Greater Greater Washington

Few job seekers get the intensive training they need

Large numbers of DC's jobless residents are going to the city's One-Stop Centers for employment assistance, but very few actually receive the intensive services that they will need to compete for jobs, say internal workforce training documents obtained by Greater Greater Washington.


Image by Intersection Consulting on Flickr.

In order to get job training from the DC government, one has to request training at a One-Stop center run by the Department of Employment Services (DOES).

A former DOES manager sent along a training manual which highlights a problem in the job training system: job seekers have to pass through many administrative steps to get services, but high attrition rates at each stage mean that few ultimately get services like literacy training or skill development.

While unemployment in the Washington region is relatively low, in low-income parts of DC such as Ward 8 it exceeds 20%. Given that only 28% of jobs in DC are held by DC residents, high unemployment of DC residents is generally attributed to obstacles to employment like lack of literacy and job skills.

Allison Gerber, executive director of the Workforce Investment Council (WIC) which has oversight of services of One-Stops, reacted to the numbers. "Assuming these numbers are correct," she said, "they are very similar to the gaps that the WIC found in the last program year."

DOES Director Lisa Mallory disavows the numbers in the training manual, saying they were pulled by a previous Associate Director for Workforce Development, Dr James Moore, and are "incorrect." Mallory referred to "coding" issues, and said that the number of services provided like occupational and GED training were actually much higher.

Mallory agreed, however, that attrition is a central problem in the delivery of workforce development services, and said her investment in training to address this problem demonstrates that she is tackling the problem by transforming DOES.

What happens when jobless residents approach DC for help?

15,781 adults approached DOES One-Stops over the last Program Year (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012) requesting help with employment. Assuming these were all DC residents, that would be about 30% of the roughly 50,000 unemployed DC residents.

The figures in the report suggest that most are receiving basic services, such as use of a computer to look for jobs or resume assistance. DOES refers to such basic services as "core services," and refers to services like literacy, adult education and occupational training as "intensive services."

Of the 6,352 enrolled in core services, 4,004 received "initial assessments," 3,919 received "resume assistance services" and 3,594 received "referrals to workshops." 2,284 get referred to intensive services, but of these, only 21% (477) actually enroll in intensive services.

Among the 477, 430 express interest in occupational training. The One-Stops approve 77% (322) of these requests, and forward their application packets to the Office of Program Performance Monitoring (OPPM) in DOES. But OPPM only approves 32% of these (104) for training, a $4,000 Individual Training Account (ITA) program funded by the federal government and DC government.

The consultant DOES commissioned to train their management, Greg Newton Associates, identifies this attrition problem in the training manual as low "conversion ratios" and then asks the question, "What needs to be improved?"

Few residents receive literacy training or evaluations

The manual also shows a low percentage of job seekers at the One Stops receive literacy or adult education services. More than 80,000 DC residents, making up 19% of adults, lack basic literacy. Approximately 55,000 lack a high school diploma.

The unemployment rate for residents without a high school diploma or GED is 19%. However, less than 1% (33) of the unemployed enrolled in the core services of DC One-Stops (6,352) receive literacy or adult education services.

In fact, only 6% (379) of the 6,352 unemployed enrolled in core services are even tested for lack of literacy and numeracy skills.

Mallory challenged these numbers as well, claiming that "we had about 200 individuals referred for GED training."

Why is the attrition rate so high?

There appears to be a high attrition rate in two places: first, in the One Stop, and second, where the Office of Program Performance Management evaluates job training requests after a One Stop approves a request.

Attrition within the One-Stops is sometimes blamed on the jobless residents. In an interview last year, former director of the DOES One-Stops Hugh Bailey said that "One-Stop staff are not case managers. Lots of people come into the One-Stop and expect to leave with a job."

"All we can do is give them the tools to find a job," said Bailey, "but we aren't case managers."

However, the Newton manual pointed to strict adherence to a wasteful process as the cause of low One-Stop "conversion rates." The manual called for DOES staff to transform into lean providers of services that meet all customers where they are at.

OPPM approves less than a third of job training requests

The workforce development community has worried for years about the low percentage of job training requests DOES approves, even after they go through a first stage of approval at the One-Stop centers. The training manual says that only 32% of requests get the go-ahead from OPPM.

An annual report of DC's workforce development efforts sent to the federal Department of Labor last year admits to "internal delays in transitioning participants into training services."

