Further Progress, Persistent Constraints: Findings From a Second Survey of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. Expectations for Placement in Work Activities

06/01/2000

Given their ultimate goals and the challenges they face, grantees must plan for a mix of work activities for their participants. The second grantee survey confirms earlier findings on the relative emphasis grantees place on various types of employment activities.

1. Grantees Emphasize Unsubsidized Employment But Set Realistic Expectations

Grantees' placement plans clearly reflect the BBA's goal that WtW participants ultimately be employed in unsubsidized, private sector jobs. Virtually all WtW grantees aim to place participants in unsubsidized employment, although they may use other non-grant funds for that purpose and WtW grant funds for interim employment activities and other preparatory steps (Table IV.1).(2)  Ninety-six percent of grantees responding to the second survey indicated that they will place WtW participants in unsubsidized jobs.(3)

TABLE IV.1
PLACEMENT OF WTW PARTICIPANTS IN WORK ACTIVITIES
  Percent of WtW Grantees Making This Type of Placement Percent of Total WtW Placements in This Type of Activity Percent of WtW Participants Placed in This Type of Activity Placements to Date as a Percent of Total Projected Placements
Types of Placements Projected To Date Projected To Date Projected To Date  
Unsubsidized Employment 95.6 77.7 62.3 59.7 44.2 35.8 23.8
Supported Work Activities 83.2 79.8 37.7 40.3 n.a.a n.a.a 26.5
Work experience 76.1 49.9 17.5 22.8 12.4 13.7 32.3
On-the-job training 65.4 35.6 7.1 3.8 5.0 2.3 13.3
Subsidized private sector employment 50.8 20.8 6.5 5.7 4.6 3.4 21.8
Subsidized public sector employment 46.1 16.3 3.4 4.7 2.4 2.8 34.0
Community service 35.3 14.2 3.2 3.2 2.3 1.9 25.1
Source: National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, Second Grantee Survey (November 1999 - February 2000).

Notes: The information presented in this table is based on the responses of 480 grantees who provided information on WtW placements to date and expectations for placement expectations for their overall grant periods. These organizations represent 98.6 percent of the overall respondent sample for the second grantee survey. Numbers of placements and participants placed differ because individual participants can have multiple placements

a The number in this cell is not simply the sum of the percentages of participants placed in the various types of supported work activities listed, since some participants are placed in a sequence of such activities. The second grantee survey did not include information that would allow us to estimate this number without double counting.

n.a. = not available

 

At the same time, grantees have set realistic targets for placement of WtW participants into unsubsidized employment. The total number of unsubsidized job placements grantees expect to make during the period of their WtW grant is under half (44 percent) of all the people they expect to enroll as program participants (Table IV.1). Grantee targets for unsubsidized placements thus seem to recognize the challenges inherent in placing relatively inexperienced and low-skilled individuals who sometimes have additional employability barriers to overcome (such as disability, substance abuse, or mental health issues).

The realistic level of these targets for placement in unsubsidized jobs also reflects grantees' reasonable expectations of some attrition from their programs before the point of placement in an unsubsidized job. Field visits suggest that some attrition may occur as WtW participants who were required under TANF rules to participate instead find jobs and leave the rolls, or leave the rolls and the WtW program for other reasons, never reaching the point at which the WtW program would place them in a regular job. Moreover, those individuals who are enrolled late in the grant period, even if they remain engaged, simply may not progress to an unsubsidized job before the end of grant funding for the WtW program.(4)

2. Supported Work Activities Are Important Interim Steps For Most Participants

Supported work activities are another important component of grantees' efforts to help WtW participants move toward unsubsidized employment. Included are work experience, on-the-job training (OJT), subsidized positions in the public or private sectors, and community service. Of the 480 grantees that reported on placement in work activities, only 80 organizations (17 percent) indicated that they plan to place participants only in unsubsidized jobs (not shown in table) and not to place any in supported work activities. Almost 80 percent of grantee respondents indicated they are using both unsubsidized employment and supported work strategies (not shown in table). It is clear from evaluation site visits that the vast majority of grantees are using supported work activities as ways to prepare enrollees prior to linking them to unsubsidized employment. For many participants, a sequence of work activity placements may be required.

Clearly, involvement in supported work activities is viewed as a routine part of the WtW program experience for many participants. Supported work placements are expected to account for 38 percent of all placements, while placements in unsubsidized positions are expected to account for 62 percent (Table IV.1). These figures provide only a rough measure of the relative use of these types of placements in combination, but they suggest that as many as 61 percent of those WtW participants ultimately placed in unsubsidized employment may also participate in a supported work activity.(5) A variety of circumstances could exclude supported work activities from the experiences of some WtW participants, such as their own preferences to move directly into a regular job, program staff's assessment that participants are ready for employment, or the difficulties grantees might encounter developing enough supported work slots.

Grantees are, to varying degrees, relying on different forms of supported work (Table IV.1). More than three-quarters of grantees plan to use work experience placements; 12 percent of WtW participants is expected to be placed in such activities. A majority of grantees (65 percent) are using OJT slots. However, only about 5 percent of WtW participants are expected to be placed in such positions, perhaps reflecting the more stringent demands OJT places on participants, in the form of performance expectations, and on employers, in the form of close supervision and customized training. More than half the responding grantees indicated they are linking participants to subsidized positions in either the private and public sectors (not shown in table); based on their responses, we estimate that, if grantees' plans are realized, seven percent of WtW enrollees will be placed in subsidized employment at some point during their participation in the program.(6)

Fewer grantees reported using community service placements. Evaluation site visits suggest that community service is sometimes used as a placement strategy where sanctions are strictly enforced if TANF recipients are not engaged in a work activity after a specified number of months of assistance. In that context, WtW programs are sometimes closely coordinated with TANF work-participation programs and feature community service placements in which TANF recipients can be quickly placed to help them satisfy their work requirement and avoid being sanctioned.(7) Field visits also suggest that short-term, nonwage community service positions are sometimes used with participants who need to get accustomed gradually to attending a worksite and working with other people.(8) In most instances, however, it is likely that participants prefer paid work experience positions.

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