Work Readiness Activities
Work readiness support includes providing intensive vocational education and career and technical training to help prepare participants for the workforce, with a curriculum based on industry and labor market trends. Typically, instructors have years of experience within an industry. Work readiness activities also include supportive services, child care, immigration assistance, transportation, remedial English and math, and assistance for special populations to help reduce barriers to employment.
Business Access In-Home Learning
Program/Practice Name: Business Access In-Home Learning
Agency Name: WorkSource for Dallas County, The Texas Workforce Commission
Type of Program/Practice: Business Access is an in-home online learning program for workforce development through which Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) participants can achieve self-sufficiency while gaining ownership of a computer.
Program/Practice Description: Through the Business Access in-home computer-based self-sufficiency development program, participants complete online training modules, engage in an online community, and connect with resources as part of the self-sufficiency development process. TANF administrators can customize the Business Access online learning system to meet their program's needs and objectives. The Business Access system has the flexibility to provide both core and non-core activities to TANF participants. A computer and Internet access are installed in participants' homes; when participants are able to meet their goals, they receive ownership of the computers. Curricula can include education for employment (e.g., ESL, GED, digital literacy, or industry-specific entry-level career training), vocational education for locally in-demand jobs or Certified Career Skills Training (e.g., Certified Nursing Assistant curriculum), and job skills related to employment (e.g., job search skills). Curricula can be purely online or through blended models that combine online learning with hands-on experience. The courses available to a specific participant vary based on program goals and the career interest and needs of the participant.
Innovations and Results: Business Access is innovative in its program structure, flexibility, and use of technology to interact with and monitor participants. The program provides the incentive of computer ownership to meet work participation rates. The Business Access system is flexible and can be used in several ways to increase TANF participation: using eligibility for the program as an incentive for participation in core activities; as a way to expand the core and non-core hours of participants who are not meeting their weekly requirements; and as a stand-alone system for clients who cannot participate in out-of-home activities. For example, in Dallas, the Business Access program is used as an incentive for TANF participants to obtain and retain employment. Participants who obtain employment and report work hours for 30 days are eligible to receive the Business Access system. New Jersey has a program to help mothers caring for children become job ready while they are still at home. Business Access has methods in place to record, track, and report the time participants spend in online activities. All online activities are tracked by the second and categorized according to activity type. Computers are monitored remotely, so where the computer is, what has been downloaded, and how it is used can be known. Social Security numbers are required for log in, and participants must verify every 30 minutes that they are still taking the course. Business Access also monitors IP addresses and failed login attempts.
Eighty-six percent of families served through Business Access in Dallas County no longer are receiving TANF. In a study by the Texas Workforce Commission, graduates were nearly three times more likely to be employed after exit and earned $1,000 more during the first post-exit quarter than the comparison group. In New Jersey, 92 percent of participants were employed one year after exit from the program.
Operations: Participants qualify for the Business Access program through the criteria established by the administering body. In Dallas, TANF participants who have found employment and reported work hours for 30 days are eligible. The participant and case manager agree on the goals and training path. The participant completes a Business Access in-person classroom orientation. Following the orientation, the computer and Internet access are installed in the participant's home. As many as five login IDs are provided, allowing family members to benefit from the computer, although only the participant's activities count toward the program goals. The Business Access system automatically tracks and reports to case managers and monitors participant activities and training module completions.
Staffing: Program managers, mentors, technical support, and trainers support the Business Access model. Program managers work with each board or administering body to align the program to their specific goals, oversee the implementation process, and work with case managers to provide training, ongoing support, and automated weekly participation reports. Each participant is assigned a mentor who remains in contact and encourages the participant throughout the program. Technical support is available to all participants and is designed to resolve the issue and enable participants to learn more about the computer and be able to resolve on their own similar issues in the future. Trainers conduct participant orientations and take calls from participants with questions related to the training classes or about the training needed for a specific career path.
