The intervention consisted of a set of services to promote employment stability and wage growth among former TANF recipients and people with low incomes. TAAG services were customized to participants’ work conditions and goals. Service providers had autonomy in implementing and structuring their services.
TAAG staff delivered services in the mornings, evenings, and weekends. The TAAG team met with participants in person at various settings, such as the office or participants’ homes, and over the phone or through written contact.
The TAAG intervention consisted of the following components:
- Intake. During the initial intake session, various TAAG staff met with participants to build rapport and demonstrate to participants that they were invested in their success. Participants completed a personal development plan and set forth personal and professional goals with action steps to achieve them.
- Employment retention. Participants received job coaching, conflict resolution services, support with developing a household budget, and other post-employment services to help them maintain employment. TAAG also delivered employment-related supportive services and funding to participants, including gas vouchers, rental assistance, and for vehicle repairs, to aid participants in emergencies that could otherwise affect their employment.
- Career Advancement services. TAAG staff provided services to help participants advance in their careers, including job search assistance, coaching on advancement goals, and instruction on negotiating for higher wages and maintaining good behavior to obtain a promotion.
- Education and training. TAAG staff helped participants enroll in GED classes and obtain their GED certificate. Staff also helped participants sign-up for adult basic education, college programs or short-term vocational training. Participants could receive funding for school, tools, equipment, and short-term training programs.
- Job search assistance. Participants who lost their jobs worked with a job coach and an employment specialist to help them gain new employment best suited for their interests and skills. TAAG staff helped participants develop résumés and complete job applications.
- Other services. TAAG staff referred participants to TANF, mental health, and substance abuse services if needed. TAAG did not integrate TANF intake or support services into their program. Instead, staff referred participants to the local DHS office to acquire benefits. TAAG leaders intentionally separated public benefits and TAAG services so the team could focus on participants’ career advancement goals and not be mandated to enforce TANF eligibility requirements.
The intervention changed in several ways during the study period. Contrary to the initial design of the TAAG model and in contrast with other TAAG programs, TAAG did not often contact employers on behalf of participants. TAAG did not fully integrate an employer engagement approach as initially planned, an approach that was intended to improve retention and advancement among participants. Most staff did not follow up because of a lack of experience collaborating with employers, or because participants did not want staff to contact employers. Employment Retention and Advancement staff mainly provided information about jobs without advocating for the participant or facilitating relationships with their employers.
Labor market conditions during TAAG’s implementation meant that an unexpectedly high number of participants experienced job loss and increased demand for reemployment services from TAAG staff. TAAG staff had to redirect their efforts from career counseling to crisis management. Eventually, after additional training was provided to staff, staff re-pivoted their approach toward retention and advancement.
State funding cuts in 2004 caused significant changes to TAAG program staffing and services. Halfway through the program period, the employment specialist and learning plan specialist moved their services off-site to the community college and could no longer dedicate their time to only TAAG participants or offer services at The Job Council and in the field. The funding for training, emergency services, and equipment ended. TAAG staff salaries were cut by 10 percent, and one TAAG team member left their position. The U.S. Department of Labor provided funding to the TAAG program to maintain services; however, the amount provided did not offset the full funding cut, and the TAAG program reduced services.
Challenges. Retaining reemployed participants was a challenge for the service provider. Many TAAG participants feared losing their benefits when advancing to higher wages, and it deterred them from engaging in advancement services, pursuing a higher-paying job, or moving up in their current employment.
In addition, TAAG services at Medford were fragmented and inconsistent for participants. TAAG did not have a package of standard services for all participants because the services were adapted to fit each client’s needs and interests. Thus, some participants were not aware of all program components or resources. Furthermore, program staff’s lack of collaboration and connection with employers and industries, as noted earlier, limited the extent to which they could help participants secure specific jobs.