2. Outreach and Goal-Setting
3. Case Management / Coaching
4. Increasing Earnings
5. Building Financial Capability
6. FSS Infrastructure
4. Increasing Earnings
FSS program coordinators have wide discretion to determine how best to help FSS participants increase their earnings. Over the next few modules you will learn some best practices taken from several decades of research on employment and training strategies for low-income adults. These lessons can help to inform an evidence-based approach and a set of practices to support participants’ career goals.
We will start by describing some of the limitations of past programs and then turn to the most promising model to date, the Career Pathways Framework.
Here are three conclusions from research that are important for FSS program coordinators to understand in order to help FSS participants achieve their employment goals:
1. Changes in the job market make it difficult for individuals to achieve family-sustaining wages without a post-secondary credential.
FSS © 2017 | U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
2. Traditional welfare-to-work approaches did not increase employment and earnings over the long run and did not help participants escape poverty.
3. Post-employment job retention and advancement services generally have not increased employment and earnings, with a few limited exceptions.
Information on each of these three takeaways is provided below.
Takeaway 1: Changes in the job market make it difficult for individuals to achieve family-sustaining wages without a post-secondary credential.
Workers with a high school diploma or less have faced unstable employment and stagnating wages for the last 30 years. As the graphic shows, increased education generally leads to higher wages and higher employment rates.
There are three reasons why education is so important:
As explained in the video clip, these changes in the job market necessitate a strong emphasis on participants increasing their education. Having a GED is often a minimum requirement to obtain an entry-level job.
Takeaway 2: Traditional welfare-to-work approaches did not increase employment and earnings over the long run and did not help participants escape poverty.
Traditional welfare-to-work approaches include “work first,” “basic education first,” and a “mixed approach.”
Takeaway 3: Post-employment job retention and advancement services generally have not increased employment and earnings, with a few limited exceptions.
Having reviewed some of the limitations of past programs, let’s focus on the model with the best evidence for success: the Career Pathways Framework. Career Pathways is a strategy that is now being employed to address some of the shortcomings of past education and job training efforts.
Career Pathways programs have the following essential features:
The Career Pathways framework emphasizes four basic approaches:
Let’s address each of these in turn. Click the arrows to expand the content.
Career Pathways Approach 1. Sectoral Training
Sectoral Training typically involves partnerships between employers within one industry and employment, education, and training providers to focus on the workforce needs of that industry within a regional labor market.
For example, the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP) brings together employers and unions to create and retain career opportunities for low-income and unemployed residents. Training programs offered by WRTP typically run for two to eight weeks and are developed in response to employers’ requests or clearly identified labor market needs.
Career Pathways Approach 2. Contextualized and Accelerated Basic Skills Instruction
Contextualized and Accelerated Basic Skills Instruction accelerates and/or tailors basic skills instruction to meet the needs of a specific occupational training or other post-secondary program. Research, though limited, has found that this approach may produce better outcomes than basic skills programs that provide training in generalized skills not tailored to a specific occupation.
For example, students in Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) receive instruction in basic skills as well as technical content to accelerate their transition into college-level coursework in an occupational field. Courses are taught jointly by a basic skills instructor and a professional-technical instructor.
Career Pathways Approach 3. Structured Pathways Through Education and Training
Community colleges are the single largest provider of occupational training nationally, but many individuals do not graduate from these programs. Completion rates are low, at least in part, because students face an array of course choices and insufficient guidance on how to navigate these choices.
Research shows that a more structured community college pathway with constrained choices can contribute to dramatically increased graduation rates.
Similarly, basic skills education programs that previously let students enter and exit whenever they like have moved toward “managed enrollment” models that group students with similar skills into structured classes with clearly defined content standards and completion criteria.
Career Pathways Approach 4. Enhanced Academic and Career Advising
Case management in employment and training programs and enhanced advising in community colleges can improve outcomes, especially if coupled with other strategies to improve education and training services.
For example, students enrolled in the Automobile Career Pathways Project, a partnership of the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County and Shoreline Community College, had access to a career advancement navigator. This advisor built relationships with employers to help develop internships and jobs, helped coordinate funding for students, and connected students with a range of supportive services. The navigator also played a role after graduation, helping graduates plan for further educational and career advancement.
In the first part of this module, we have reviewed limitations of traditional job training programs and promising practices in the Career Pathways Framework.
What does all this mean for FSS Programs?
Here are 5 ways that you can use lessons learned from research on traditional employment and training strategies and from the Career Pathways Framework to help FSS participants make progress toward economic security:
1. Understand your participants
Knowing more about your participants’ work experience, educational attainment, basic academic skills, English language proficiency, and prevalence of personal and family challenges can help you determine the best strategy for working with them. You may have a diverse set of participants and need to customize strategies to a large extent, or you may have groups of participants with similar needs, making it easier to partner with particular providers to help participants gain access to needed services.
2. Understand the career assessment, education, training and job search services available in your community and – if participants are ready and able to find and retain employment – connect your participants with programs that use a Career Pathways approach.
Make sure your job training, education, training, and job search partners understand the local labor market and focus education and training on jobs that pay well (or can be stepping stones to better-paying jobs) and for which employers are hiring. Learn the employment sectors upon which local partners are focused so you can help participants identify promising career pathways.
For participants without basic or adult skills, seek out basic skills services with close connections to post-secondary education and training. (See for more information Chapter 2 in Administering an Effective Family Self-Sufficiency Program: A Guidebook Based on Evidence and Promising Practices).
This video clip underscores the importance of identifying strong workforce partners.
3. Sustained and trusting relationships can help FSS participants develop confidence and persist in building skills. One study found that 43 percent of FSS participants lack a high school diploma, and another 36 percent have no education beyond high school. Skills and credentials matter more than ever. But for low-income individuals, the path to gaining in-demand post-secondary credentials can be long, especially if they start out needing to brush up on basic academic or English language skills and are juggling work, parenting, and school.
The FSS program has an advantage over other employment and training programs because FSS coordinators work with families over several years, offering continuity in the support and guidance FSS participants receive as they work toward their education and career goals. A sustained and trusting relationship will position the FSS coordinator to better support participants in persisting in obtaining additional education and credentials.
Listen to this success story about the role that trust played for an FSS program graduate.
4. When participants are ready, refer them to job search services
Some FSS participants have in-demand skills but are stuck in low-wage jobs. FSS participants’ chances of wage increases are generally going to be stronger if they change employers rather than staying with the same one, especially if they work for a small employer. Consider referring these participants to job search services that help them increase their earnings by matching them with a better job that leverages the skills and work experience they already have. Look for partners with job developers or other strategies, such as sectoral partnerships, for maintaining close ties to employers.
While uncommon, it may also be possible to have a job developer on site, which will be discussed in Module 4.3.
5. Build strong partnerships
Partnerships are at the center of effective employment and training strategies because no single organization has the capacity to provide the full range of services that low-income adults may need, or the employer contacts and labor market knowledge needed to match participants with the right services and jobs. Strong partnerships are needed to connect the dots of employer workforce needs and adult education, job training, college, and support services.
FSS programs can take a number of steps to develop partnerships with other local community organizations. For example FSS coordinators can:
This video clip describes the process of forming a strong Program Coordinating Committee and leveraging services through community partners.
Please complete this quiz before you proceed to the next module. To take the quiz, use the arrow keys or click the correct answer choice. If you answer incorrectly, you will be able to try again until you select the correct response.
Scores will not be recorded.