An October 2008 report by Callahan Consultants observed that "the process itselfwhich includes required return visits to the One-Stop for eligibility determination, for testing, and for submission of vendor acceptance letter, etc is being used as a screening mechanism to ensure clients are truly motivated to go into training."

Marina Strewnewski, executive director of the DC Jobs Coalition, a coalition of job training providers, says that her members report an average of 90 days waiting for DOES to approve training requests. According to Strewnewski, "this absolutely discourages unemployed job seekers, who eventually disengage from the DOES process out of frustration."

Director Mallory asserted, however, that "OPPM is not an impediment" to delivering training services. Mallory pointed to several "factors that may play a role in delaying the the approval of the training request."

These included:

  • "lack of certification documentation (proof of residency, Social Security Numbers, Citizenship, etc.),"
  • "Provider unable to start classes due to not enough customers approved for the program to schedule a class," and
  • "Customer undecided and/or loss of interest."
Officials are trying to streamline the process

Gerber, of the Workforce Investment Council, explained that the WIC has been pursuing a "one-stop certification process" that would establish policies and procedures focusing on delivering services that jobless residents need to be work ready instead of focusing on paperwork.

Gerber stressed that this is a collaborative effort with DOES, and the multiple working groups with DOES management have made good progress. Once the certification process is in place, the WIC could then de-certify One-Stops that fall short of the new standards.

Delivering more core services, focusing on matching work-ready customers with a job, is an achievement for which DOES deserves much credit. The improvement in these services reflects the investment in One City One Hire, which matches jobless DC residents with job openings.

However, our focus on job matching must also go hand in hand with a focus on work readiness, given the tremendous mismatch between jobs in the DC area and the skills of jobless DC residents.

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Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 

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A few comments:

1. "Assuming these were all DC residents". Are you saying that VA or MD residents can use DC taxpayer and DOES resources to get training for a job?

2. Perhaps the issue is the "consultant" that DOES uses appears to be highly unqualified and ineffectual. I mean, they are based out of Palm Springs California and use an AOL email for their corporate email, just how "useful" can this company be? Of all the "companys" in the nation, couldn't they find one that you know...has something more than an AOL email address?

3. While you are correct that ~28% of DC's jobs only go to residents, the reasoning is that the bulk of those jobs are professional level positions that require a minimum of a college degree in something. The people we are talking about that use this DOES program most often don't have a highschool diploma, so we are fooling ourselves if we think this program is going to be placing DC residents in jobs any more glamerous than unskilled labaor jobs.

Furthermore, those jobs already exist, and are occupied by people from VA and MD because they apply for them, and then show up on a daily basis. I know I am speaking in general terms and not "every" unemployed District resident falls into this catagory, but DC has an enormous populuation of generational welfare receipients who see no point of getting a job or keeping one. The City Council has even delayed yet again legislation to stymie people receiving TANF benefits. The stats in this article illustrate that very clearly.

The point is, anyone in the District who really "wants" a job can have one, and this is despite education and experiencial qualifications.

by DCJobs on Mar 11, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

Interesting. It seems to me that one stops should be making their services easier to access, not weeding people out with a cumbersome approval process.

by Anna on Mar 11, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

DC DOES is particularly known in a national system of WIA/WIB services as an example of poor performance, lacks controls, ineffectual oversight, and potential for abuse if not fraud. The WIA/WIB system is slowly dying for lack of political interest and ever declining federal appropriations in the post Great Recession era. That said the whole WIA/WIB approach is low touch, work first. That means that funding/support for training that actually matters to people's lives and livelihoods is almost never made available by the system. On the other hand, DC has never implemented the work requirements in TANF nor the lifetime limits. So it continues to fund welfare beyond what the feds really allow and it doesn't do any more and in some cases much less on the training, education, and workforce fronts. Lord help us this system puts the dys in dysfunctional....

by Tom M on Mar 11, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

The manual also shows a low percentage of job seekers at the One Stops receive literacy or adult education services. More than 80,000 DC residents, making up 19% of adults, lack basic literacy. Approximately 55,000 lack a high school diploma.

I would disagree with @DCJobs: If you don't have a high school degree--much less if you're illiterate--you're essentially unhireable in DC's job market. DC jobs "are occupied by people from VA and MD" not "because they apply for them, and then show up on a daily basis" but because job-seekers from MD and VA are much more likely to have the hard and soft skills that employers require.

