Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. C. Pathways to Employment


While the job entry rates in programs that have the same general service model are somewhat similar, not all participants--even within the same program--receive the same sequence of services or remain in a program the same length of time. Some individuals gain employment quickly, while others participate in several different activities before becoming employed. In other words, the theoretical models do not necessarily correspond to distinct patterns of activity. Regardless of the primary service model operating in a program, and regardless of the ranges of services potentially available through the program, individuals follow different "pathways" to employment.

Administrative MIS data made available by most of the study sites were used to more closely examine the various pathways to employment--that is, the mix of activities in which participants who did obtain jobs were involved. About 80 percent of participants in the study sites received some type of pre-employment preparation services, which includes job search assistance, job readiness instruction workshops, employment counseling, or job placement services. However, over a third of the participants also engaged in one or more activities other than job search or job readiness services, such as paid or unpaid work experience, supported work, classroom education, or occupational training.

While all the study programs operated some type of job readiness workshop or job search session, each of them also had in place a number of other types of work activities and components. The result, operationally, is that WtW participants could engage in a variety of activities and follow different pathways that could result in employment. Four different combinations of activities--or pathways to employment--were identified, referred to here as:

  1. The Basic Employment Preparation Pathway is perhaps most consistent with what is sometimes referred to as Work First. Individuals enter employment after receiving only general job search assistance or attending job readiness workshops. They usually receive support services such as child care or transportation assistance, but do not actively participate in other employment-related activities.
  2. The Education or Training Pathway is one in which individuals enter employment after enrolling in an education or occupational training program or course, but not in a formal work experience assignment. Some may have also participated in a job search activity or job readiness workshop.
  3. The Transitional Employment Pathway is one in which individuals enter employment after having participated in some intermediate type of work activity, for example, paid or unpaid work experience, supported work, an occupational internship or exploration, sheltered workshop, or subsidized employment. Some may have also participated in a job search activity or job readiness workshop.
  4. The Mixed Activities Pathway is one in which individuals enter employment after having engaged in a mix of subsidized work or work experience as well as education and/or training. Again, some may have also participated in a job search activity or job readiness workshop.

These four prototypes represent general pathways to employment, each of which could involve a number of different combinations and sequences of services. A few of the more common combinations followed in each prototypical pathway are shown in Chart V.1.

The four pathways to employment do not necessarily correspond to the three general program models described earlier because the models represent the overall design of entire programs while the pathways refer to how individuals move through the programs. Certainly, programs that have similar general service delivery models also appear similar in terms of the predominant pathway to employment. However, participants in any program can obtain employment at different points and in different ways--regardless of the total services that could potentially be made available to them. For example, while many participants in an enhanced direct employment program follow the basic pathway to employment, some individuals first participate in work experience or transitional employment if, for example, they have little recent work experience. Conversely, in a program designed to be mainly developmental with transitional employment, some individuals obtain jobs quickly (i.e., follow the basic pathway to employment), even though intensive supportive employment or training activities are encouraged and available to them had they remained in the program. Most participants in post-employment programs already have jobs, so do not fall into any of the above four pathways, although a few have to, or choose to, find a new job.

Regardless of the overall program model adopted, the most common pathway to employment in the study sites consisted of basic pre-employment preparation. Across the programs for which MIS data were available, about 61 percent of individuals who obtained a job had participated only in job search or job readiness activities through the program (Pathway A).

Chart V.1
Prototypes of Pathways to Employment

Chart V.1 Prototypes of Pathways to Employment

About 20 percent of those who entered employment had been in a work experience, internship, or subsidized job activity, often in addition to job readiness (Pathway C). About five percent of WtW participants in these study sites who found jobs had received some pre-employment education or training (Pathway B), again often in combination with job readiness services or subsidized employment, and about 14 percent participated in both work experience and education/training (Pathway D). There is, though, variation across programs. In no program or study site do all participants follow the same pathway or sequence of activities, although some pathways seem to prevail in certain programs (Chart V.2).

Over 90 percent of the participants in the large Chicago immediate job placement programs and the Chicago temporary employment program who get jobs were active only in job search and job readiness services. Still, about 39 percent of the participants across all the 11 study sites who got jobs received some education or training services or were in a subsidized employment activity. In fact, some programs which are described by administrators and staff as having very strong "work first" approaches nonetheless incorporate education, training, or subsidized employment. The HRDF programs in West Virginia, for example, operate an extensive occupational exploration component, where participants who are not able to secure regular unsubsidized jobs are placed into subsidized work experience. Over 40 percent of HRDF participants were in occupational exploration for an average of six months. And in Phoenix, where the EARN program's approach is also described as "strong work-first," over 40 percent of participants engage in some type of education or skills development, such as computer-based training with occupational modules (e.g., customer service representative, general office work, and security officer) or English classes while looking for work.

Chart V.2
Pathways to Employment in Selected WtW Sites

A. Enhanced Direct Employment Programs

Chart V.2 Pathways to Employment in Selected WtW Sites: A. Enhanced Direct Employment Programs

B. Developmental/Transitional Employment Programs

Chart V.2 Pathways to Employment in Selected WtW Sites: B. Developmental/Transitional Employment Programs

Source: Program Management Information Systems.

Similarly, some programs that adopted service models that are defined by highly individualized and comprehensive developmental strategies have substantial proportions of participants who enter employment after participating only in the up-front basic job readiness activities offered. For example, the Nashville Pathways program consists of very individualized and supportive activities individually planned to eventually result in employment. Even so, over 50 percent of the Pathways participants who obtain employment do so after receiving just job readiness services. In Philadelphia, TWC's program, by design, includes paid supportive work experience with wrap-around education and training, but about 30 percent of participants who enter employment do so after engaging only in Philadelphia-TWC's job readiness component.

Thus, as in many TANF-work programs, many WtW participants who get jobs do so with just pre-employment preparation--more than half of those who got a job in the study programs had engaged only in pre-employment preparation services. However, one defining characteristic of the WtW-funded programs in the study sites is that they each offered a range of work-related activities beyond basic job search and job readiness. A relatively high proportion of participants in these WtW programs who got jobs had also participated in developmental activities, such as formal work experience (mainly with pay), sheltered workshops, occupational internships, education, or skills development activities. (24)

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