Subsidized and Transitional Employment Demonstration (STED) Meeting

OPRE Subsidized and Transitional Employment Demonstration (STED) Meeting
February 3, 2014
Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg

Thanks very much, I’m very glad to be with you this morning. Unfortunately, I’m only able to be here for this next hour, so my plan is to do some very brief opening remarks so that we can use most of the time for conversation and discussion. I want to begin with some quick thank yous – to Erica and her colleagues for planning and organizing this meeting; to OPRE staff generally for the terrific work they do across the broad range of areas, to those of you who have been and are working on the STED evaluation, to our DOL colleagues with whom we’re working on the STED evaluation and lots of other things, and to the program representatives who have traveled here to be with us for this meeting.
Over the next few minutes, I want to quickly highlight why the STED evaluation is so exciting and important to us. As you know, the President has said that addressing inequality, economic mobility, and opportunity is the defining challenge of our time. In ACF, one of our principal efforts is to identify and help states and other grantees implement effective strategies for helping low income individuals and families enter and sustain employment and make progress in the work force.

A number of components of our research agenda are helping us to do this. Through ISIS, Innovative Strategies to Increase Self Sufficiency, we’re rigorously evaluating some of the most promising career pathways strategies in the country; through Health Professions Opportunity Grants, we’re evaluating sectoral strategies that seek to connect low income individuals with good jobs that are or will be in demand in health care; our new work around job search seeks to build on past experience and identify the most effective strategies for connecting those who are out of work with available jobs. And, of course, through the STED evaluation, we seek to learn more about the most effective strategies for using subsidized employment as a means to help adults and youth enter and succeed in employment.

As many of you know, experience around subsidized employment goes back many years, and there are multiple models and approaches. But, the rigorous experimental research base is quite limited, and STED offers the potential to significantly contribute to that research base.

More specifically, our interest in developing and implementing STED stemmed from a couple of key things that have happened in recent years. First, prior research, including the evaluations of the Center for Employment Opportunities in New York City, and the Transitional Work Corporation in Philadelphia, had suggested to us and others that transitional jobs programs could have positive effects in raising employment rates, and could have other positive effects, but to date, they had not shown long-term sustained impacts on employment and earnings. And, that spurred a conversation that we and many others of you engaged in about what could be done in a next generation of transitional jobs efforts to strengthen employment impacts.

Second, a number of you were actively involved in the experience of the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund under the Recovery Act. Using ECF dollars, States launched the largest subsidized employment in the United States since the 1970s. Forty two states established subsidized employment programs, with an estimated 260,000 job slots created for adults and youth, and many of them involving subsidies that created jobs with private sector employers. The jobs were provided for TANF recipients, other low income custodial and noncustodial parents, and needy youth.

Some of these efforts fell squarely within what had were viewed as transitional jobs, and at the other end of the spectrum, some involved little more than the offer of a wage subsidy to an employer to hire an individual. And, some involved new and innovative hybrid approaches, in which states were exploring a wide range of options in program design.
We viewed the overall effort as an enormously positive development, in which funds were being used to create jobs, help workers, businesses, and communities. We sought to encourage it both while the ECF funds were available, and we’ve tried to spur and encourage continued state efforts even after the ECF funding ended.

But, while the ECF was operating, we were able to collect very little data – because the law limited our ability to do so --- and we weren’t able to initiate any evaluation. And, while states were implementing their programs, it was very clear that there were a host of questions for which we, and others, didn’t really know answers --- how long should a subsidy be? How big should it be? What other services and supports are needed along with the subsidy? When is it, and isn’t it, a good idea to focus subsidy efforts on private, for-profit employers? When and why should intermediaries be used? When does an individual need something that looks more like a transitional job, and when does an individual need something that looks more like a counter-cyclical wage subsidy?

So, we launched Subsidized and Transitional Employment Demonstration (STED), seeking to build on both the learnings from earlier transitional jobs evaluations and the experience of the ECF. We recognize that there’s much that we need to learn both about how to improve the effectiveness of transitional jobs models and about the impacts of countercyclical subsidized employment models. And, in STED, we hope to gain valuable insights that will inform practice and lead to more effective strategies for working with non-custodial parents, individuals leaving prison, disconnected youth and other youth at risk, as well as TANF recipients and other low income individuals.

I look forward to our conversations with you because while the impact findings from STED will be enormously important, your insights and perspectives from direct day to day work with participants and businesses and partners are also hugely important, and that’s what I’ll look forward to hearing in just a moment.

I’ll end on a quick personal note. As some of you know, I was at the Center for Law and Social Policy at the time of the founding of the Transitional Jobs Network, and for many years before joining government, I was on the Board of the Transitional Work Corporation. I very much recall the debates we had on the TWC board about how to best structure the job placements, services, case management, hours, wages, and other dimensions of TWC operation. Both then and now, there is and just broad bipartisan/nonpartisan interest in how to operate programs that can provide immediate employment and work opportunities for those groups that face the greatest challenges in connecting with sustainable unsubsidized employment. We believe the STED findings, and your insights and perspectives, will contribute in important ways to advancing that effort, and we thank you again for your efforts.

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