The WASC model had two key components: (1) advancement services aimed at improving work conditions and increasing earnings, wages, and employer-provided benefits, and (2) work supports aimed at connecting participants to wraparound services and increasing their uptake of public benefits. The WASC Demonstration was implemented differently at each site.
Advancement services. Participants received advancement services through career coaching and skills development.
- Career coaching. Career coaches or navigators helped participants develop short-term and long-term advancement goals with attainable steps, administered career assessments, connected participants to potential employers through informational interviews and job opportunities, and addressed participants’ barriers to maintaining employment by helping them identify job advancement opportunities such as pursuing promotions. Starting in the summer of 2008, participants at the Bridgeport WASC site received gas cards and gift cards as incentives for engaging with career navigators.
- Skills development. Participants could receive referrals to classroom-based training, on-the-job training, and paid work experience. Participants also could receive individual training accounts (ITAs) to subsidize education and training costs.
Work support services. Work support services for WASC participants consisted of education and enrollment in public benefit programs and guaranteed, subsidized child care.
- Public benefit awareness and enrollment. WASC staff used a web-based calculator to help participants identify if they were eligible for public benefits such as SNAP, state-sponsored insurance, subsidized child care, and the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credit. The calculator, called the Work Advancement Calculator, was also designed to help participants prepare for advancement, illustrating how income, earnings, and benefits change as earnings increase. The WASC Demonstration also simplified application forms and merged eligibility requirements for work supports across different programs, and extended the recertification period for some benefits. Furthermore, the WASC Demonstration provided on-site, co-located public benefit caseworkers who helped participants with applications for and recertifications of work support benefits. WASC staff also provided more flexible access than typical public benefits programs because they could deliver direct services outside the office and after business hours, including evenings and weekends.
- Subsidized child care. The WASC Demonstration offered participants guaranteed immediate access to subsidized child care. The guarantee was more notable in San Diego, as there were no waiting lists for child care in Bridgeport (meaning participants had access to child care without WASC). In San Diego, the WASC program used discretionary funds to subsidize child care.
The intervention featured TANF staff who were trained eligibility workers and were co-located with the workforce development specialists at the one-stop career centers. TANF staff had authorization to grant public benefits on-site. Furthermore, offering joint work supports and advancement services helped increase uptake of public benefits and reduce stigma associated with receiving benefits.
WASC’s initial design included employer-based services provided to participants at their workplaces, but these were not implemented because it took too long to obtain buy-in from employers and employees. Also, because of recruitment challenges, the eligibility wage cap was increased from $9 to $15 per hour.
Challenges. The WASC program sites encountered several challenges. WASC’s initial design included employer-based services provided to participants at their workplaces, but these were not implemented because it took too long to obtain buy-in from employers and employees. Also, because of recruitment challenges, the eligibility wage cap was increased from $9 to $15 per hour. Staff lacked expertise in labor markets and career ladders to adequately help participants’ progress in their careers. They also had difficulty accessing Workforce Investment Act funds to support training for working participants in San Diego. In addition, ITA-certified training providers and participants encountered scheduling conflicts. Service delivery was inconsistent because staff did not have flexible schedules to accommodate participants’ work schedules.