Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What Strategies Work for the Hard-to-Employ?

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) recently released a report on strategies that work for the hard-to-employ.
The report includes findings from a 10-year study evaluating groups of people that face barriers to employment. The groups include; long-term welfare recipients, people with disabilities, those with mental or physical health problems, and former prisoners. Three of the eight models considered in this report and conducted by the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), Transitional Work Corporation (TWC), and Personal Roads to Individual Development and Employment Evaluation (PRIDE) have proven to increase employment gains. A control group was used in each model to compare the success of the different programs.
The Center for Employment Opportunities observed former prisoners located in New York City in support services, job placement assistance, and transitional jobs.  The main goals of the evaluation were to improve long-term employment outcomes and reduce recidivism rates. After the completion of this three-year experiment, findings show CEO was able to increase employment early in the follow-up period when the participants were working in CEO transitional jobs; however, employment gains lessened as participants left those jobs. Although long-term employment was not attained, CEO’s transitional job programs were able to impact recidivism rates. Over the three-year period, only 67 percent of CEO participants experienced some type of recidivism compared to 71 percent of the control group.
The next model, based in Philadelphia by the TWC, provided temporary jobs for the hard-to-employ while providing assistance with job searching, job readiness instruction, and preparation for the General Educational Development Exam and other similar classes. The program required participants to attend a mandatory two-week orientation before being placed in a transitional job, usually within the government or a nonprofit agency at minimum wage. These individuals were required to work 25 hours a week while participating in 10 hours of professional development activities. After participants were able to secure a permanent job, TWC provided bonus payments for up to nine months.  Sixty-two percent of those randomly placed in the program enrolled and completed the two-week orientation, but only half actually worked in TWC transitional jobs. The participants that entered into a transitional job only worked for about 30 days over roughly eight weeks on average. While this model did not achieve long-term employment, TWC model was able to provide temporary relief through income and short-term employment to the disadvantaged.
The last evaluation conducted through Personal Roads to Individual Development and Employment Evaluation (PRIDE) in New York City proved to be the most successful in increasing employment. The model tested the effects of an employment strategy aimed at public assistance recipients with medical or mental health conditions that prevented them from participating in regular welfare-to-work activities and who are also ineligible for federal disability benefits. Initially, more than 2,600 single parents were assigned to participate in either the PRIDE group or the control group. PRIDE was able to increase employment throughout the four-year follow-up period by 5 percent in comparison to the control group. The data also suggests the PRIDE group was able to increase earnings for the participants involved by 22 percent in comparison to the control group. The major accomplishments of PRIDE was that it served more than 30,000 people, increased participation in both work experience and job search activities, and increased employment.
For state policymakers, the findings of this report suggest that programs aimed at improving the model of transitional jobs and other subsidized employment initiatives could serve not only to increase the success of programs aimed at increasing long-term employment but could also provide other needed assistance to the often hard to employ. Policymakers can help ensure more long-term employment by combining work-focused strategies with treatment or services since evidence supports these benefits more than using either strategy alone and can increase the opportunities for hard-to-employ individuals, especially those with disabilities and other medical conditions.
For results-based public policy strategies for reintegrating ex-offenders into the workforce visit PolicyforResults and read our report, Workforce Strategies for Reintegrating Ex Offenders. 

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