(Incidentally, I'm trying to imagine why on earth DOES would be tasked with providing "literacy training". Shouldn't that be under the OSSE's AFE program?)

by oboe on Mar 11, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

A couple thoughts:

"We aren't case workers"

Maybe you SHOULD be case workers, if your current operation model allows so many initial applicants to walk away without substantive help. Why should we fund this agency AT ALL if this level of service/outreach is deemed acceptable? When this office was set up, it's not as if it wasn't known that it would be serving a marginalized and undereducated set of applicants. Like it or not, this population needs follow-thru from DOES. DOES needs to at least go through the motions of performing follow-up phone calls, emails.

Reasons for Delay in Training Request Approvals

These reasons make no sense.

"Lack of certification documents" - again, it was known that the population they would be serving would be marginalized, and commonly has trouble producing documentation of their residency (this is also why Republican legislators have sought to increase ID requirements for voting this past election). Can the regs be more lenient? Presenting a utility bill, magazine subscription, or signed lease? Have a case worker do a home visit, or have a relative vouch for their residence? It's ridiculous for DOES to dust off their hands and shrug "nothing we can do."

"Provider unable to start classes due to not enough customers approved..." - this is self-defeating. Why is there a minimum no. Of students? You'd think that would be ideal - more individual attention, right? Is this a city reg? Or a stipulation of the contract with the vendor? Can it be renegotiated to allow classes to continue, if it is at least 1/2 or 2/3 full? Again, just dusting your hands and saying "nothing we can do about it" is not acceptable.

"Customer undecided and/or loss of interest" - perhaps b/c they perceive, rightly or wrongly, that your office will not or cannot provide them the help they need to secure employment. Every person who enters DOES 's doors needs help. Any person who does not receive some kind of employment over the course of DOES's engagement with this is a failure. Those are the metrics that DOES should grade itself against.

It's like an emergency room - - any patient who departs without treatment is deemed a failure for the emergency staff, and there are periodic reviews to determine who this can be prevented. The non-chalance and seemingly unaccountability of DOES that can be gleaned from this article are saddening. I hope the light shed on them by this post goes a little way towards nudging them towards a different outlook on the work that they do.

by Adam on Mar 11, 2013 1:03 pm • linkreport

I've gone through the One-Stop system and it was horrible and demoralizing experience.

I do agree with an above commenter about how there should be case managers. At bare minimum, folks working in these centers should be friendly and helpful and they are neither.

The process at the One Stop center does not reflect the experiences of the people using the system. While some people are unemployed because they lack skills, others are having difficulty because of the poor economy.

I had just finished graduate school when I had entered the system. I did not need access to more training, and applying to minimum wage jobs going would not help me pay off my loans. What I needed was somebody to make sure my resume and cover letters looked great so I could get an interview. The current system does not allow for differentiation. This is a major problem with the number of skilled individuals in the system. Differentiating services is just smart policy.

I also want to highlight one particular experience that left me rattled. I had gone to the One Stop center and asked to print my resume and a cover letter. The employees at the center told me I needed a jump drive to print the resume. I asked if I could e-mail a copy for them to print. They suggested I go buy a jump drive at the CVS nearby. How can this at all be providing a service which helps people get jobs?

While I think differentiation will take strong leadership to implement, I do not think it is much to ask to improve the basic customer service skills of employees at DOES. Nor should it be a stretch to allow job-seekers basic services such as printing resumes.

by Shree on Mar 11, 2013 10:39 pm • linkreport

I love how the author of the article is making the assumption that the barriers (documentation, etc.) are DC requirements. They aren't. They are Federal requirements under WIA.

by Fabrisse on Mar 12, 2013 10:44 am • linkreport

@DCJobs: You said: 1. "Assuming these were all DC residents". Are you saying that VA or MD residents can use DC taxpayer and DOES resources to get training for a job?

No, but VA or MD residents can use One-Stops for other job services including WIA core services that have no funding attached to them. DC residents are allowed to use VA and MD One-Stops the same way.

by Fabrisse on Mar 12, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

DOES should be getting everyone to put their resumes on a Google Doc, so anyone can access it.

by John Capozzi on Mar 12, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

Most people who are coming to get employment help are already dealing with a lot of barriers. They should make the actual help as easy as possible to access. I do understand that it's probably not easy for OPPM as well but the low enrollment rate for GED and low approval of intensive training seems indicative of a system that is not designed to serve the needs of the unemployed.

