Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. B. Pre-employment Preparation


Beyond assessment, programs offer a range of pre-employment preparation and job search services, some education and training, and a variety of subsidized or transitional employment activities. These services differ across the study sites in terms of how much priority is placed on various activities, specific details about how the services are delivered, and which participants receive different services. The number of participants active in various services and the length of time individuals remain in components also vary.

Federal welfare reform legislation and most state TANF agencies emphasize rapid employment, and the WtW grant-funded programs were expected to complement that focus. Therefore, at the core of WtW programs, like most other employment programs for welfare recipients, are various types of activities intended to prepare individuals to search for and obtain jobs: job search workshops, job readiness classes, work orientation sessions, life-skills classes, job clubs, and job placement services. Such pre-employment preparation components operate in all of the study programs and are, in fact, the most common activities, although by no means the only activities in which individuals participate. Participation in pre-employment activities ranges from about 60 percent of Fort Worth participants to 100 percent of participants in West Virginia's HRDF programs (Chart IV.1).(20)

Chart IV.1 Participation in Job Preparation/job Search, by Site

Source: Program Management Information Systems.

Job search is offered in all WtW programs, but its role in the program varies. In some programs, pre-employment activities complement more developmentally focused services such as transitional or subsidized employment. In other programs, such as the temporary employment providers (see Chapter II) in Chicago, developmental services are emphasized less than assistance in immediately finding a job. However, even more developmentally focused programs, such as Philadelphia-TWC and Boston's employer partnership programs, which mainly emphasize work experience or occupational preparation, rather than job search, also sponsor some type of job readiness or job search activity. Some programs encourage individuals to attempt to find employment in the regular job market before considering other more developmental activities. Others incorporate instruction into a more developmental approach to improve participants' understanding of the world of work or work attitudes and behavior--the so-called "soft skills." Participants often undertake other activities at the same time that they are involved in job search and/or job preparation. For example, an individual could participate in an eight-week job search workshop and be simultaneously co-enrolled in an education course or a work internship.

Although the focus on employment and the work readiness topics addressed in pre-employment components are similar across programs, the delivery approaches are quite diverse. For example, in various sites, WtW enrollees may participate in job search and job preparation activities at the TANF agency, at one-stop career centers, or at the offices of a WtW contractor.

Job Search. Consistent with the work orientation of TANF programs, WtW participants are involved in a variety of job search activities. Independent job search may simply require the enrollee to document employer contacts and "check in" with a case manager on a weekly basis. In supervised job search, the case manager works closely with the enrollee to identify and follow up on job leads. In job clubs or groups, individuals meet together to discuss their experiences, learn about successful approaches to finding a job, and then work individually at job search activities. Most study sites structured job search activities in a manner that combined two or more of these job search assistance approaches. WtW enrollees in seven of the study sites participate in job search as a structured activity with formal attendance requirements. For example, participants in the Women's Center program in Fort Worth attend a one-week job readiness workshop followed by individualized job search assistance. In three sites (Indiana-RVR, Nashville, and West Virginia-HRDF) job search assistance and counseling is provided on an individualized basis as part of ongoing case management. One of the WtW programs in Indiana-RVR provides individualized case management that includes employment counseling, but refers participants to a subcontractor for job placement services once an individual is deemed to be "job ready."

Job Readiness Instruction. Programs offer a variety of activities designed to prepare participants, particularly those with little or no work experience, for the world of work by combining job search assistance services with instruction and workshops on a broader range of work-related issues. Job readiness classes and workshops cover a range of topics, including basic work readiness and job seeking skills, such as how to dress, arriving at interviews or work on time, and communicating with your supervisor; "life skills," such as mastering the public transportation system and balancing work and family responsibilities; and motivational workshops designed to build self-esteem.

Some job preparation programs also integrate components of basic reading and math skills or computer instruction, particularly in resume preparation activities. For example, the EARN Alliance in Phoenix incorporates workplace reading and math skills and computer-based occupational learning modules in its three-week job readiness class. These components had been provided under a national competitive WtW grant called High Performance Learning (HPL). Phoenix was one of the participating sites, and when the HPL grant ended, HPL staff continued providing services under contract to EARN. The Urban League, a Boston WtW contractor, includes 30 to 40 hours of computer basic training in its six-week job readiness-training component. Programs in Chicago, Indiana-RVR, and Milwaukee refer clients to other service providers for instruction in basic reading, math, or computer literacy skills on an individual basis depending on needs identified during job search/job readiness activities. For example, the Chicago WtW grantee (the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development) contracts with Sylvan Learning Centers, to which other WtW subcontractor programs can refer participants to receive basic skills instruction. WtW grantees or program contractors in at least three sites (Boston, Chicago, and West Virginia-HRDF) offer workplace-based orientations to work. For example, WtW participants with one Boston contractor attend job readiness classes in the morning and then job shadowing (at a retailer) in the afternoon. WtW participants enrolled with Easter Seals in Chicago work in a sheltered workshop while attending job readiness training.

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