Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. E. Post-employment Services


At the time the WtW legislation was enacted, it was among the first federal welfare initiatives in a nondemonstration setting to specifically emphasize post-employment services, both for job retention and education or skills development. Because the original legislation prohibited expenditure of WtW funds on stand-alone pre-employment education and training, most programs attempted to design post-employment approaches to training and education. Most of the programs in the study sites emphasized ongoing case management to individuals once they started working, all formally provided job retention services, and a few actively incorporated post-employment education and training, either in the workplace or through special instructional programs (Table IV.2). However, despite the availability of these services, very few participants were actually involved in retention and other post-employment activities, aside from having staff contact them regularly. Some staff explained that once employed, most individuals were not interested in participating in further services.


Table IV.2
Job Retention and Post Employment Education and Skills Development, by Study Site
Typical Length of Active Follow-Up / Active Case Management Additional Retention Services Post-Employment Education/Training
Up to 6 Months
Fort Worth Retention/advancement workshops, visits to worksites Training and skill upgrading available, primarily through referral to WIA
Milwaukee NOW Mentoring, retention goals for providers Basic education, ESL, and occupational training available
Philadelphia-TWC Workplace mentoring, retention goals for providers Occupational training available

Up to 12 Months

Chicago Retention workshops, retention goals for providers Advanced skills training (e.g., education, computer skills, occupational training) (some programs), referrals to WIA
Nashville Retention goals for providers  
Phoenix Mentoring, job advancement assistance Computer-based instruction for career advancement
West Virginia-HRDF Wage supplements, retention goals for providers Short-term training at HRDF's Stanley Tech, community colleges and vocational schools
Yakima-WtW & SHARE Mentoring, job and wage advancement assistance Basic and occupational skills training available

More than 12 Months

Boston Job advancement assistance On-site occupational certification classes (some employers)
Indiana-RVR Visits with employers Educational activities (e.g., GED classes) available
JHU-MD, FL, CA Retention incentive payments to enrollees Ongoing and comprehensive workplace competency-based program to improve skills
Source: Process Analysis site visits.


Retention Services. All the WtW-funded programs in the study sites provide post-employment retention services, including maintaining contact with individuals once they start working, helping them access TANF transitional benefits (child care and Medicaid), and providing transportation assistance. Some programs go further and provide personal support counseling on a more intensive basis, sponsor peer group workshops, and offer job search assistance to obtain a new job.

The WtW legislation specifies that once individuals are determined eligible, programs are not required to redetermine eligibility in order to continue to receive services. Most of the study programs, therefore, serve eligible participants for as long as they need and request employment-related services. While most sites have specific timeframes in which post-employment follow-up and case management are actively administered, staff in many of the programs referred to an "open door policy," which allows individuals, whether employed or not, to come back for further employment assistance at any time until the end of the WtW contract. This open-ended eligibility means that the average duration in some programs tends to be quite long. It also means that there is no specific length of time during which post-employment services are provided.

The most basic retention service involves making telephone or in-person contact with the individual or the employer on a regular basis (e.g., weekly or monthly). All study programs reported doing this. In addition, all of the programs in the study sites expect staff to monitor the progress of the participants and identify the need for services or guidance on particular issues. A few programs have retention specialists, job coaches, or participant representatives who work only (or mainly) with employed individuals, providing case management services and counseling.

Beyond basic case management and follow-up services, most retention services provided at the WtW study sites can be classified under one of three categories: retention goals and incentives, mentors, and job and wage advancement assistance.

Retention Payments to Subcontractors. Some programs include retention goals as one milestone for paying subcontractors. In the Milwaukee, Chicago, Nashville and Indiana-RVR study sites, for example, payments to subcontractors are linked to the achievement of placement and retention goals (typically 180 days). Depending on the site, employment and retention benchmark payments may serve as the primary form of payment to the subcontractor (Milwaukee), represent about half of reimbursement (Chicago), and/or be accompanied by educational benchmark payments (Nashville). Furthermore, the payments might remain relatively constant for each period of retention (Milwaukee), or increase with each successive stage, strengthening incentives for long-term retention (Indiana-RVR).

Monetary Incentives for Enrollees. Other programs focus on incentives for enrollees rather than subcontractors. HRDF in West Virginia provides wage supplements for up to 24 weeks for individuals placed in lower-wage jobs, and provides retention bonuses at 90 and 180 days after job placement. These bonuses are paid in the form of either a gift certificate (e.g., to Wal-Mart) or a payment by HRDF to a utility company of the participant's choice. Enrollee incentive payments in the JHU CTS programs also take the form of gift certificates, but are offered at benchmarks up to 12 months after reaching employment, while follow-up continues even past 12 months. Furthermore, retention benchmarks can be met without staying in the same job, such as by leaving a position for a better job or by working to find a new position after losing a job.

Mentoring. The post-employment mentor programs implemented by WtW grantees demonstrate that mentors can be recruited from a variety of environments. On one end of the spectrum are the "professional mentoring services" provided by Southwest Behavioral Health for Phoenix EARN participants. Southwest mentors visit their assigned EARN participants once per week at their job sites, and can meet with participants outside of the job on a one-on-one basis to discuss work-related issues that participants feel uncomfortable discussing at work. The Southwest mentors attend weekly progress meetings with EARN staff, during which they review each participant's status and discuss any issues that emerge as a team. The Yakima Valley Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) exemplifies an intermediate, less strictly "professional" approach. OIC recruits volunteers to serve as mentors, as a supplement to case management services. The volunteers serve as a source of support and encouragement, troubleshoot problems arising in the transition from welfare to work, and are available in the evenings and on weekends. An even less formalized approach is the "workplace mentoring" component offered by the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation (the city WIB). Employers choose another employee working with the WtW participant, who is trained by a consultant and serves as the participant's mentor. The goal of such a structure is to get full disclosure of workplace issues and problems facing the participant.