Tips to Implementation: The Business Access system is customizable to serve a variety of TANF populations, achieve program goals, and provide a broad range of classes. When implementing a program such as Business Access, agencies need to consider how they could best use the system to meet their program goals and assist TANF participants in achieving self-sufficiency.
Keys to Success: TANF participants who have the most success with the program include employed or partially employed participants, low-wage entry-level workers, single heads of households, and those with two or three dependents. Keys to success include the program flexibility; technology features that allow real time monitoring of participation, automatic reporting, and restrictions on access to pornographic and gambling websites; and a program philosophy that puts into practice ideas shaped by social construct and learning theories.
Challenges: The program can be used with exempt populations but has shown more success as an incentive program to engage exempt populations or as a transition program for those who will lose exempt status, rather than as a stand-alone program for exempt populations.
The following tools are associated with Business Access In-Home Learning. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about these tools.
System Usage for TANF Participation
Matrix and summary of the ways the Business Access system can be used to meet TANF participation goals
Business Access Web Pages
Summary of the functions available through the Business Access system and sample Web pages
Reports from the In-Home Learning System Platform
Summary of the ways the Business Access system can report data
Center for Employment Training
Program/Practice Name: Center for Employment Training (CET)
Type of Program/Practice: One of the country's most effective employment training programs, CET is focused on helping those in need of job skills or retraining. CET's mission is to promote human development and education by providing people with marketable skills training and supportive services that contribute to self-sufficiency.
Program/Practice Description: A nonprofit community-based organization, CET was established in 1967 and is headquartered in San Jose, California. A nationally accredited vocational education institution, CET operates 12 vocational educational centers in three States and has been replicated in the U.S. in addition to Belize and Chile.
CET focuses on serving low-income persons of all backgrounds with multiple barriers to employment. Students are males and females from 17 years old to individuals in their 60s.
Background/Program History: CET was started as a faith-based initiative focused on improving the lives of poor and disadvantaged individuals, primarily migrant and seasonal farm workers, through skill training, human development, and job placement assistance. In less than 4 years of operation, CET was rated as the most effective training program in the nation among projects funded by the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. In 1990, the Rockefeller Foundation released results of a 5-year national study of programs serving female minority heads of households and CET stood out in every category of measurement. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush recognized CET as a model program for replication across the country. In 1992, CET received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to replicate CET nationwide. CET provided technical assistance to local communities, rural and urban, who were interested in replicating the CET model. In particular, CET centers were established on the East Coast and served primarily African-American TANF participants. In 1995, CET earned accreditation and maintains accreditation standards today. In 2004, CET received the top Workforce Innovations 2004 Award from the U.S. Department of Labor for "Recognizing the Demographics of the Workforce." CET celebrated 50 years of skill training and human development in 2017.
Innovations and Results: CET centers operate year-round and feature an open entry, competency based learning format. There are no fixed semesters or quarters. There is no applicant testing as a prerequisite to enter training. CET does not require a minimum education and accepts individuals without a high school diploma or GED.
CET students train 5 days a week, 6 to 7 hours daily, year-round, in a highly individualized, noncompetitive environment, attending skills and job training until they achieve competency levels of a minimum 70 percent in a given skill. Classes are conducted in a simulated work environment, promoting good work habits and collaboration. Human development is an essential program requisite for participants and incorporated into every aspect of the training program. Human development is integrated to include workplace know-how, work preparedness, good attendance and punctuality, and job search skills. CET provides job placement assistance for all graduates. Extensive follow-up is performed with all students after placement to ensure stable employment and job growth.
CET offers a variety of courses/skill training options. CET students are trained by instructors who have industry sector experience and provide instruction and workplace simulated supervision to best prepare students for long-term job placement. Instructors work in core unit teams with other staff to provide a holistic learning environment for each student. Core unit teams meet weekly to assess student progress. Instructors typically meet with students bimonthly to assist them in achieving competencies and deal with any important issues or crises.
