Fixing to Change: A Best Practices Assessment of One-Stop Job Centers Working With Welfare Recipients. Northwest Michigan JOBNET, Traverse City, Michigan


Traverse City is the primary population center in the 10 county area of Northwest Michigan. The region is largely rural, with four small cities and many small villages. Grand Traverse County (including Traverse City) is on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, and has a permanent population of 70,000 which swells to 100,000 during the early summer with migrant labor for the cherry crop and the onset of the tourist season.

  • State Workforce System: [see REDBOOK] The concept of integrated service delivery in Michigan emerged in the mid-1980s when the state attempted to institute the Michigan Opportunity Card. Eligible state residents were to receive a card that provided access to a range of social services and was intended to streamline eligibility, give providers basic client information, and create a mechanism to ensure continuity of service. While the card was never fully institutionalized, it spurred service providers to pursue greater collaborative efforts. These efforts began to jell in Northwest Michigan in 1991 with the leadership of the area Private Industry Council and Council of Governments, while at the same time the state began to pull together workforce programs under the Michigan Jobs Commission. The Michigan Employment Security Agency (MESA) was the last agency to join this constellation. A total of 26 Local Workforce Development Boards with mandatory partners were established under the state framework, with Northwest Michigan's being the largest geographical area.
  • Welfare Reform: Michigan currently operates a Work First program in the context of the new Federal TANF program. All TANF applicants are referred to Work First by the Family Independence Agency (FIA). Work First is fully integrated into JOBNET's One-Stop system, which requires 20 hours per week participation for one-parent families and 35 hours per week for one parent in two-parent families and 20 hours per week for the other parent. Participation in a joint orientation to Work First and JOBNET is mandatory for continued processing of the Work First application for cash benefits. Only parents with children under 12 weeks of age are exempt. Continued satisfactory participation in Work First is mandatory for the continuation of benefits; after "two strikes," clients who fail to participate are referred back to FIA for sanction. Those not working must be engaged in a highly structured job search program. Design calls for continued contact to pursue education and training once 90 days of employment retention has been achieved.
  • Local Economy: The 10-county region of Northwestern Michigan spans a mix of relatively high income, low unemployment counties in the northern part of the region with lower income, high unemployment counties to the south and inland. For example, in Grand Traverse County, the heart of the region's tourism industry, the unemployment rate was about 4 percent at the time of our visit (June 1997), while in Manistee County, still struggling to recover from auto industry related layoffs of the 1980s, unemployment was between 8 percent and 9 percent. The region has focused on diversifying the local economy, with some success in expanding manufacturing and high technology industries, especially in Grand Traverse County. However, with the importance of both tourism and the cherry harvest, even this area is subject to seasonal swings in employment opportunities and labor market conditions.
  • Location and Physical Space: The Traverse City JOBNET offices are the central hub of what is envisioned to be a network of 8 sites scattered throughout Northwestern Michigan. At the time of our visit, 5 of the 8 sites were open and operating, and Traverse City was preparing a new location that would bring together several of its partners in a single facility designed for that purpose. The current JOBNET office, located between residential and industrial areas not too far from a main thoroughfare, houses JTPA and MESA staff and provides a resource area adjacent to the reception desk. Most of the Work First counseling and job search activities are located across the street. FIA is not currently collocated with JOBNET, and some of the management team for JOBNET is housed at Northwestern Michigan College. The new offices will accommodate a representative from FIA.
  • General Concept: The Work First element of the JOBNET program places a heavy emphasis on immediate job search and placement, with case management attention to individualized support services and follow-up education and training activities. Participants noted that they were urged to "take a job, any job, and then work your way up." Considerable attention has been paid to the development of common data systems for case management as a tool for fostering collaboration and freeing scarce resources for high touch counseling and follow-up. Reading the JOBNET literature and talking with staff and local businesses, one gets the sense of a strong local vision that is in a multi-year process of being methodically developed one step at a time, almost regardless of state leadership and timetable.
  • Work First Program: Following referral from FIA to JOBNET, Work First applicants participate in a joint Work First and JOBNET orientation. Usually, the JOBNET intake and initial assessment with a case manager occur during the initial contact with the JOBNET office; applicants are immediately entered into the labor exchange computer system as part of the intake. Following the orientation, those who continue to participate enter a highly structured job search program that includes the development of a Personal Plan of Action (PPA), assistance and referral for basic support services (such as child care, health care, clothing allowance, and transportation), and a job club offering assistance in job search skills, resume writing, interviewing, and labor market information. Case managers continue to work with individual clients on their support service needs as they look for work and once they have found employment. For those participants who chose to do so, they may continue to work with case managers to find ways of pursuing education and training needs once employment retention for 90 days is a achieved -- whether subsidized work experience or unsubsidized employment.
  • Partners: The primary partner organizations of the Northwest JOBNET are:
    • Northwest Michigan Council of Governments
    • Michigan Employment Security Agency
    • Michigan Rehabilitation Services
    • Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District and Career Tech Center
    • Char-Em Intermediate School District
    • Wexford-Missaukee Intermediate School District and Career Tech Center
    • Manistee Schools Cooperative
    • Northwest Michigan College
    • North Central Michigan College
    • West Shore Community College
    • Family Independence Agency
    • Local Economic Development Councils
    • Private Rehabilitation Agencies
    • Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Michigan.

    The primary partners in the Traverse City JOBNET office include JTPA contract employees, MESA, and Michigan Rehabilitation Services.

  • Services: The following services can be received directly in the Traverse City JOBNET offices:
    • Common intake system
    • Information and referral
    • Self-service resources
    • Assessment
    • Job search skills workshops
    • Resume lab
    • Interview lab
    • Employability planning and counseling
    • Education, training and financial aid assistance
    • Case management
    • Job seeker support groups
    • Rehabilitation assessment, planning and support
    • Basic education and workforce literacy skills
    • Orientation for public assistance recipients
    • Job referral and placement
    • Unemployment insurance
    • Connection to subsidized training
    • Child care resource and referral
    • Supportive services to enhance employability
    • Special services for target populations (UI profiling customers, job club for Work First, etc.)
    • Comprehensive business services.
  • Data Systems and Fiscal Planning: The Northwest Michigan JOBNET blends two data systems in order to provide One-Stop service to their clients. MESA's employer records and job orders and automated labor exchange are kept on MAJIC, while the Automated Case Management System (ACMS) maintains a shared database of client records. The ACMS system was developed by the Northwest Michigan JOBNET, and is used to provide information across agencies on common intake questions, assessment, career advancement plans and PPAs, case notes, and other program-specific data and records of service. JOBNET staff use e-mail for internal communications, along with an automated appointment scheduling system.

    Management of the Northwest Michigan JOBNET is provided by the Advisory Committee, which consists of management staff appointed by the area Workforce Development Board (formerly the PIC). This group oversees the system design, implementation, and development, as well as being responsible for system changes, pooling of resources, barrier removal, and evaluation of outcomes. No unified budget is maintained for all JOBNET partners.