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

03/01/1999

This project expands on work previously conducted for the Washington Employment Security Department (WESD) on national models for state one-stop-shop career center systems.(6) The selection of sites for in-depth analysis was aided by the information developed for the WESD project, which included a national review of one-stop-shop programs and in-depth field investigation and interviews with officials in Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin.(7) Additional information was also incorporated from U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) grants to 25 states, along with information available through phone interviews with analysts at the National Governor's Association, the National Association of Counties, and several other national organizations.(8)

This national scan was used to select five One-Stop models demonstrating success in providing employment and training programs to welfare clients. Three primary criteria were used for selecting the final sites for inclusion:

  • Focused on Welfare-to-Work: The site had to be actively and effectively working with the welfare population and getting them to work. Many One-Stops were established to address issues of local economic dislocation when major employers closed down operations, not welfare-to-work. As a result, this focus, though it is now increasing, was not present in all sites at the time of the study.
  • Established Track Record: One-Stop models had to have been established long enough to have demonstrated successful outcomes. Although the Department of Labor's One-Stop Initiative was launched in 1994, we quickly found out that relatively few states and local sites had One-Stop programs serving welfare clients for more than a few months by the fall of 1996, and most were still in some stage of start-up or transition.
  • Urban and Rural Diversity: We felt it imperative to include urban and rural models in order to reflect the diversity of welfare clients and different economic, social and institutional capacities and environments. Interestingly enough, most of the earliest models were located in small to medium-sized metropolitan areas where true collaboration among community institutions may be easier to achieve. As a result, the pool of large, urban models was much smaller than expected.  In addition to these three criteria, our selection was also guided, but ultimately not dictated by, the following secondary considerations:
  • DoL Implementation Funding: Although many states that received implementation funding from DoL were more advanced than others in their One-Stop systems, we intentionally looked for at least one site that did not receive this funding to better capture the range of approaches to the One-Stop concept.
  • Concentration of Welfare Clients: While we wanted to focus on service to welfare clients, we also wanted to understand how these clients were served in the context of a larger customer base. As a result, we may have excluded some sites with a proportionally very small welfare client base, but did not intentionally seek out sites with high concentrations of welfare clients.
  • Inclusion of Specific Services, Models or Methods: We did not limit our focus to a particular set of services in choosing sites. For us to decide what scope and method of service delivery we wanted to look at seemed counter-intuitive. If it was successful, then it was worth considering.
  • Geographic Distribution: Although we did keep geography in mind, we focused more on the urban/rural mix of sites than on the national distribution. A thorough geographic distribution is not possible with just five sites.
  • Previous Studies: We did not seek to exclude sites that had been the subject of previous studies and evaluations of One-Stops, largely because the questions we were focusing on, i.e., services for welfare clients, had not previously been examined in this context. One site did decline participation due to the fact that they were already being studied by three other federal and state agencies.  Staff from each of the organizations contacted provided valuable information about the progress of One-Stop systems in states as well as insight on which local models were working effectively with welfare clients.  From these conversations, twelve states emerged as the clear forerunners: Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In these states, we talked with state One-Stop contacts to get a clear sense of how the state structured their One-Stop system, how long their local sites had been in operation, and how interested they might be in participating in the study. State One-Stop officials were also helpful in identifying the local sites that were doing the best job of working with welfare clients. Based on these discussions, the five local sites were selected.