• 0.05,1.00
  • 0.06,1.00

Next STEP sought to help people who were formerly incarcerated reenter the workforce by providing them with 2 weeks of work-readiness training, supportive services, and 16 weeks of subsidized work.

Next STEP sought to help people who were formerly incarcerated reenter the workforce by providing them with 2 weeks of work-readiness training, supportive services, and 16 weeks of subsidized work.

Next STEP participants received 2 weeks of work-readiness training and then worked with a job developer to search for a private job with subsidized wages. The subsidized job lasted for 16 weeks, with a full subsidy for 8 weeks and a half subsidy for the subsequent 8 weeks. All employers agreed to retain participants if they did well, and hired participants were invited to quarterly job retention meetings. In addition to subsidized employment, participants had access to case management, mental health services, financial incentives, and legal assistance. People were eligible for Next STEP if they met the following criteria: (1) were age 18 or older; (2) had been convicted of a crime as an adult under federal or state law; (3) had not been convicted of a sex offense; (4) had been released from prison in the past 120 days; (5) were living in Tarrant County, TX; (6) were registered with Selective Service; and (7) had at least two of the following: no recent skilled employment, long-term unemployment, an inability to return to their former profession, no high school diploma, a high school diploma but less than a ninth-grade reading level, homelessness, no right-to-work document, a physical or mental limitation or disability, or no credential or degree earned in the past five years in a high-demand occupation field.

Next STEP was implemented in Fort Worth, TX. The evaluation of Next STEP was part of the Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration (ETJD) evaluation, which also tested similar subsidized employment programs implemented in Atlanta, GA (Good Transitions); Milwaukee, WI (Supporting Families Through Work); San Francisco, CA (TransitionsSF); Syracuse, NY (Parent Success Initiative); Indianapolis, IN (RecycleForce); and New York, NY (Ready, Willing and Able Pathways2Work).

Year evaluation began: 2011
Populations and employment barriers: Former incarceration
Intervention services: Case management, Employment retention services, Financial incentives, Substance use disorder treatment and mental health services, Training, Occupational or sectoral training, Subsidized employment, Transitional jobs, Work readiness activities, Job search assistance, Job development/job placement
Setting(s): Urban only

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 Little evidence to assess support unfavorable $-105 per year -0.005 998
Long-term Little evidence to assess support unfavorable $-690 per year -0.033 998
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Supported favorable 1% (in percentage points) 0.036 998
Long-term Little evidence to assess support unfavorable -1% (in percentage points) -0.019 998
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term No evidence to assess support
Long-term Little evidence to assess support unfavorable $58 per year 0.021 765
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods Supported favorable 3% (in percentage points) 0.064 686

Participant race and ethnicity
Black or African American
68%
White, not Hispanic
15%
Hispanic or Latino of any race
15%
Another race
1%

Implementation details

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Dates covered by study

The Next STEP intervention operated from November 2011 to June 2014, with enrollment occurring between November 2011 and December 2013. The study measured participant impacts at 12 and 30 months after enrollment.

Organizations implementing intervention

Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County (WSTC) implemented Next STEP. WSTC is the local workforce development board for Tarrant County, TX, which contains the city of Fort Worth.

Populations served

Next STEP served people who were formerly incarcerated and who met all of the following criteria:

  1. were age 18 or older
  2. had been convicted of a crime as an adult under federal or state law
  3. had not been convicted of a sex offense
  4. had been released from prison in the past 120 days
  5. were living in Tarrant County, TX
  6. were registered with Selective Service
  7. met at least two of the following criteria: no recent skilled employment (in the previous 3 years), long-term unemployment lasting at least 26 weeks in the previous 3 years, an inability to return to their former profession because of a conviction, no high school diploma (or equivalent), a high school diploma but less than a ninth-grade reading level, homelessness, no right-to-work document, a physical or mental limitation or disability, or no credential or degree earned in the past 5 years in a high-demand occupation field.

Next STEP initially recruited individuals newly released from state prison and on parole, but later also recruited individuals released from federal prisons.

The population served was 90 percent male. Fifty-two percent were Black, 33 percent were White, and 14 percent were Hispanic. Eighty six percent had high school diplomas or the equivalent (including 3 percent with associate’s degrees or higher). Although 93 percent had worked at some point, only 13 percent had worked in the previous year. Forty one percent were homeless or living in transitional housing.

