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


There are several promising program elements among the five One-Stop models. While the excellence of each of these elements may not imply overall program effectiveness, they do tend to help illustrate some of the activities being done well in the context of the One-Stop concept. Some highlights include:

  • In-Depth Assessment and Adult Education: Despite the current disfavor of assessment within the national policy community, Kenosha has developed an individualized, in-depth approach to skills and labor market assessment and education that seems particularly effective. Assessment typically lasts about 9 to 15 hours over the course of a two to three week motivational program; assessments are conducted in a classroom/lab facility, typically involving a variety of physical and written test instruments.(12) For clients who need a high school degree or GED, a customized curriculum is then developed, allowing clients to focus on their specific weaknesses. As a result, some clients are able to earn a high school diploma in as little as three weeks, where three months ago they would have been reluctant to try. The success of this program appears to depend on the customized curriculum for each individual client. Both the assessment and education enterprises are run by private, for-profit entities co-located within the One-Stop. Although Wisconsin's new W-2 program calls for eliminating assessment as a specific step in the process, Job Center officials indicated their hope to continue using assessment tools - possibly under a different name. They even hope to use increased flexibility with other funds to open these services up to a wider group of clients coming into their resource room.
  • Employer Outreach and One-Stop Design: In Traverse City, One-Stop managers actively solicited the suggestions and advice of the local business community in the original design of the One-Stop. This input focused on setting up the reception area and resource room for job seekers and employers. Ongoing meetings with this group of employers (which includes the human resource managers from some of the larger local companies) give One-Stop managers a chance to get informal feedback on their assessment, training and referral programs and help them keep abreast of developments within the employer community. These contacts also help keep the door open for contacts and requests from One-Stop case managers.
  • The Data System Linkage: Tarrant County's new data system is more than just a centralized mechanism for storing files, it is expected to form a communications system that allows case workers to communicate with each other, reducing paperwork and the number of phone calls and unproductive appointments necessary to line up multiple services for clients. Traverse City's experience with shared systems of this kind suggests the potential for freeing up some of the time that case workers must spend dealing with administrative issues, allowing them to provide more one-on-one services.
  • American Indian Council: Marshalltown includes the American Indian Council as one of it's partners, providing employment services for the Misquake Tribe in eastern Iowa. This DoL funded employment and training program has thrived in the context of the One-Stop environment, expanding referral and work experience opportunities for tribe members while providing an additional resource to serve a key population in this largely rural region.
  • Work Experience Access to Jobs: Clients and former clients in Bellingham emphasized the value of work experience positions in developing the confidence, skills, and job references necessary to land paying positions in similar fields. In focus groups at each of the sites, clients and former clients reported consistently positive experiences in work experience positions. Some of these positions were within partner agencies, while others were designed to help clients pursue their career interests.
  • Project Self-Sufficiency Program: One small, pilot program in Bellingham worked with single mothers to provide child care, case management support, and skill training in a limited selection of fields (office/clerical, certified nurse assistant, or industrial sewing) at the Bellingham Technical College. Our focus group with former TANF clients included a couple of program graduates who reported excellent employment outcomes, although at the time of our site visit, it did not look likely that recent TANF reforms would allow the pilot to continue. Client comments emphasized the benefits of lower caseloads and peer group support. Similar, targeted programs have been used at some of the other One-Stop sites. For example, Marshalltown works with the community college and a large nursing facility to provide certified nurse assistant (CNA) training, work experience, and employment.
  • Personal Relationships and Self-Confidence: As noted in the previous section, clients frequently noted how employment services workers would show a personal interest in the client's circumstance. Straight talk about personal habits, assistance with an interview wardrobe, one-on-one counseling or help in dealing with a household crisis -- acts of friendship which helped build self-confidence and self-esteem were some of the most powerful motivators for clients. Kenosha's Excel program, a three week motivational workshop that is scheduled around assessment and other early "work-related activities," was the only formal motivational program that received repeated praise from clients.

The degree to which these individual elements contribute to job retention and long term self-sufficiency remains unclear. Nonetheless, it was clear in discussions with clients and former clients that many of these elements played a critical role in their positive experiences within the One-Stop environment.