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

03/01/1999

Given the distribution of low-skill, entry-level jobs in today's economy and the narrow scope of education and training funding under most state welfare reforms, it appears that many of the One-Stop welfare-to-work programs tend to place their clients in a fairly limited set of typical occupations. In some cases, these occupational paths are emphasized by design through specific training and employment agreements with large employers. The following list is based on the occupations listed by employers as well as current and former program participants:

  • Certified Nurse Assistant: By far the most prevalent occupation we encountered in our focus groups was that of Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), or in some cases, other health care services. In both Marshalltown and Bellingham, the One-Stop had a formal arrangement with large, local health care providers to offer specific training courses at the local community or technical college that would prepare workers for providing basic personal care services for hospital and nursing home patients.
  • Clerical Support: At most sites, focus group participants indicated that they had employment in clerical support positions, frequently in partner agencies, both public and non-profit. In several cases, these workers had been placed in these positions as work experience slots and were later brought on as permanent employees.
  • Sorting and Packaging: Several of the employers, and some of the current participants, identified sorting and packaging employment activities in a variety of light manufacturing settings. These jobs typically involve a modest level of job-specific skill provided by the employer after the hire.
  • Light Manufacturing: A few light manufacturing employers reported positive experience in hiring former TANF workers. Generally these were persons with at least a high school education and some work experience.
  • Retail Trade: A couple of former participants had found placement in retail establishments - some in Goodwill Industries type sheltered work environments, and others in stores like Wal-Mart. One store manager had promoted several hires from One-Stop welfare-to-work programs, noting a slightly stronger sense of loyalty and work ethic.
  • Cleaning, Landscaping, Etc.: A few, generally male, former participants had started their own cleaning or landscaping businesses, and one current participant was training to launch an appliance repair business. Most of these workers also had at least a high school education and previous work experience. Generally these individuals were more self-motivated - none of the One-Stop models that we reviewed had programs designed specifically to foster this kind of self-employment - most saw this kind of option as something that would work for only a limited portion of TANF participants.

One employer that was present in at least three of the locations was Manpower, Inc. As a temporary employment agency, Manpower can often offer One-Stop clients a useful point of access to employment opportunities, and they frequently share their listings with the One-Stop employment services. However, they also tend to do more job readiness and skill screening than the One-Stop, and not all welfare-to-work clients may be deemed "job ready" by their standards.

Not all One-Stop clients moving from welfare to work move into low-skilled employment. For example, in Marshalltown, a few who have been able to combine Pell grants and JTPA assistance for child care and transportation have been able to complete two-year degree programs. One older parent was able to secure computer training and a position using computer-assisted design technology.