Helping Participants Increase Their Earnings

Module 4.3: Helping Participants Find and Retain Employment

When developing an overall strategy for helping participants increase their earnings, FSS coordinators should consider the lessons learned from workforce development experience and research described in Module 4.1 about the limitations of job search and post-employment services. Research indicates that it is difficult for these services alone to overcome a lack of opportunities due to low participant basic education and job skills and/or a labor market structure that offers few high-paying jobs.

In brief, studies find that job search-focused employment programs increase short-term employment and earnings but those impacts fade over time as individuals who were not in the program find the same types of jobs. Long-term follow up shows recipients of job search assistance working in low-wage jobs, without steady employment, and no better off than similar individuals who did not receive program services.  This research underscores the importance of pairing job search services with other services to increase FSS participants’ earnings potential, especially postsecondary education for in-demand jobs. (This research is detailed in Appendix 7.1 of the Administering an Effective Family Self-Sufficiency Program guidebook.)

Helping Participants Find Employment

This module describes how FSS coordinators can help participants obtain and retain employment.  Not all FSS participants will require all of these services, and some participants may need to upgrade their skills (using methods described in the previous two modules) or address personal issues before they are ready to look for a job.

For those who are ready for employment, FSS coordinators and job search assistance providers may use the following approaches to help participants search more effectively for jobs:

  • Programs and services to promote job readiness
  • Job development and job matching programs and services
  • Use of technology and social media to find jobs

Programs and Services to Promote Job Readiness

Job readiness trainings include workshops on the skills needed to find, obtain, and retain jobs.

The following are examples of workshop activities:

  • Resume and cover letter development
  • Job search techniques
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Completing applications
  • Computer/internet skills
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Life management skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Financial management
  • Time management
  • Conflict resolution

FSS coordinators may assist participants with these job readiness activities during one-on-one meetings or refer participants to job readiness programs offered by partners.

This video clip describes the steps that one FSS program takes to promote job readiness as part of their efforts to help residents become and stay employed.

FSS © 2017 | U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Job Development and Job Matching Programs and Services

Job search assistance programs available through local American Job Centers or workforce partners often have a job developer on staff who screens job-ready participants and matches their skills with appropriate jobs. Job developers build and maintain relationships with local employers and encourage employers to hire program participants by matching qualified candidates to job openings and educating employers about available tax incentives.

Job developers can be a resource for both FSS coordinators and participants. Based on their knowledge of the local labor market, job developers can provide information about the types of available jobs for which participants may be qualified. This can help staff and participants set achievable short-term and long-term employment goals. Job developers can also build support for the FSS program among employers and alert FSS staff if a participant loses a job and is in need of rapid re-employment services or needs services to seek a better job while still employed.

Job developers have been a major component of a number of successful employment programs. For example, the Los Angeles Jobs-First GAIN Evaluation found large improvements in earnings and employment and decreases in federal benefits in a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program with significant job development.

In this video clip, another FSS coordinator describes how her program was able to bring a job developer on staff by securing funding from a local partner.

 

Use of Technology and Social Media to Find Jobs

Job search has changed dramatically over the last two decades as Internet use has expanded. Web-based job search sites such as Craigslist, LinkedIn, and Monster.com have replaced newspapers listing job openings and the need to post opportunities in American Job Centers or TANF offices. This shift allows job seekers to identify more job opportunities and to complete on-line applications.

A first step for some participants may be the creation of an email address for use in applying for jobs. Having a consistent telephone number and setting up a professional-sounding voicemail message are also important steps for FSS participants to take when looking for a job.  As mentioned above, many jobs are now posted online, which requires the use of an email address for correspondence or even the creation of an email login to apply for jobs. Participants should be encouraged to check their email often. Email and telephone are the primary ways that employers notify candidates that they wish to interview them.

While Internet usage has increased, barriers to Internet access still exist for many job seekers. Pew Research Center found that more than 20 percent of all adults do not have access to the Internet. Adults living in households earning less than $30,000 per year and adults with less than a high school education are even less likely to have Internet access.  However, smartphones partially bridge the digital divide as 77 percent of low-income individuals under age 30 have smartphones. Young adults, non-whites, and those with relatively low incomes and education levels are particularly likely to use the Internet primarily through their cell phones.

Assuming FSS participants have access to the Internet, consider using social media to stay in touch and connect them with services and job opportunities. Participants who do not have reliable Internet service at home can benefit from connections to a local library or other resource center that provides free access.

