As I mentioned in the previous post in this series, the poverty rate is dramatically lower among full time workers (3 percent) compared to the poverty rate for non-workers (33 percent). Work plays an important role. Three types of programs demonstrate successful contemporary pathways for improved employment outcomes for receiving social and/or workforce development services:
Government as Employer: Public Service Employment (PSE) Programs
Research by David Ellwood and Elisabeth Welty of Harvard University showed that Public Service Employment (PSE) programs, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, provide employment for targeted disadvantaged groups, such as SNAP/TANF recipients, unemployed youth, and other difficult-to-employ groups, and ensures that people do not receive welfare benefits without doing something to serve the public good. Today, these programs must include a pathway to a career beyond a government program. Research from Harvard University’s Pathways to Prosperity report provide a framework for such career progressions.
Government as Career Coach: Work Transition Programs
A primary barrier to successful work often is a lack of career skills and emotional support for those seeking work. Transitional-work programs include: a short-term wage-paying job, career services; and job-search and placement services. Combining career services with emotional support results in greater performance outcomes as obtained by the Central Massachusetts’ Workforce Investment Board’s approach combining traditional career services with the award-winning Bounce Life Skills program that resulted in 74 percent of participants gaining employment and education outcomes.
Government as Trainer: Education-to-Employment (e2E)
With the development of large data clouds of employer and job seeker information, states are beginning to develop just-in-time programs to better respond to employer’s immediate needs. With a shrinking working population due to baby boomer retirements and a sharp drop in unemployment following the recession, employers are challenged to find qualified talent. The Skills Gap is an often-cited problem for economic development. e2E programs are a challenge because they require assessing candidates for foundational skills tied to the sector in need and developing appropriate training. Workforce boards want strong, positive employer relations and are challenged with delivering qualified candidates to ensure repeat business. Often e2E programs align community colleges with workforce boards to build programs. However, delays in the design and implementation of programs can result in a mismatch between employers’ current needs and those needed when the program was conceived.
With the recent focus on integrated service delivery for social service and workforce development programs, two historic siloed state and local agencies have the opportunity to collaborate, share experiences and best practices, and innovate to deliver not simply a “no wrong door” approach for citizen access to gain all services to which they are eligible, but to create better outcomes to enable all participants to achieve their potential.