Services: CET offers a variety of services, which vary from center to center. They typically include:
- Vocational guidance
- Vocational English as a Second Language
- Job preparation instruction
- GED preparedness instruction
- Federal Financial Aid for those who qualify (Pell grants, student loans, work study)
- Transportation services
- Emergency assistance (food, housing, medical, clothing, child care)
- Information and referral services
Funding: CET receives funding support from two primary sources: local/State/Federal government and the private sector.
Partnerships: A large part of CET's success over the years has been its close ties to industry standards and employer demands. Instructors are hired directly from industry and have experience in a particular field. CET offers training in high-demand occupations and maintains close relationships with local employers through Technical Advisory Committees. These committees provide CET with direct contributions of time, resources, and equipment. Technical Advisory Committees assist CET in accomplishing its goals of training, placing qualified personnel in jobs, and validating training curricula.
Tips to Implementation:
CET's holistic and unique job training design, the Contextual Learning Model, has been critical to its success. During its 50 years of operation, CET has learned to not rely exclusively on federal funding but to leverage other resources, including Pell grants, student loans and partnerships with local governments and organizations.
Keys to Success:
CET's unique holistic approach to educational job training offers students a variety of supplemental services.
CET's unique mode of job training design, the Contextual Learning Model, integrates skill training, basic skills instruction including Vocational English as a Second Language, human development, job preparation, and job placement conducted in a simulated work setting.
CET's partnership with industries and employers.
CET is accredited, which permits students to apply for Federal financial assistance programs (Pell and Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants, student loans, work-study) to help students with tuition and living costs.
Highly knowledgeable instructors who demonstrate flexibility and expertise in offering students individualized instruction in an open entry, open exit system.
Program/Practice Name: Support and Training Result in Valuable Employees (STRIVE)
Agency Name: STRIVE, a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in New York, NY
240 East 123rd St. New York, NY 10035 (212) 360-1100 www.strivenewyork.org
Type of Program/Practice: STRIVE is an international leader in job readiness programs, combining attitudinal training with fundamental job skills and long-term participant follow-up.
Program/Practice Description: STRIVE is a 4-week intervention to improve the employability of low-income individuals seeking to reenter the job market. STRIVE focuses on the hardest to reach populations, including ex-offenders (40%) and individuals on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (40%). STRIVE focuses on soft-skill development and seeks to remove barriers to employment, including lack of money; its programs are offered at no cost to clients. STRIVE employs a strategic approach to increasing employability among clients that includes:
- Role-playing and task performance in a simulated work environment.
- Highly interactive, structured training in personal responsibility, attitude, and soft skills such as communication, professional demeanor, and interacting with supervisors and coworkers.
- Promoting computer literacy and preparing clients for the technical demands of the current job market.
- Intensive and in-depth client follow-up to support and track clients, helping them remain in the workforce and advance.
Background/Program History: First introduced in New York City in 1984 as the East Harlem Employment Service, Inc., STRIVE serves the most neglected, yet able, unemployed and under-served people: the formerly incarcerated, public assistance dependents, the homeless, and recovering drug abusers. STRIVE's first home was in the basement community room of the James Weldon Johnson Housing Project in East Harlem, and today has grown to have more than 20 domestic and international affiliates.
Operations: STRIVE has been successful in the development and implementation of practical and technical principles that have streamlined the recruitment, assignment, training, and tracking of individuals seeking to reenter the workforce. From intake to successful placement, clients are partnered with intake specialists who review their background and needs and complete a written application. STRIVE uses outreach teams to disseminate information at formal presentations, street fairs, parks, neighborhood sites, and a variety of media outlets. Moreover, it relies heavily on word-of-mouth recruitment through a wide network of community-based organizations. Direct referral by STRIVE graduates is a valuable resource for large numbers of applicants who apply based on personal observance of the program's impact. Trained intake specialists review an applicant's background and needs, and personal interviews reveal whether the program will meet these needs. Moreover, applicants are referred, as needed, to other area resources and are encouraged to seek as much assistance, from as many stakeholders, as possible. STRIVE works with clients to complete a skills assessment and research occupations in demand, while offering other relevant career guidance, including improving client occupational, math, or literacy skills or offering assistance to obtain a high school diploma or GED. STRIVE sites are one-stop career centers that offer a variety of tools to help clients find a new job or a career, including job listings, career advice, workforce information, and an automated job match system. The core workshop is a blend of job-readiness, self-examination, goal setting, critical thinking, relationship building, and self-esteem training. STRIVE has added a financial literacy workshop to increase client money management skills.
