Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. C. Education and Training


The WtW legislation initially de-emphasized education and training by disallowing the use of grant funds for stand-alone pre-employment education or training. Grantees were, however, allowed, and even encouraged, to provide any necessary education or training in a post-employment situation--either in conjunction with work or mixing part-time work with part-time training or education. The 1999 amendments allowed grant funds to be used for short-term pre-employment training or education.(21)

With few exceptions, the WtW study programs included in this evaluation provide occupational training or education (directly or through referral) to relatively few of their WtW participants, and for those who do participate, the duration of education and training is fairly short. Across the study sites, only about 20 percent of participants at only 6 of the study sites have been involved in pre-employment education or occupational training.(22) In some sites, however, a relatively high proportion of participants has engaged in education or training. Chart IV.2 displays participation rates in education and training for those sites offering such services. In Phoenix, almost 40 percent of participants were involved in education or vocational training, usually complementing other activities. In Nashville, almost 37 percent of participants were in education or training, and in Philadelphia-TWC, about 76 percent of participants received education services as part of the program. Fort Worth, West Virginia-HRDF, and Yakima also reported participation in education or training, although for Yakima the participation rate was less than one percent. The median number of weeks spent in pre-employment education or training ranged from about 6 weeks in Nashville to about 13 weeks in Phoenix (Appendix C).

Chart IV.2 Participation in Education/training, by Site

Source: Program Management Information Systems.

There are several reasons for the low levels of education and training participation. First, and probably most important, the WtW program's principal goal is to place welfare recipients into full-time unsubsidized work as rapidly as possible. Under WtW, occupational training and upgrading of basic skills are considered to be activities that should principally occur in conjunction with employment, primarily as a post-employment service. The initial inability to use WtW grant funds for stand-alone pre-employment education and training clearly restricted education and training in WtW programs. The programs did not change much in this regard even after the 1999 changes, in large part because they already had established particular program models and approaches. Second, TANF requirements that states meet performance standards for engaging a specified proportion of TANF recipients in allowable work activities (i.e., work requirements) add pressure from the TANF system on WtW programs to emphasize rapid work attachment models. In addition, the imposition of time limits under welfare also creates pressure on TANF recipients to move as quickly as possible toward employment, and discourages longer-term training that uses up remaining time under lifetime limits. Finally, many TANF recipients enter WtW programs with a preference for working over training or education. While looming time limits under TANF may be one factor in recipients' desire to move into unsubsidized jobs as quickly as possible, there are others. For example, with respect to basic education, caseworkers noted that WtW clients may have performed poorly in school or other classroom settings, and thus, are reluctant to return to a situation in which they have encountered failures in the past.

In the six study sites that have incorporated education or training into their initiatives, services are provided either directly or by establishing referral arrangements with other training providers. Typically, pre-employment education is provided on a referral basis and WtW enrollees attend classes part-time, while also participating in other work-related activities, such as life-skills training or job search. Adult basic education, ESL, and GED programs are often available through public school systems and other community providers at no (or minimal) cost to the participant. In Philadelphia-TWC, Phil@Work clients placed in transitional work assignments also participate in 10 hours of "wraparound training" each week, including such topics as GED preparation, remedial instruction, or basic computer training. Any costs associated with these programs are paid by TANF or WtW funds. Other sources of education and training accessed by study grantees for WtW participants include community colleges and technical schools, contractor-operated short-term training programs, computer-based learning modules, and employer-specific occupational training, which is often based at the work site.

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