Partnership Development Resources - Welfare to Work Vouchers
Identifying Potential Partners
A key decision for new partnerships is to determine who will be
involved. For Welfare to Work voucher job training programs, there
are three primary groups of potential partners: The Business Community,
Public Sector Agencies, Service Providers, Intermediaries, and Other
The Business Community
Most programs use one or more of the following criteria to identify
potential business partners:
Businesses with urgent labor needs. Businesses
in geographic areas or industry sectors with a need for workers
are natural targets for partnerships.
For example, Tulsa's IndEx program targeted employers in this
way. When the Zebco Corporation (which assembles fishing poles)
was preparing to leave Oklahoma because of the low rate of unemployment
and resulting high labor costs, IndEx responded by offering competitively
priced labor to Zebco (and other businesses). Those jobs have
remained in Tulsa and provide work experience for welfare recipients.
Businesses with opportunities that match participants'
skills. Some initiatives target jobs that match the education
and skill levels of program participants. These initiatives tend
to focus on immediate employment opportunities, rather than those
for which extensive up-front education or training is needed.
For example, the Seattle Jobs Initiative targeted three industries
- health care, precision metal fabrication, and construction.
These industries were identified as having great potential for
employing public assistance recipients by the University of Washington's
Northwest Policy Center.
Large businesses. Building relationships with
employers requires the investment of staff time and other program
resources. Consequently, many welfare to work programs target
large employers, viewing these efforts as more efficient, because
there is a greater likelihood of a large number of job placements.
Large businesses may also be natural partners because of their
leadership role in the community or existing hiring initiatives.
Small businesses. In some regions, small businesses
may account for most job growth. Programs may attempt to reach
out to small businesses individually, or may do so through intermediaries
such as Chambers of Commerce, industry or trade associations,
or Business Improvement Districts.
Partnering with small businesses requires strategies that take
into account their special situation and needs. Focus groups conducted
by the staff of New Jersey's Business Link revealed that most
small business owners:
more likely to get involved if the effort is sanctioned by a
trade or business association of which they are a member;
resources to invest in training new workers;
less time and flexibility to attend meetings;
especially focused on how the partnership will help them meet
their bottom line; and
concerned about perceived liability issues than larger businesses.
Businesses with opportunities that pay above a certain
wage. Some welfare to work initiatives set goals for
placing recipients in jobs that pay a "living wage"
or that meet other wage, benefit, or job advancement criteria.
In this case, programs need to tailor their labor market analyses
to find businesses or industries with jobs that not only pay above
those levels, but that also offer positions commensurate with
the skill levels of participants (or for which participants can
become ready with a limited amount of education and training).
Employers required to hire additional or disadvantaged
workers. Businesses receiving government assistance through
economic development programs, such as Empowerment Zones, are
often required to create new jobs or hire disadvantaged workers
(and may also receive financial incentives for doing so). These
businesses are natural candidates for partnerships.
Businesses with a commitment to community service or
welfare reform. Businesses with established track records
of community service are likely partners. Even if such employers
are not able to hire program participants, they can help engage
other employers and provide information about the local business
Public Sector Agencies
Many public agencies may have roles in welfare to work efforts,
including agencies involved in social services, workforce issues,
and economic development. The following list of prospective public
partners may not directly match the structure or roles of public
agencies in your state or county. These roles differ from place
to place and are also changing as a result of welfare reform and
other restructuring efforts.
Welfare departments. The state or county welfare
agency is an obvious partner in any initiative. It brings access
to participants as well as knowledge of previous welfare to work
efforts. Take the time to learn about the internal structure of
this agency. For example, are welfare to work activities located
within a specific unit or are they integrated throughout the agency?
What services are contracted out to other providers?
Labor departments. In some states and counties,
the labor department is responsible for implementing welfare to
work programs or subcontracting with the welfare department to
place recipients in jobs. Labor departments also operate unemployment
insurance systems and may be experienced in analyzing labor market
trends and job matching.
Workforce Investment Boards. Local Workforce
Investment Boards, created under the Workforce Investment Act,
are responsible for developing the five-year local workforce investment
plan and conducting oversight of the Department of Labor's One-Stop
system, youth activities, and employment and training activities.
They are also responsible for coordinating workforce investment
activities with economic development strategies and developing
Education agencies. These agencies include departments
of education as well as individual schools, community colleges,
and vocational centers. School-to-work programs, in particular,
have developed and tested strategies that are relevant to welfare
to work efforts. These agencies also operate a variety of education
programs that are available to welfare recipients and other disadvantaged
job seekers and have access to funding streams that can support
education and training activities. Vocational schools often have
direct ties to local employers through training programs and curriculum
Rehabilitative services. These agencies typically
work with populations that resemble the hard-to-serve portion
of the welfare caseload, including individuals who are substance
abusers, victims of domestic violence, mentally ill, or learning
disabled. Many rehabilitative service agencies have employment
and training programs specially designed to meet the needs of
these individuals. They may include skills training, job placement,
and on-site job coaching.
Economic development agencies. Economic development
agencies often have strong ties to the business community and
can be a source of information about the local labor market. Because
of their broad approach, though, they may not necessarily focus
on the particular needs of people making the transition from welfare
to work or the issues faced by workers in the low-wage labor market.
Local governments. Local governments may also
be involved in welfare reform even if they are not directly responsible
for administering welfare programs.
For example, the City of Seattle does not oversee welfare in Washington's
state-administered system, but did take the lead in developing
the Seattle Jobs Initiative. This local partnership aims to promote
training and job placement for a broad population of low-income
Seattle residents, including those who do and do not receive welfare.
Service Providers, Intermediaries, and Other Partners
Organizations that provide services to welfare recipients
and other disadvantaged job seekers. The public agencies
listed above usually subcontract with other organizations for
some services, such as assessment, job-readiness, education, or
training. These subcontractors can contribute their own expertise
to the partnership and bring experience working with welfare recipients
abd other disadvantaged job seekers.
Other service providers. Other potential partners
include local providers of child care, mental health services,
clothing assistance, training programs, and mentoring programs.
Employment programs and staffing agencies. Local
employment programs, temporary agencies, and staffing services
can bring valuable experience to the partnership and can help
broker the gap between public agencies and private employers.
Umbrella organizations. Groups like the United
Way have large affiliate networks of service providers. These
networks can provide the partnership with access to community-based
organizations in a variety of areas. Umbrella groups can often
also provide a larger perspective on the issues than individual
Local foundations. Regional or local foundations
often have extensive knowledge on issues of poverty, local economic
conditions, and social services. Foundation partners can also
help with activities such as goal-setting and facilitating communication.
They may also be able to provide funding for partnership activities,
especially for administrative costs that may be difficult to fund.