simulated work week must be maintained.

    Starting in September 1997, Wisconsin Works (W-2) was to be implemented, replacing the WorkFirst program by making cash assistance available only through work or participation in worklike activities. Participation is mandatory for all parents whose youngest child is over 12 weeks old; assistance for disabled and grandparent or child only families has been shifted out of the W-2 program. No cash grants are provided to work ready participants, who are eligible for child care and medical assistance on an income-based, sliding fee schedule. A trial job subsidy is available, with the subsidy flowing through the employer. Participants must engage in 4 weeks of work search after TANF application prior to assessment. Those unable to find unsubsidized or subsidized employment must engage in community service employment for 30 hours per week, and up to 10 hours per week of education and training. Transitional clients (based on assessment by the state Vocational Rehabilitation agency) must engage in 28 hours of work activity each week, and up to 12 hours of education and training. Trial jobs and community service jobs are eligible for subsidies up to 6 months, with one 3 month extension, for a program maximum of 24 months for all jobs. Transitional benefits are limited to 24 months, with some potential for extensions.(40)

  • Local Economy: The area has rebounded from the closing of a major automobile manufacturing complex in 1988, diversifying its economic base in manufacturing, retail, and tourism. The county unemployment rate at the time of our visit hovered around 3 percent. Roughly 40 percent of the resident work force commutes outside of the county for employment, yet 12 percent of the total county employment is comprised of commuters into the county. Although Kenosha County is linked with Racine County to the north and Walworth County to the west for purposes of the JTPA service delivery area, this commuting pattern suggests that the effective labor market is composed of Kenosha County, WI and Lake County, IL.(41)
  • Location and Physical Space: The Job Center has been in operation since 1990, and is located in a shopping mall on a primary bus route in the City of Kenosha. The Job Center has about 62,000 square feet of space, roughly 75 percent of the shopping mall, including on-site child care for parents using the facility. It provides all community employment and training activities and economic support programs for the county, although some access is provided to rural areas of the county via satellite offices. Over 18 agencies operating more than 20 programs are part of the Center. The programs and staff are fully integrated. A single general reception area and a unified telephone system serve all agencies in the facility. In most program areas, staff are seated according to function and integrated service teams, not according to agency affiliation. The Job Search Resource Room, used for job search and placement services for all clients, is staffed on a multi-agency and multi-program basis.
  • General Concept: The Kenosha County Job Center is probably one of the most fully integrated One-Stop models in the country. The Center has integrated its programs, staff, central services, and physical environment based on the needs of its customers. This integration blends public, non-profit, and private sector service providers via inter-agency agreements and contractual relationships that have been developed over time with strong local leadership and support through the Center's executive management structure. The most frequently repeated phrase during our interviews was that "everyone is employable, with no exceptions," reflecting a strong normative/motivational element in the program design. Participants also report being advised not to apply for just any job -- "don't apply for the job unless you want it" -- recognizing that employment retention depends on a good match between job seeker and employer. The Center's attention to customer needs is not limited to job seekers, but also encompasses an active array of employer outreach services.
  • Kenosha County JOBS Program: In May 1997, the Center was preparing for the W-2 changes to go into effect. The JOBS program for public assistance recipients in place at the time of the site-visit was directly geared at getting people into jobs and helping them become self-sufficient. From the moment an individual applies for cash benefits, the message of economic self-sufficiency begins. The first step is to explore alternatives to enrollment in welfare and JOBS, redirecting the applicant to other community resources when appropriate. If an individual is approved for benefits and enrolls, he or she becomes a mandatory participant in the JOBS program and scheduled for an orientation. The JOBS program included the following major elements:
    • Job Preparation Services: Orientation, motivational workshop, job seeking skills workshop, assessment, vocational exploration, job search, and case management.
    • Educational Services: Basic education, vocational skills training, customized training, other education, and case management.
    • Work Activities: Full-time employment, part-time employment, community work experience, other work experience, on-the-job training, work supplementation, and case management.

    Under W-2, Center managers expect to break down the job preparation services into discrete modules and make some of these services, such as assessment, available to a broader range of Center clients.

  • Partners: The collocated partner agencies are:
    • Adult Educators, Inc.
    • Child Care Resource and Referral of Greater Racine and Kenosha
    • Children's Service Society of Wisconsin
    • Community Action Agency - WIC Program
    • Gateway Technical College
    • Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc.
    • Hoppe - Orendorff, CPA
    • Job Corps
    • Kenosha County Department of Human Services
    • Kenosha Unified Head Start
    • Labor Management Council
    • LJJ - Associates In Management Services, Inc.
    • Professional Services Group, Inc.
    • Senior Community Services of Southeastern Wisconsin
    • Southeastern Wisconsin Private Industry Council, Inc.
    • Systems Management, Inc.
    • United Migrant Opportunity Service
    • Wisconsin Job Service
  • Services for All Users: Services available for all uses of the Center include:
    • Career information system
    • Labor market information
    • Education and training information
    • Hiring requirements
    • Referrals
    • Job Search Assistance
    • Community programs
    • Resume preparation
    • Computer, phone and fax access
    • Typing and WP tests and skills
    • General aptitude test
    • Other tests
    • On-site interviews
  • Programs: Programs located on-site are:
    • Fully integrated and consolidated public welfare delivery system
    • Labor Exchange and Employment Security
    • Mandatory Work Search Program of the Unemployment Compensation System
    • Dislocated Worker Programs
    • Older Worker Programs
    • Senior Community Service Employment Program
    • Veterans' Program
    • Job Training Partnership Act Programs
    • Economic Support Programs
    • Child Care Resource and Referral
    • Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training Program
    • Child Support Enforcement
    • Child Care Services
    • Migrant Seasonal Farm Workers Program
    • Children First
    • SSI Advocacy
    • Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
    • Extension Food and Nutrition Education Program
    • Food Stamp Employment and Training Program
    • Job Corps Recruitment
    • Child Health Screening
    • Head Start
    • Trade Adjustment Assistance
  • Data Systems and Fiscal Planning: The Center has developed and maintains a central data system for managing and tracking public assistance clients. This data system is valuable from a management perspective, as it allows managers to track client flows and outcomes on a monthly basis. However, this system is not as heavily used for individual case management, since JOBS case managers, economic support specialists, and job placement specialists are all collocated as a unit. Labor market data systems include two statewide systems: Career Visions, the Wisconsin Career Information System, and JOBNET, an automated touch screen system for posting resumes and job openings and conducting job title and key word searches. In addition, local labor market information is provided by a regional labor market analyst.

    Kenosha County contracts with Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc., to lease and maintain the Job Center. As the leaseholder of the facility, Goodwill provides a variety of host services. Many of the direct services are provided non-profit and for-profit organizations under contract with public partners. Following is a consolidated program budget for the Job Center for 1996:

    Program Annual Budget
    JOBS Program $3,728,820
    Economic Support Administration $3,163,391
    Child Support $1,369,936
    Prevention Services $1,078,064
    Food Stamp Employment and Training $1,050,000
    Senior Aides $410,000
    Wisconsin Job Service $367,000
    PIC-JTPA $360,000
    Fraud Prevention $332,762
    United Migrant Opportunity Service $60,000
    Total $11,919,973

    The executive management team for the Job Center is composed of a single upper level management representative from each of the participating agencies. Policy guidance and oversight is provided by the Kenosha County Executive and the Human Services Board. The Southeastern Wisconsin service delivery area does not have a separate Human Resource Investment Board or Workforce Development Board.