Funding: STRIVE has diversified its funding and finances, from grants to direct tuition payments from sponsors, thereby leveraging resources to reach as many clients as possible annually.
STRIVE faith-based funders include:
The Brick Presbyterian Church The Church of the Heavenly Rest St. James Episcopal Church The Church at Point O' Woods
Staffing: STRIVE's staff are integral to the success of the program and STRIVE recruits, trains, and rewards staff who are well qualified and dedicated to the goals of the organization. In an effort to lead by example, about one-third of STRIVE staff members nationwide are also graduates of the program. All staff receive intensive training and continuous learning on effective interaction skills and on the technology necessary to deliver services.
Additional Information: STRIVE seeks to train participants within 4 weeks and have them secure paid employment soon after. Participants are trained to dress and act professionally, and STRIVE focuses on reinforcing personal skills, which include understanding computer hardware and functions, basic computer operations, conducting library and Internet research, and working with both Mac and PC software. In addition to the core program, STRIVE provides a broad range of other services based on specific needs and resources, either in-house or with partner agencies. These include support groups for women addressing key issues such as single parenting, domestic violence, and child care options while remaining independent; fatherhood training addressing emotional and financial issues associated with child support; mental health counseling, systematic mental health assessments, and long-term counseling when needed; youth development programs emphasizing attitudinal adjustment, self-respect, communication, and the importance of completing high school; and supported work experience, with a number of monitored work assignments and placements with temporary staffing services available to graduates before they enter the traditional labor market for strengthening skills and gaining solid work experience.
Tips to Implementation: Organizations aiming to replicate the STRIVE model, which is a unique combination of attitudinal and skills training, should identify specific potential participants, comprehensively measure client skills, match clients with potential positions, design and administer continuous assessments to ensure quality service delivery, track activities to help ensure service delivery, use networks to identify other potential partners, and provide mentorship and networking opportunities for clients.
Successes: STRIVE has been successful at increasing employability among clients by regularizing program outputs, including coordination of a two-year follow-up that ensures clients are successful in their new positions or assists clients in securing a position that more completely fits their skills. Clients in the core training workshop are assigned to a job developer who works with the client to map out a specific employment program and strategic plan to ensure the client is prepared and assigned to a job site in the shortest amount of time. STRIVE's supportive services and follow-up specialists offer clients a long-term commitment with continual assistance and communication during the first two years after graduation and occasional communication afterward.
Challenges: Challenges faced by STRIVE include limited action by clients to improve life circumstances, limited knowledge about specific industries, employer mistrust or negative impressions about STRIVE clients, and employer reticence to share information with other employers. Although working to build comprehensive networks of service, the available social infrastructure presents several challenges to effective implementation of the STRIVE model.
Other Lessons Learned: STRIVE has articulated a vision of a sustainable and competent workforce and recommends various strategic elements to ensure success for clients: monitoring workforce needs and economic trends in local communities; quickly and comprehensively identifying client competencies and developing and delivering relevant training and resources to clients; designing an integrated lifelong learning delivery system; conducting evaluation and research; and ensuring financial support. Also, STRIVE recommends that organizations create an interactive data-based Web site that connects and serves education agencies, businesses, employers, job seekers, and human services agencies; create and nurture a comprehensive network of education and social service providers able to respond to community-specific needs; and better address language and cultural barriers.
"There are no tools associated with this program."