Academic journal article Adult Learning

University-Based Welfare to Work Project: Lessons Learned

Academic journal article Adult Learning

University-Based Welfare to Work Project: Lessons Learned

Article excerpt

Introduction

The passage of Public Law 104-193, "The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act" (Congressional Record, July 30, 1996) provides incentive to employers to hire individuals from the welfare rolls. Well before the passage of this act, the The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) had a rich history of community involvement with marginalized individuals. The University has continued to provide a number of community outreach programs relating to health care, education, housing, and enhancing and expanding work skills/vocational opportunities.

In the late 1990s, the UAB faculty and staff developed a program entitled "Project Learn." Its primary goal was to assist individuals in getting off welfare by obtaining productive employment. It was a joint endeavor between the University's School of Education and the Division of Human Resources Management. The program was designed to address the needs of welfare recipients who desired employment and included both on-the-job training and educational intervention. Project staff developed a procedure whereby welfare recipients without a high school degree or its equivalent could be hired by the University contingent upon successful completion of the training program. Training began with one class of 30 women and continued with three subsequent classes. The training was modified as experience was gained working with the original group.

The project was directed from the UAB School of Education, as the project director was a faculty member in the UAB School of Education. The UAB School of Education also provided equipment and materials for all participants. The UAB Division of Human Resource Management provided training space and also conducted job placement activities for the participants. Project staff who assisted the project director were an adult education teacher, a case manager, and staff of the office of Human Resources Management Training and Staff Development.

Program Components

After collaboration with professionals at the funding agency, it was agreed that five major components were necessary for the effective implementation of this program. All participants were involved in each of the five components. The five major components of the program included the following:

Referral/Screening -- Referrals to this program were made by personnel at the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources. Upon receipt of the referrals, project staff began the initial screening process which was two-fold:

A) Phase 1: Each prospective employee completed an Application for Employment and Release for References form. Initial screenings also included both drug screening procedures required of all individuals working in the UAB Hospital and a criminal background check. If individuals passed the initial screening, they moved to the second phase. However, if they failed, they were ineligible for employment at UAB, and the Alabama Department of Human Resources was notified so that an another referral to the program could be made. The first phase of the screening took seven to ten days.

B) Phase 2: Applicants were administered the Workplace Literacy Test (WLT), Form A Pretest (1993) and the Tennessee Self Concept Scale: 2 (Fitts and Warren, 1996). Both instruments were administered on a pre/post-test basis. The first instrument, the WLT, was used to assess incoming participants' levels of functional literacy in three areas--Prose, Quantitative, and Documents. This test yields a measure of adults' functional literacy skills (Kirsch, Jungeblut, Jenkins, and Kolstad, 1993).

The second instrument, the Tennessee Self Concept Scale: Second Edition (TSCS:2) (Fitts & Warren 1996) was administered for research purposes. It is a psychometrically sound, multidimensional, self-administered measure of self concept yielding 15 scales: four validity scales, two summary scales, six self-concept scales, and three supplementary scales. …

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