by Alan B. on Mar 12, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

Ken,

Based on your comment,

“However, our focus on job matching must also go hand in hand with a focus on work readiness, given the tremendous mismatch between jobs in the DC area and the skills of jobless DC residents,”

it sounds like you want DC residents to get jobs in government or tech start-ups or something. Have you thought much about actual paths to good jobs that pay a living wage and benefits? DOES is not really helping with that either, but I think literacy and numeracy training really only target a few sectors that may not be accessible to everyone, and those skills alone leave out a lot of potentially good paths to employment.

by Ian on Mar 12, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

DOES is a joke. They do not have the ability to assist job seekers that are educated or uneducated. I was unemployed for 1-year, I never step foot in a One-Stop Center until I recieved a letter that I was required to attend a job readiness session. The session was a joke, I had more knowledge about the job market then the DOES employees. I recieved a brief assessment and the DOES employee told me good luck with my job search. Of course, in there defense I have 2 degrees and DOES does not have the ability to assist educated persons. I can see how others would be discouraged in going to a DOES One-Stop.

by Chris A on Mar 12, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

@ Ian & Chris A

I know someone that was unemployed for a year and a half that had all the required education that was needed for there profession Nursing. DOES did not really do a damn thing, she conversed with me about stuff she had to do at some training program or something they required her to go to and when questions were asked they did not know how to respond or help. Eventually she found a new job in nursing without their help at all.

DOES is really just a waste of gas/bus/train money you have a better chance of passing your resume out to people walking down a street and finding a job through them than dealing with DOES

If you have little to no education or are still in school its hopeless

by kk on Mar 12, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport


correction

knew

by kk on Mar 12, 2013 4:51 pm • linkreport

THE TARGETED POPULATIONS IN THE DISTRICT THAT IS THE THE CORE OF THE CONVERSATION ABOUT what DOES does or doesn't do shouldn't garner your distaste or disdain but being biased about people that are not as educated as others should be seen more as a problem that needs a solution. Sure there are stats that say that DC has a lot of generational welfare recipients was the labeling I believed that was used but for the life of me seeing through the eye of those that feel they have all the answers and not being able to explain anything morally or conceptually is beyond me. Most of the article is true with the exception of DOES being a waste if there was a future transformation the Federal dollars that do pour into their coffers could be utilized better and for lack of a vision there agency could truly provide a measurable quantity of job training and slots for those that need literacy and GED classes. Most of the folks that state their views here have to be picture perfect for those that read this article and stand behind what they tend to feel is the ultimate way life should be. There are quite a few things that are definitely wrong with the way employment is dispersed in the DC areas, I agree wholeheartedly that candidates without soft skills and hard skills that are usually acquired through higher education. The residents in the District I believe if given the chance would perform in the job training that DOES failed to even provide because of numerous setbacks and inside problems the agency kept having. I am really glad however that someone has seen the light and has tried to shed it here in this article because along with DOES there are many other agencies in the District that fail to fulfill the obligations there directives set out for them to perform and everyone wonders where the money goes well I will say it's not going exactly where it should be so you figure?

by brendabeyt on Mar 12, 2013 7:01 pm • linkreport

Oboe: You're absolutely right that OSSE's Adult and Family Education shop should - and does- provide literacy and GED services for DC residents. Unfortunately, OSSE's funding only allows them to serve <4,000 students each year, while 50,000+ residents over 25 have less than a high school diploma or GED. DCPS and DC Charters are only able to serve another 3,000-4,000. That leaves at least 42,000 residents without access to services that would significantly increase their employability.

Clearly we must identify resources to provide these critical education services to more DC residents. WIA Title I (one-stop funding) allows DOES to use "intensive" services funding to provide short-term GED and literacy services, but this data suggests DOES isn't doing a good job of leveraging our federal funding for this purpose. DOES should make a public committment to being more responsive to resident needs and deploying more "intensive" services funds for literacy/GED.

