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

03/01/1999

The methodology used for this study combines the use of on-site focus group discussions and administrative data analysis. Local One-Stop models were selected based on a national scan of state and local One-Stop systems and plans. A more in-depth discussion of the site selection is included in the first chapter.

At the outset, selected One-Stop models were asked to provide several items of background information. These included a summary of the One-Stop structure and agencies involved, summary data on employer and welfare client characteristics in the One-Stop service area, One-Stop staffing information, and information about the accessibility of administrative data.

Focus group discussions were conducted with several groups at each of the five sites. Separate focus groups were held with One-Stop officials, staff, and clients (including current and former welfare recipients as well as employers). Topics raised in each of the focus groups included:

  • One-Stop Officials (including the senior management team) were asked to provide a brief history of how the One-Stop was formed, including the community, political and bureaucratic forces shaping the effort. They were asked about relations with state authorities and among the agencies represented in the One-Stop. Budgeting, staffing, and management decisions were also discussed, along with questions about client flow, collective bargaining agreements, workplace design, data systems and data sharing, and future plans and fiscal expectations.
  • One-Stop Staff were invited to comment on many of the same issues as were the officials, with an emphasis on client flow, caseloads and intensity of caseloads, staffing, collective bargaining issues, workplace design, and data systems. Staff were also asked to describe their personal approaches to collaboration, and to provide illustrations for how they approach the resolution of staff-level problems.
  • Current Recipients were invited to comment on the circumstances under which they came in contact with the One-Stop, their feelings about the service they received or were receiving from different agencies, and the helpfulness or usefulness of the services they were receiving. Recipients were invited to compare their experience in the One-Stop with previous experiences with public assistance and employment agencies, and describe how they would represent the One-Stop to a friend. Recipients were also invited to comment on any particular barriers or difficulties they had encountered with the One-Stop and whether or how these difficulties were resolved.
  • Previous Recipients were invited to comment on many of the topics raised with current recipients. In addition, they were invited to comment on how they found their current employment and how the One-Stop helped in that process. They were also invited to comment on any difficulties they had encountered in making the transition to employment, and whether or how the One-Stop had played a constructive role in that transition.
  • Employers of One-Stop clients (identified through the One-Stop) were invited to comment about their interaction with the One-Stop, including whether or how they had used its facilities or services.(5)  They were invited to comment on their experience with job seekers referred to them by the One-Stop, including those that were hired and retained and those that were not. Employers were also invited to comment on the nature of the local labor market, the general level of job readiness relative to One-Stop clients, and any job development activities they might have pursued in conjunction with the One-Stop.

Virtually every group was invited to be "President for the day" and offer their suggestions for improving the One-Stop and its related programs. Information and comments collected in these focus group discussions serve as the primary source of information for the analysis presented in Chapters 2 through 5 of this report.

In addition to the focus group discussions, each One-Stop was asked to provide administrative data on the characteristics of the welfare population in their service area, and for a random sample of anonymous One-Stop clients, limited data on the services provided or accessed via the One-Stop and subsequent records of employment and wages. This data request had three components:

  • Characteristics of welfare recipients in the service area: Aggregate data on households, dependents, and employment were requested.
  • Characteristics of welfare clients served by the One-Stop: Aggregate and individual sample data on households, dependents, employment, and services accessed were requested. Sample data (stripped of all personal identifiers) was requested for between 70 and 150 cases entering the One-Stop during a 12-month period.
  • Outcomes for welfare clients served: Aggregate and individual sample data on employment and training outcomes were requested, with sample outcome data matched to sample characteristics data.

As with any applied policy research project, the data available and provided did not always correspond to that desired and requested. However, a good faith effort was made by all parties to fulfill the requests, and the analysis attempts to make the most of the data provided. As a result, the data analysis for some of the One-Stop models is more robust than for others.