Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. D. Transitional Employment

08/01/2002

The principal objective of the WtW program is to move long-term TANF recipients, including individuals facing serious barriers to employment, into full-time, unsubsidized jobs. To accomplish the difficult task of working with and eventually placing individuals with severe problems into employment, all the study sites offer some type of supported work or transitional employment--either directly through the WtW program or through referral to other programs within their communities (e.g., a community jobs program funded by TANF). Participation in this type of activity varies significantly across the WtW sites, from more than 80 percent of all individuals in the Chicago business and industry partnerships, to less than 3 percent in Chicago temporary jobs programs (Chart IV.3).

TANF work requirements in several states also have motivated TANF-funded and WtW-funded programs to create subsidized and transitional jobs to assure that all recipients required to work do so. In general, staff in WtW programs that target individuals with serious problems, such as physical or mental disabilities and low basic education competency, explain that most individuals are able to meet their TANF work requirements for a few weeks by participating in job readiness workshops. However, for those unable to find employment quickly, subsidized components, such as transitional employment or supported work experience, make it possible for participants to continue to meet their TANF work requirements and simultaneously gain potentially marketable

 

Chart IV.3 Participation in Transitional Employment, by Site

Source: Program Management Information Systems.

skills. In some programs, subsidized work--particularly on-the-job training (OJT) and internships--provides a direct avenue for promoting placement in full-time unsubsidized work (i.e., employers are expected to hire the worker if he/she successfully completes the trial work period). Hence, placement in supported/transitional work positions provides a bridge to unsubsidized employment for WtW participants who may have already tried, but were unsuccessful, in securing unsubsidized jobs (or after assessment are judged by case workers to be unlikely to secure a job).

While participants are generally paid for each hour of involvement in supported/transitional work, this is not always the case. When paid, participants are most likely to receive either the minimum wage (e.g., Philadelphia-TWC, Yakima, and several subcontractors in the Chicago and Fort Worth sites) or the "going" rate for what are usually entry-level jobs. If the position is contracted as an OJT (generally with a commitment to hire and provide job-specific training over a six-month period), the participant is paid at the going hourly rate that other new hires in the same positions would receive from the employer. In some programs, participants receive no payment for work experience hours, though they may receive some type of work-related expense payment.

The role and extent of supported/transitional work are quite different across sites, and even within sites. One approach places individuals into some type of temporary work experience assignment when they emerge from an initial job readiness workshop. Following a four-week job readiness workshop, about two-thirds of participants in West Virginia's HRDF WtW program are placed (for up to six months) in work experience jobs at nonprofit organizations. Typically, participants remain in these slots for two to four months and there is no expectation that the individual will be hired. More capable job ready participants are placed (up to one month) in positions at for-profit organizations or in paid on-the-job training positions (OJT) for up to six months, with the understanding that the employer will likely hire the individual if he/she completes the training period. While involved in unpaid positions, participants continue to receive their TANF cash grant, food stamps, and a work-related expense payment of $1.60 per hour; while involved in OJT, participants receive the entry-level wage for the job (which is typically paid half by the employer and half by HRDF for the contracted training period). In Philadelphia also, where TWC's Phil@Work program is targeted to participants who have little to no work experience, soon after enrollment participants are placed in 25 hour-per-week transitional work positions that pay $5.15 per hour and last up to six months. In addition, as described in the previous section, clients participate in 10 hours of training each week.

A more targeted approach to transitional employment involves collaboration with employers or emphasizes particular occupations or industrial sectors. In Boston, less job-ready participants are offered transitional work through the Enhanced Community Service component. This program component is operated by two community-based organizations that provide 20 hours of community service in specific jobs/occupations (e.g., day care teacher aide, health care, and hospitality assignments), supplemented with 15 hours of "enhanced readiness services " (e.g., ESL or basic education). ABCD places individuals in day care teacher aide assignments; JVS works with a collaborative group of agencies that work mainly with immigrants and places individuals in health and hospitality assignments.

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