“America Works” Better With Less Welfare
Peter Cove writes in City Journal about the success of America Works, his for-profit company that specializes in getting jobs for long-term welfare recipients:
In the past 27 years, America Works has placed more than 250,000 poor people, with an average of five to six years on the rolls, in private-sector jobs, with an average starting wage of $10 per hour plus benefits. In our New York program, to take one example, more than half of these new workers were still on the job after 180 days. The employers that we have worked with include prestigious companies, such as Time Warner, Cablevision, Aramark, J. C. Penney, and American Building Maintenance Industries. Most of these employers keep coming back, asking for more of our referrals.
In his article, Cove recounts his transformation from welfare-state-liberal to work-first reformer. The theme throughout is that long job training programs are colossal wastes of time and money compared to the America Works model:
…clients with shaky self-confidence are best served by early success in getting a job, not by long periods of preparation. Our weeklong training sessions are narrowly focused on the attributes and skills needed to land an entry-level job. Our trainers work with clients on the basics, such as maintaining a businesslike personal appearance, speaking properly, preparing a résumé, and showing up on time. Clients quickly learn that success depends on self-discipline and their own motivation and effort.
According to a report by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), as of February 2011, “Nine federal agencies spent approximately $18 billion annually to administer 47 separate employment and job training programs.” Unfortunately, the Government Accountability Office says that “little is known about the effectiveness of most programs.”
Which do you prefer? A for-profit company with 27 years of experience getting people into jobs they keep, or 47 cross-cutting initiatives that can’t prove whether or not they are effective?