A Study of Work Participation and Full Engagement Strategies. Use of Paid and Unpaid Work Experience


Several of the study sites also use paid and unpaid work experience to provide structured work opportunities for TANF recipients who do not find paid employment on their own. Work experience placements are temporary jobs in which recipients work 20 to 30 hours a week in exchange for a TANF grant. Four of the seven study sites--Franklin County, Montgomery County, Oswego County, and Wisconsin--use work experience as the primary means for helping recipients who have been unsuccessful in finding paid employment on their own to meet their work requirements.(2)

Work experience placements are intended to teach workplace skills and norms to those with little work experience. A person placed in a clerical position, for example, may learn new computer skills, how to operate a multi-line telephone system, or new filing methods. In any position, recipients can learn appropriate workplace behaviors such as notifying the supervisor when they are unable to attend work, getting along with co-workers, and wearing acceptable attire in the workplace. Recipients are typically placed in entry-level jobs in hospitals and nonprofit or government agencies--Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, Red Cross, and Catholic Charities, for example. The jobs last from three to nine months and are typically in clerical, cashier, food service, and janitorial and or other cleaning services positions.

Work experience placements often are combined with other activities to expand a recipient's capacity to work. Supplemental activities address personal and family challenges or teach basic life skills such as problem-solving, budgeting, parenting, and anger management.

WEP Plus: Providing Work Opportunities to TANF Recipients in Montgomery County

WEP Plus is a three-phase intensive job search and work experience program for TANF recipients in Montgomery County. Lutheran Social Services, co-located in The Job Center, operates WEP Plus. Recipients may be enrolled in WEP Plus for up to 24 months.

Phase I. Phase I is a 30-day intensive orientation and job search phase during which recipients are required to complete at least 35 job applications per week. Recipients attend daily classes from 9:00 a.m. to noon and conduct an independent job search from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. They participate in structured job readiness classes, GED classes, life skills education, work site skills training, and case management.

Phase II. If recipients have not found a job after a month, they move to Phase II where they are assigned to a work experience site. Work placements are available at over 20 different agencies within the community and include positions such as clerical, medical, factory work, and cashiering. Job developers attempt to find placements that may lead to permanent jobs. Work experience placements are rotated every 90 days. Job coaching and shadowing are available to recipients while in their work placements.

Phase III. Phase III is for TANF recipients who get a job. For the first 12 months of employment, staff provide job retention services, such as case management, and work supports to ease the transition from welfare to work. Recipients may receive work subsidies of between $60 and $240 (depending on their salary) for every month during which they maintain the job and work at least 35 hours per week.

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