Description of services implemented

Next STEP used a wage-subsidy transitional job model. Participants received help becoming job ready and then found jobs with private employers. Next STEP provided a full subsidy of 100 percent of the participants’ wages for their first 8 weeks on the job and subsidized 50 percent of wages for the subsequent 8 weeks. Employers agreed to retain participants after the subsidy period if they did well.

Next STEP provided a range of other services, including the following:

  • Job-readiness assessment. A counselor tested new participants’ skills in math, reading, comprehension, spelling, vocabulary, and abstract reasoning, and screened them for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, Supplemental Security Income eligibility, learning disabilities, domestic violence, cognitive executive functioning, and recidivism risk.
  • Two-week job-readiness boot camp. Participants completed this two-week, full-time workshop before beginning a job search. In addition to job search skills and work-readiness activities, participants took a “StrengthsFinder” assessment to identify their strengths and talents.
  • Job-readiness services. Participants who were not job ready after the boot camp could receive other services such as GED preparation, legal services, short-term training, and mental health counseling before the subsidized job.
  • Case management. Case managers met one-on-one with participants weekly before and during the subsidized job. Case managers provided supportive services such as transportation vouchers, clothing, and glasses; made referrals to services in the community; and helped participants prepare for the job search before they began working with job developers.
  • Job search and job development. After case managers determined participants were job ready, job developers helped participants search for jobs that fit their interests. Job developers also worked to identify job leads, but the program emphasized participants’ learning to conduct a job search themselves.
  • Networking and retention meetings. Participants attended weekly group meetings during their job search. After starting the subsidized job, they attended monthly group retention meetings in which participants helped one another with challenges on the job. And after entering unsubsidized employment, participants took part in quarterly retention meetings.
  • Financial incentives. To support participant engagement, Next STEP provided an array of financial incentives for meeting program benchmarks or completing program activities. Examples included $150 for attending all sessions of the boot camp, $100 for completing a GED or occupational training, and between $25 and $100 for activities like attending certain meetings or registering for an online job-search tool, among others.

WSTC modified some aspects of Next STEP’s services partway into implementation to improve participant engagement; the modifications were necessary because requiring job readiness before the subsidized job led to delays in placement and program attrition. WSTC added financial incentives and a set of workshops on topics such as workplace behavior, problem-solving, and anger management.

Service intensity

Almost all Next STEP enrollees—96 percent—received some services from the program, including 93 percent who received some sort of workforce preparation services. However, only 39 percent worked in subsidized jobs. In part, this was because many entered unsubsidized employment first, either because they found jobs on their own or because employers were not interested in the subsidy.

The two-week boot camp was five days per week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Participants received additional services between completing the boot camp and entering employment. The subsidy period of the transitional employment lasted eight weeks.

As noted, the program took steps to support engagement, including offering financial incentives, conducting regular group meetings, and providing a range of services and workshops for participants until they found a job.

Comparison conditions

Comparison group members could not participate in Next STEP, but they could receive services from other providers, such as Texas ReEntry Services or another workforce center. No other subsidized employment program was available in the county during the program period.

Partnerships

WSTC partnered with two organizations to provide services as part of Next STEP:

  • Guinn Healthcare Technologies conducted the job-readiness assessments, provided mental health counseling, and offered workshops on a variety of topics.
  • Legal Aid of Northwest Texas provided legal assistance related to expunging or sealing participants’ criminal records and modifying child support orders.

In addition, WSTC partnered with a local staffing agency that processed the program’s payroll and served as the employer of record during the subsidy period. (In the second half of the subsidy period, during which the program paid 50 percent of wages, the employer also served as an employer of record.)

Staffing

A program director and two special project managers oversaw Next STEP. Three case managers and four job developers delivered services. Program staff and management led the job-readiness workshop. A document specialist managed program information. Partner staff provided the assessments, counseling, workshops, and legal assistance. The study authors did not include information on staff training, degrees, or certifications.

Local context

The intervention took place in Fort Worth, TX.

Fidelity measures

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

Funding source

Next STEP was part of the federal Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration. WSTC received a federal grant through this demonstration from the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Cost information

The cost per participant in Next STEP was about $8,300 (in 2016 dollars), which included program operations, supportive services, and participant wages. The study did not discuss a comparison of costs and benefits of Next STEP.

Studies of this intervention

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Study quality rating Study counts per rating
High High 1