Speaking of literacy: GGW, you do realize that your Captcha spam filter questions are not friendly to non-native English speakers, adult learners who are still developing their "locating information" skills, or people with vision disabilities, right?!? ;)

by workdevdude on Mar 12, 2013 8:49 pm • linkreport

The system (federal, local, city, etc.) has been devised, for among other things, to help those citizens who, for whatever reason, have not been able to achieve a degree or vocational certification leading to sustainable employment. We all must remember the statement, “but for the grace of God go I.” Individual families cannot afford the people-repair services needed to help themselves or their family members to become whole or partly whole in the job market. So, our taxes are delegated to certain services and agencies with the hope that proper management of these programs and activities will help people toward levels of wholeness. Properly managed programs require a Mayor that appoints an experienced subject-matter Director with known leadership skills and temperament for the task at hand. Mayor Gray has failed to appoint such a Director at DOES. Lisa Maria Mallory’s (LMM) weaknesses: lack of sensitivity for vulnerable populations, lack of leadership abilities, lack of workforce development and employment expertise, lack of people skills generally, lack of ability to build a strong agency, and her lack of interest in the success and mission of DOES are apparent and upfront. She evaluates her DOES workforce on superficial criteria, and her actual behavior has resulted in less diversity (gender, age, disabled, etc.) in DOES. The 5th floor of the DOES building is about making DOES appear successful when IT IS NOT and hiding the real issues in order that LMM can say SHE is successful. Many of us believe the real agenda is to destroy DOES in order to justify outsourcing everything. Destroy it from the inside out is the agenda! LMM is not trying to lead DOES to success in its stated mission.
LMM has been the Director of DOES for over two years, and she was the Chief Operating Officer /Deputy of Operations at the agency over a year before she became Director. She was hired under the Fenty administration and worked hand-in-hand with Joseph P. Walsh, Jr. LMM was/is involved in the creation and maintenance of the agency’s deficiencies. LMM has created no vision or charisma among staff; the employees rarely see her, and true communication in the agency is non-existent. Employees cannot tell the truth or engage in legitimate debriefing sessions; cannot focus on their areas of expertise without interference and extreme micro-management. She has empowered people who have never managed or directed any labor-focused program. Harassment of staff is a common occurrence. Most of the employees are temps or terms; they are let go on a regular basis and new temps/terms hired (even with numerous DOES unfilled positions). Often one employee is being let go while the other one is coming down the hall to sit in the same warm chair, cubicle, and position. At the most recent hearing, LMM admitted that almost a third of the entire staff have been hired since she became Director. She goes on to brag about the number of DC residents hired. Dig deeper and you find people are being fired and hired for the same position OVER AND OVER. Most of these people were walked out of the agency and not even considered for some of the numerous openings. So, over and over, new people are constantly coming into the agency for a 13-month term/temp position. Then at the end, another new set comes in. This is a waste of human capital and experience. No one wants an inexperienced Doctor to operate on them; no one wants an inexperienced plumber but LMM and crew want constant inexperience in DOES. Little knowledge transfer is occurring because of the contempt LMM and crew have for their DOES workforce. They even trash large numbers of staff among themselves on a regular basis. No wonder DOES employees don’t know what to do! Most are newbies. This management does not want anyone experienced in the agency; they want experience out the door without any consideration to transfer some of these folks into a currently open position. And if you are near retirement, you are harassed and/or made to look bad through various well-known techniques, etc.
Even worse is that Mayor Gray and the Deputy Director over DOES have become besotted with LMM. No matter how much she destroys the agency (and she is doing an excellent job little by little), Gray supports her. Now, Councilmember Marion Barry is supporting her; he said she is doing a bang up, wonderful job of managing DOES (said so at two hearings this month- March 4 and March 11). The ratio of administrative staff to workers is sky high. No one is analyzing THAT or calling her to task for it. Finally, she has, among others, a Deputy Director of Operations who is a definite liability. She has others, but this position should have a competent, sensitive person at the helm. And LMM should not be the one to select the new person for this position. The only hope for DOES is to be taken over by USDOL.

by Someone Who Cares on Mar 13, 2013 8:33 pm • linkreport

Correction Statement:

When I said, No matter how much she destroys the agency (and she is doing an excellent job little by little) Gray supports her.

I MEANT TO SAY: No matter how much she destroys the agency (and she is doing an excellent job of destroying DOES little by little) Gray supports her.

I also ask those interested in the performance of DOES to view the DC Council hearings held on March 4 and March 11, 213. You can see them by going to the DC City Council web site. There is a link to listen to current and past hearings. Please let everyone know your opinion of these hearings. Do you think anything will improve via these hearings?

by Someone Who Cares on Mar 13, 2013 10:22 pm • linkreport

What would be great is if DOES would give the monies they have for intensive services like literacy (Adult Basic Education) and GED preparation to the OSSE AFFE who has the infrastructure, monitoring, professional development and program partners in place to increase the numbers of individuals served.

by literacyworkforcelady on Mar 14, 2013 11:50 pm • linkreport

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