Work Readiness Activities : Business Access In-Home Learning

Program/Practice Name: Business Access In-Home Learning

Agency Name: WorkSource for Dallas County, The Texas Workforce Commission

Contact Information:

David Buchholz
Vice President, Business Development
Phone: (214) 367-6438
dbuchholz@business-access.com
www.business-access.com

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 upitoolkit@icfi.com 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