• 0.18,3.00
  • -0.08,1.00
  • -0.10,3.00
  • -0.06,1.00
  • 0.08,1.00

The WASC Demonstration delivered integrated, intensive retention and advancement services and financial work supports to workers with low wages and reemployed dislocated workers to fill gaps in services available to them and help them advance and increase their incomes.

The WASC Demonstration delivered integrated, intensive retention and advancement services and financial work supports to workers with low wages and reemployed dislocated workers to fill gaps in services available to them and help them advance and increase their incomes.

The program provided information about and simplified access to financial work supports, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and child care subsidies. Retention and advancement services included career coaching and access to training and education to stabilize participants’ employment and help them find better-paying jobs. The program helped participants secure funding for training and education costs through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and other training funds. Additional incentives (gas, grocery, or gift cards) were offered to inactive participants to return and continue with the program.

The WASC Demonstration was implemented in Bridgeport, CT as the Academy for Career Advancement, and in San Diego, CA as Project Earnings, Advancement, Retention Now! The Bridgeport, CT, model focused on providing more vocational training opportunities to participants. The San Diego, CA, model focused on career coaching, including individualized support in developing long-term and short-term employment goals and addressing barriers to employment or retention, and on services to help participants advance in current jobs. Workforce development and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) staff offered services at one-stop career centers. Participants received services for two years.

The program focused on workers with low wages and reemployed dislocated workers who had limited prior connection to government assistance programs and were therefore considered most in need of work supports. A maximum of 50 percent of participants in each site could be Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, and people receiving TANF were ineligible. The WASC Demonstration that tested the WASC programs in Bridgeport, CT and San Diego, CA also tested the WASC Demonstration with Incentive Payments in Dayton, OH.

Year evaluation began: 2005
Populations and employment barriers: Employed
Intervention services: Case management, Academic instruction, Employment retention services, Supportive services, Training, Occupational or sectoral training, On-the-job training
Setting(s): Tested in multiple settings

Effectiveness rating and effect by outcome domain

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Outcome domain Term Effectiveness rating Effect in 2018 dollars and percentages Effect in standard deviations Sample size
Increase earnings Short-term Not supported unfavorable $-879 per year -0.042 0
Long-term Not supported favorable $3,681 per year 0.176 0
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Not supported unfavorable -3% (in percentage points) -0.061 1676
Long-term Not supported unfavorable -1% (in percentage points) -0.015 1676
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term Not supported unfavorable $231 per year 0.084 1676
Long-term Not supported unfavorable $171 per year 0.062 1498
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods Supported favorable 3% (in percentage points) 0.066 1099

Participant race and ethnicity
Black or African American
32%
White, not Hispanic
9%
Hispanic or Latino of any race
51%
Asian
4%
Another race
5%

Implementation details

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Dates covered by study

The WASC Demonstration began in November 2005 and ended in early 2010. The San Diego site enrolled study participants from 2005 to 2007, and the Bridgeport site enrolled study participants from 2006 to 2008. Participants received WASC services for two years after enrollment. WASC staff administered a randomized follow-up survey to the comparison and intervention groups 12 months after randomization.

Organizations implementing intervention

The WASC Demonstration was implemented at one-stop career centers in San Diego, CA and Bridgeport, CT. Workforce development specialists and TANF staff co-located in the one-stop career centers collaborated to deliver services.

Populations served

The WASC Demonstration recruited voluntary participants who were (1) workers earning less than $15 per hour, (2) workers with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, (3) reemployed dislocated workers with low incomes, or (4) workers who became reemployed at a lower wage than they had previously earned. TANF recipients were not eligible to participate in the intervention. A maximum of 50 percent of study participants per site could be current SNAP participants at the time of study enrollment.

The majority of the participants in the Bridgeport and San Diego WASC programs were female (67 percent and 72 percent, respectively). The average age was 33 in Bridgeport and 36 in San Diego. More than 60 percent of participants from both sites reported income below 130 percent of the poverty level; the majority of participants were Hispanic or Latino of any race in San Diego (70 percent) and were Black or African American, not Hispanic, in Bridgeport (61 percent). In San Diego, 28 percent of participants were noncitizen immigrants with a legal right to work. One-third of participants in Bridgeport and 44 percent in San Diego were working full-time when they enrolled in the intervention. Seventeen percent of participants in Bridgeport and about one-quarter of participants in San Diego did not have a high school diploma or GED at the time of enrollment.

Description of services implemented

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.

Service intensity

Participants received intervention services for up to two years. The frequency and intensity of services varied by site. The WASC model expected that coaches would interact with at least 75 percent of their participants once every month; however, according to survey responses, just 52 percent of participants in Bridgeport and 36 percent in San Diego reported interacting with their coach in 4 weeks prior to the survey. WASC services mainly consisted of one-on-one interactions between the WASC coach and participant, and the programs encountered challenges in arranging as many of these one-on-one meetings as intended.

Comparison conditions

Participants randomly assigned to the comparison group were not eligible to receive WASC services but could access existing services in the community.

Partnerships

The key implementation partners for the WASC Demonstration were state and county workforce development and welfare agencies, such as the following:

  • San Diego Workforce Partnership, a workforce development agency in San Diego, CA.

  • San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, an agency that provides health and social services in San Diego, CA.

  • Connecticut Department of Labor, an agency that serves workers and employers in the state of Connecticut.

  • Connecticut Department of Social Services, an agency that provides health and social services in the state of Connecticut.

  • The Workplace, Inc., a workforce development agency serving employers and job seekers in southwestern Connecticut.

Staffing

Service delivery staff for the WASC Demonstration varied by site. The San Diego WASC site had four career coaches, including two full-time human services specialists from the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency and two full-time workforce development advisors from the one-stop career center. Staff at the Bridgeport WASC site included two to three career navigators at a given time who provided advancement coaching and a part-time welfare caseworker who screened and processed work support applications. Both sites also had a project coordinator.

Some staff specialized in workforce development or work support, but all staff were expected to become knowledgeable and comfortable delivering the full range of WASC services when needed. Staff turnover was a challenge across sites. Two coach positions in San Diego had to be filled four times throughout the study, and the career navigator position in Bridgeport had to be filled twice. The study did not include information on the training, degrees, or certifications of the staff.

Local context

The intervention operated in urban settings only. The WASC Demonstration occurred during the economic recession in 2008. The study follow-up period from late 2005 to 2011 overlaps with the national rise in unemployment and might have affected the study sample’s earnings and employment outcomes in follow-up years. Federal policy changes to minimum wage laws were also in effect during the intervention, increasing the minimum to $5.85 in 2007, $6.55 in 2008, and $7.25 in 2009.

Fidelity measures

The study did not discuss any tools to measure fidelity to the intervention model.

Funding source

Funding sources for the WASC Demonstration included state, federal and foundation funding. Both sites received funding from MDRC for operations through the spring of 2006. Bridgeport received discretionary funds from The WorkPlace Inc. for training. San Diego utilized Formula WIA Adult program funding to pay for coaching staff, and in 2007 they secured alternative funding for the WASC program from the San Diego County Health and Human Services.

Cost information

The study did not discuss a cost per participant or a comparison of costs and benefits.

Studies of this intervention

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Study quality rating Study counts per rating
High High 2