Job and Wage Advancement Assistance. A primary method of providing job advancement and wage progression services is the workshop. In Fort Worth, the Women's Center offers Weekend Advancement Workshops, typically attended by eight to 10 WtW participants, held for four hours every other weekend. The workshops focus on survival skills in the workplace, ways to advance to higher paying jobs, and education and training opportunities available to help individuals advance up the career ladder. Almost all the WtW-funded programs in Chicago sponsor Retention Groups, similar to the Fort Worth workshops in frequency, size, duration, and content. The Retention Groups also discuss special topics (e.g., tax counseling, IDAs, and training opportunities). To encourage attendance, monthly bus passes are distributed at the meetings and special speakers occasionally attend.

Other programs use a less group-oriented approach to job and wage advancement. The Phoenix EARN program provides advancement assistance through its mentoring program. WorkSource Yakima, under a Job Success Coach Initiative funded by the state, uses Job Success coaches to provide job advancement and wage progression assistance, also along with mentoring services. In Boston, the Neighborhood Development Corporation Program combines intensive case management with a focus on career ladder issues, providing services to place clients in new and better jobs.

Post-Employment Education and Training. A few programs have adopted strategies to promote post-employment education and training, but these services are not as common in the study sites as retention services. While administrators in most of the programs stated that post-employment education and training was an important goal, and most programs took preliminary steps to provide basic post-employment training, few programs had implemented post-employment services comprehensively enough to attract a significant portion of employed participants. Several staff noted that their primary focus was helping individuals retain their jobs and that, given their barriers, few participants were at a point where they could start moving up in the job market. The first step was to help individuals enter employment and become stable in their job. Some of the study programs, however, did actively encourage employed participants to attend classes that would improve their work skills or qualify them for a better job, or actually sponsored such classes.

The JHU-CTS programs, with their focus on individuals already employed, were the only programs in the study sites that emphasized post-employment skills development. Johns Hopkins University's Career Transcript System (CTS) is an innovative approach designed to 1) assess and improve worker skills that are directly relevant to a particular job, 2) provide training and support to help supervisors evaluate and improve worker skills, and 3) create an individualized record, or transcript, documenting the worker's acquisition and improvement of skills, in order to support advancement up a career ladder. To implement the system for their WtW participants, program staff found it was also important to help participants address personal and family needs that affected their ability to work and maintain employment.

The basic foundation of the CTS is that employers help identify a core set of skills, such as reading, problem solving, and soft skills (interpersonal communications, teamwork, listening, punctuality, time management, etc.) that are required of the specific individual hired into an entry-level position. Employers (usually the immediate supervisor) review a list of 37 workplace skills and choose 6-7 skills most important to successfully perform the job held by the participant. They rate the participant's current performance on those skills using the AES Skills Assessment. Information from this review is then combined with scores from video-based assessments to create a participant-specific evaluation. Workplace Liaisons and the participant collaborate to produce an Individual Development Plan, identifying short- and longer-term improvement goals and activities to accomplish them. Skills are developed primarily on the job, using work-based learning and experience. Measures of skill progress are entered into an Internet-based transcript, and workers receive certifications of achievement they can use in developing plans for future career paths and as "portable credentials" in searching for a new job.

Operationally, the three JHU-CTS programs implemented some, but not all, of the basic CTS features. For example, the Internet-based transcript system was not operational at the time of the site visits, and the video-based assessment was not used systematically, since it was not always considered directly relevant to a particular individual. Employers were not routinely asked to define the skills they wanted for a particular worker; instead, counselors tended to focus on skills they felt were common to most jobs. The most promising CTS component, according to program staff and employers, is the skills assessment instrument that supervisors use to evaluate worker performance, and which includes interpersonal skills, workplace understanding and other soft skills. The instrument has even been adopted by some employers--particularly smaller establishments without professional or corporate human resources staff--for their other employees. Although they were not fully implementing the CTS model, all three programs implemented what might be described as a participant-centered post-employment retention strategy that includes intensive case management and partnerships with employers.

Other programs in study sites also have incorporated some post-employment education and skills development for at least some participants. This is often collaboratively done with a business or employer-the Benjamin Health Care employer partnership in Boston, for instance, provides workers with paid time-off to attend classroom training. While most study sites provide basic classroom education and occupational training, some also provide post-employment education in close coordination with community colleges and/or vocational schools (Boston, West Virginia-HRDF), and EARN participants in Phoenix can receive post-employment training at their own pace through computer-based instruction for several hours a week.

A future report will determine whether the types of employment services offered through these programs have positive results in terms of outcomes for participants. However, the descriptions in this chapter indicate that for the WtW-funded programs in the study, grantees developed and implemented strategies that went beyond basic self-directed job search and immediate job placement, particularly providing participants with staff support and case management and in several sites operating transitional and supportive work components. While most programs did not include extensive post-employment and education and training activities, all the programs in the study sites provided post-employment contact and case management services to help individuals retain jobs.

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