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Employment and Training Program Resources - Welfare to Work Vouchers

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 -   Working with Hard-to-Serve Populations
 -   Options for Helping the Hard-to-Serve
 -   Free Resources for Helping You Establish Programs for the Hard-to-Serve

Working with Hard-to-serve Populations

Many welfare recipients and other disadvantaged workers have significant and/or multiple barriers to employment. While there is no universal definition, the hard-to-serve generally have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • long-term welfare receipt;
  • little or no work experience;
  • low education level;
  • substance abuse problems;
  • mental health problems;
  • history of domestic abuse; or
  • criminal records.

While welfare recipients and other disadvantaged job seekers with these characteristics may be more likely than others to have difficulty finding employment, many will still succeed. Rather than using the characteristics listed above to define who is hard-to-serve, it makes more sense to allow these recipients to define themselves over time, based on their rate of success in job search or other activities.

Options for Helping the Hard-to-serve

When programs develop strong relationships with employers, these employers are often more willing to consider less desirable candidates.

  • Qualifications requested by employers - such as a high school diploma or no criminal record - are often not necessary to do the job, but are used as screens to reduce risk. Partnerships can lessen the importance of these screens by finding other ways to minimize the risk to employers, for example, by providing job-readiness training or post-placement services.

Some welfare recipients and disadvantaged job seekers need to address certain barriers to employment before they can begin job training. Consider partnering with government and nonprofit agencies that can provide mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and other services. Other options for "hard-to-serve" clients include:

Part-time employment. Allow and encourage recipients to combine part-time work with other activities, such as basic education or counseling.

Work experience. Paid or unpaid community service jobs in public or private settings offer recipients an opportunity to gain experience designed to improve employability, particularly basic work skills.

Supported work. Create positions that include close supervision and gradually increase demands. Supported work provides a better transition for individuals with more significant barriers into the work world.

Job coaches. Job coaches accompany employees to the worksite, working one-on-one or with teams. They can help new employees learn job skills and adjust to the work environment and can provide personal and moral support.

Outsourcing. Find business partners who are willing to outsource work to a setting where recipients can work with increased support and reduced pressure.

  • For example, the Corporation for Supportive Housing in New York, arranged with Eileen Fisher, a clothing designer, to have residents of their buildings assemble swatch cards for seasonal fabrics.

Volunteer work. Volunteering may be an appropriate transitional activity for recipients who are not able to handle the demands of a paid job.

Each of these options may help lessen significant barriers to employment and bring hard-to-serve populations a few steps closer to self-sufficiency.

Free Resources to Help You Establish Programs for the Hard-to-serve

Reaching all Job-seekers: Employment Programs for Hard-to-Employ Populations (October 1999). This guide from Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. is available free from their Web site! This guide is a resource for any organization with an interest in establishing job training programs for hard-to-employ populations. This resource guide includes examples of programs targeting different hard-to-serve populations, common barriers to employment for this population, and programs designed to address these specific barriers. The guide also provides lessons learned and contacts for organizations who currently or have run these types of employment programs.

Publicly Funded Jobs for Hard-to-Employ Welfare Recipients (March 1999). This guide from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is available free from their Web site and is another resource for organizations with an interest in establishing job training programs for hard-to-employ populations. This guide provides information on what a publicly funded job is, benefits to establishing this type of job training program, and examples of state and local publicly-funded job initiatives.

Content current as of 5 October 2001   Follow this link to go  Back to top   
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