One important tool in helping TANF recipients with little or no work experience move from welfare-to-work is community work experience. In most of the sites reviewed, TANF participants were placed in community work experience positions as a condition for continuing to receive cash assistance if they were unable to find actual employment. In some cases, private employers received a wage subsidy for employing participants. Current and former participants were almost completely unanimous in their praise of work experience employment as an opportunity to develop workplace skills and build their resume and references. And generally, employers were also quite pleased with their experiences in hiring TANF recipients under a work experience program. Several of these employers reported finding opportunities of hiring these workers on their permanent payroll.
Employer reactions to work experience often reflected the way in which the employer treated the worker. Several employers, both public and private, reported hiring work experience workers on a permanent basis, often noting the loyalty and sense of responsibility these workers brought to their jobs. Others emphasized their approach of treating work experience workers the same as all other employees, not hesitating to offer constructive criticism or praise where warranted. Most of these employers were quite pleased with their experience, and indicated a willingness to have more work experience employees. However, some employers, typically nonprofit or public agencies, seemed to be less sure of how to treat work experience workers, assigning them occasionally to make-work or remedial tasks. One public agency employer described a worker who "spent too much time on the phone trying to organize her personal life, like trying to arrange doctor appointments for her sick child," only to be chastised by other private sector employers for being too rigid. In general, employers that held work experience workers to the same standards as their other employees tended to report the greatest satisfaction.