The decision to build the demonstration within the One-Stop system, rather than in welfare or other agencies, was based in part on the view that retention and advancement services should become an integral part of the workforce system. It also recognized that many people who are eligible for work supports are employed and have no relationship to the welfare system — but many work supports are still administered through welfare agencies. This led to agreement that the One-Stop system is the most promising institution in which to locate (and build) both job retention and advancement services and access to work supports for low-wage workers.
In each of the three full demonstration sites, Workforce Investment Act staff, focused on retention and advancement services, working closely with welfare staff, who were relocated into a single unit and who administered work supports for WASC participants. At these sites, between 700 and 1,200 eligible workers were randomly assigned either to the program group (50 percent) or the control group (50 percent). Those in the control group continued to be eligible for any existing services that they were previously eligible to receive at the One-Stop and elsewhere (but not for the services provided by the new WASC unit). The WASC retention and advancement services aimed to move low-wage and employed dislocated workers into better-paying jobs; to help employers to reduce job turnover and related costs and to have trained employees for second- and third-level job openings; and to simplify access to work supports through the One-Stops. The Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service provided a waiver to two demonstration sites, to encourage states and localities to experiment with simplification of the food stamp program rules (and the research will measure the effects of this simplification).
In early 2005, Montgomery County (Dayton), OH, and San Diego County (Chula Vista), CA, launched pilot WASC services. Full implementation began in fall 2005. A third site, Bridgeport, CT, launched its program in spring of 2006. In addition, a fourth site in Tarrant County (Fort Worth) was selected for an implementation study because it offered the promising innovation of delivering WASC services entirely at employee work sites, with the cooperation of participating employers.
The research has two main components: (1) an implementation analysis to assess how the sites operate the program in the “real world,” adapting it to their differing local circumstances, and (2) an impact analysis of the program’s effects on participants’ labor market outcomes and income, based on a random assignment research design. Data sources for the study include individual participant background and follow-up surveys; administrative records on earnings and work supports; interviews and focus groups with WASC staff, participants, and their employers; case file reviews; and program observations.
Together, the implementation and impact research strands allow the study to answer such questions as: Can the WASC approach be operated on a large scale and in diverse localities? Does it increase participants’ acquisition of the skills needed in high-demand occupations? Does it reduce participants’ job turnover and increase their employment retention? Does it enable participants to find better-paying jobs with advancement opportunities? Does it increase low-income workers’ receipt of financial work supports? And does it enable workers receiving work supports to advance to better-paying positions that make those supports unnecessary? What is the potential role of employers in connecting their entry-level and lower-wage workers to work supports and skill-building opportunities?
The first major report from the project describes the rationale behind the program intervention, the program’s goals and strategies, and the early planning challenges encountered, and choices made, by the first two sites selected for the demonstration — Dayton and San Diego. The second report explores how WASC career coaches help low-wage workers understand the complex interactions between earnings and eligibility for work support programs and guide them to make the best advancement decisions possible. The third report, released in June 2009, offers impact findings from the first year of implementation at two sites: Dayton and San Diego. The fourth report, released in October 2010, describes the food stamp quality control study that was conducted as part of the demonstration and at the request of the Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service in two of the sites (Dayton, OH, and San Diego, CA).The fifth report, released in April 2011, describes implementation findings from the WASC program in Fort Worth, Texas.