Using Social Media

The Department of Labor funded pilot projects in Idaho, Minnesota, and New York that implemented several strategies including the use of social media tools (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram) to inform job seekers about job opportunities; facilitate networking; provide job readiness workshops; connect with employers; and address questions and needs of jobseekers. Although an evaluation has not yet been conducted to measure the effect of these social media strategies on job seeker employment outcomes, social media usage increased in all three states. Each state accumulated more “likes” on their Facebook pages, increased number of Twitter “followers,” and had a steady increase in LinkedIn followers.

Job Retention and Advancement

Job search assistance programs may help low-income and low-skilled individuals gain employment; however, employment in the low-skilled labor market is often unstable and many new jobs end relatively quickly. For example, the Employment Retention and Advancement project, which aimed to improve job retention and career advancement for low-skilled workers, found that across the 12 project sites, only half of participants were continuously employed for a year or more during a three-year follow-up period. Project sites were not successful in helping participants retain jobs but several sites did at least help individuals become reemployed more quickly, thereby shortening their periods of unemployment.

Other studies have similar findings, suggesting that programs should broaden their definition of retention from assisting participants to retain a specific job to encompass helping them stay in the labor market generally, even if this means employment in a series of jobs. This shift in the focus of retention services may benefit FSS participants, if FSS coordinators can help them change jobs strategically, because switching jobs periodically can lead to higher wages later on compared with working steadily in the same initial job.

While the evidence suggests that job retention programs struggle to be effective, one of the problems they experience is a low take-up of services by employed individuals. To the extent FSS programs can continue to engage working individuals and use the escrow account as a motivator for continued employment, FSS programs may be better positioned than other programs to help working residents to stay employed. Given the unstable nature of low wage jobs, however, the most realistic goal for many FSS participants is steady employment, with support for quick reemployment when job loss occurs, rather than retaining a particular job.

FSS coordinators can promote employment retention by:

  • Developing mechanisms to learn about issues that are occurring on the job or job loss
  • Implementing strategies focused on quick re-entry into the labor market and strategies to help participants obtain higher wage jobs
  • Helping FSS participants access earning supplements

More information on each of these three strategies is provided below. Click the arrows to expand the content.

Clients are most vulnerable after first getting a job. Once they get the job, we move the case to a second case manager to just deal with employment retention issues while also still keeping original case management. The case manager is available daily. It takes six months to one year to stabilize a job.”

Patti Zatarian-Menard, Senior Trainer and Consultant, Nan McKay & Associates, El Cajon, CA

FSS coordinators may also promote job advancement by encouraging participants to enroll in education and training programs while employed.

 

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.

1. Job Readiness training may include workshops on which of the following topics?

A - Computer/Internet skills.Partially correct.This is one type of training but it’s not the only one listed. All of the workshops listed may be part of job readiness training.B - Life management skills.Partially correct.This is one type of training, but it’s not the only one listed. All of the workshops listed may be part of job readiness training.C - Financial management skills.Partially correct.This is one type of training, but it’s not the only one listed. All of the workshops listed may be part of job readiness training.D - All of the above.Correct!Job Readiness training can include a variety of different topics and involves much more than resume writing and interview skills.E - None of the above.Incorrect.Job Readiness training can include a variety of different topics and involves much more than resume writing and interview skills. All of the workshops listed may be part of job readiness training.

2. Research suggests it might be a good idea for job retention and advancement to be redefined from assisting participants to retain a specific job to which of the following?

A - Retaining employment across jobs.Correct!Employment in the low-skilled labor market is not stable and many new jobs end relatively quickly. In light of the realities of today’s workplace, it may be more practical to focus employment retention efforts on ensuring participants stay employed – or rapidly find another job if they become unemployed – even if this means changing employers. Indeed, studies have found that one voluntary job change per year is associated with higher wages, so moving employers can actually be beneficial if it is consistent with the participant’s career goals.B - Leaving the labor force for a time and improving their job skills.Incorrect.While FSS program participants may benefit from additional training, this is not considered job retention and advancement. Rather, a new approach to job retention and advancement may involve assisting participants to retain employment across jobs.C - Remaining in the same position for at least five years.Incorrect.Employment in the low-skilled labor market is not stable and many new jobs end relatively quickly. In light of the realities of today’s workplace, it may be more practical to focus employment retention efforts on ensuring participants stay employed – or rapidly find another job if they become unemployed – even if this means changing employers. Indeed, studies have found that one voluntary job change per year is associated with higher wages, so moving employers can actually be beneficial if it is consistent with the participant’s career goals.

3. FSS staff should wait a few months before contacting newly employed participants about their experiences.

A - True.Incorrect.Job loss usually occurs in the first few months of employment. It is best to contact your participants right away.B - False.Correct!Job loss usually occurs in the first few months of employment. It is best to contact your participants right away.

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