Working On Welfare

Easing Fears

Government officials are trying to allay these concerns by contracting with public, private, nonprofit and for-profit intermediaries to provide the skills the business community says welfare recipients need. According to Blueprint for Business, about 25 percent of the welfare population is work-ready, requiring only short-term training and job-readiness assistance. Approximately half are described as "investment-needed," meaning more intensive training and job readiness services such as work habit and attitude adjustment are required. The balance are classified under "more investment needed" and are people with alcohol or drug problems, physical or mental disabilities, or emotional disorders.

The assistance intermediaries can supply ranges from providing two-weeks of "soft" job-readiness skills training to helping employers develop tailored training programs. In California, for example, the Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) Program, funded by federal, state and county revenues, provides employment training and educational services, including help in the job search, application and interviewing processes. GAIN also pays for child care, transportation, books, tools and more.

Goodwill Industries International offers employment training, counseling and placement programs through its 187 locations in the United States and Canada. Because the agency has its own retail stores, it's also able to provide students with hands-on retail experience.

In New Mexico, Intel Corp. has taken an approach that individual or groups of small businesses could also utilize. The computer giant is working with state and local governments as well as local community colleges to provide low-income residents with Intel Opportunity Scholarships, lab equipment and other support that helps them complete a specially designed two-year course and train for jobs that pay a minimum of $30,000 a year. "We set up a situation that allows people to retain their welfare benefits, and we pay them [through scholarships] to go to school," explains Intel corporate affairs manager Tracy Koon.

When creating and implementing the program, Koon says Intel officials found that business cannot take on the welfare-to-work effort alone. Says Koon, "If government, the private sector and the education community come together, it can work.'

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This article was originally published in the January 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Working On Welfare.

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