Vice President’s Letter to the President

Mr. President:

To make sure the federal government does its fair share in moving families from welfare to work, you asked me to lead the Federal Welfare-to-Work Hiring Initiative, launched in March 1997. We challenged federal agencies to be a model for all employers by recruiting, hiring and supporting welfare recipients. Each agency committed to a number of individuals it would hire by 2000, with a government-wide goal of over 10,000 new hires. In the April 10, 1999 radio address, you announced that the federal government had not only exceeded its goal, but did so nearly two years ahead of schedule. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of agency heads, their coordinators, and our new hires, I am proud to report that as of July 1999, the federal government has hired 14,028 welfare recipients. Four out of five of these new hires are outside the Washington area. Agency commitments and hires are posted on the final page of this report, and, as you can see, each one is contributing to this effort. As we move into our third year of this initiative, we are continuing our commitment. For example, this year, the Department of Commerce, in collaboration with the Department of Labor, plans to hire at least 10,000 welfare recipients as enumerators, crew chiefs and clerks for the largest-ever peacetime mobilization, the Census2000.

But the Federal Welfare-to-Work Hiring Initiative goes beyond hiring figures; it is about changing lives. The Federal Welfare-to-Work Hiring Initiative provides meaningful job experience to our new hires and enriches the lives of their mentors and colleagues, while providing the federal government with valuable new employees who contribute to the mission of each agency. In this tight labor market, welfare recipients are an under-tapped workforce. For example, under the initiative, the Social Security Administration hired a leader when they recruited Renee Gaumond as a clerk in the Victorville, California office. During her two years with the agency, Ms. Gaumond has already been promoted several times and is making progress toward her long-term goal to become a Social Security claims representative. The agency recognizes that Ms. Gaumond, with her professionalism and spirit, is a model for not only welfare recipients, but all staff to follow.

As we all know, getting a job does not always mean steady work. Career development and retention strategies are critical to the success of welfare reform. That is why federal agencies are providing employees with services such as job training, mentors and counseling services, health benefits, flexible work schedules, assistance with transportation and child care, and information on resources like the Earned Income Tax Credit. And new data show that these strategies are working. As of September 1998, almost 70 percent of Federal Welfare-to-Work hires were still working in their federal government positions after one year. In comparison, only 37 percent of the non-Welfare-to-Work employees hired during the same period for similar jobs and pay levels were still on board. These results are consistent with the experience of the private sector employers involved in The Welfare-to-Work Partnership. Businesses in dozens of industries find that welfare-to-work retention is often higher than that experienced with non-welfare hires. Welfare hiring programs not only help meet labor needs, but decrease costly employee turnover. Clearly, employer investments in their workforce pay off for both employers and employees.

In sum, the Federal Welfare-to-Work Hiring Initiative is good for welfare recipients, good for the federal government, and good for America. This Second Annual Report highlights federal government agencies’ recruiting and hiring strategies, efforts to leverage contractor commitments, best practices to promote retention and success in the workforce, and plans for the future. To provide you with more detailed information, each agency has outlined its Federal Welfare-to-Work Hiring accomplishments in the appendix of the report. During this time of economic prosperity, the Clinton/Gore Administration has often emphasized that we, as a nation, cannot afford to leave anyone behind. I look forward to continuing and expanding the work of the initiative in the upcoming year.



Getting the Word Out

Federal agencies use the Office of Personnel Management’s employment information website, USAJobs, to advertise job opportunities. In addition, agencies such as the Department of Justice have launched their own Welfare-to-Work websites. Other agencies, including the Department of Treasury and the Department of Agriculture, also use strategies such as: posting job information in flyers, newspapers, radio and television public service announcements; participating in job fairs and conferences; and, using temporary employment services and training institutes.

Targeted Recruitment

Federal agencies are building on partnerships with state, local and community-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, Private Industry Councils, and local Federal Executive Boards. Agencies share job information and vacancy announcements, while community-based organizations and social service agencies link these opportunities with interested individuals. Examples of these partnerships include:

  • The Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Justice, NASA, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Agriculture work with local schools, community colleges and universities to recruit qualified candidates like Lorie Strichko who joined NASA in March 1998 through recruiting efforts at Baldwin-Wallace College. During the past year, Ms. Strichko created and implemented a new job tracking system, and was recently promoted to a GS-4 level.
  • At its Atlanta headquarters, the Centers for Disease Control of the Department of Health and Human Services, worked closely with the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services to recruit more than 60 qualified candidates.
  • The Department of Labor and the Federal Emergency Management Agency collaborate with organizations such as Maximus in Maryland and Virginia, Conserve in Washington, D.C., and Work First in Atlanta to bring on new hires.
  • NASA’s Ames Research Center and the Social Security Administration have developed vital partnerships with local welfare agencies in the Bay Area of California. After volunteering with the agency as part of the welfare program, Rachelle Dobbins was hired as a mail clerk for the Social Security Administration. According to the agency, "Ms. Dobbins has been an outstanding addition to Social Security...demonstrating both flexibility and leadership." In recognition of her performance and commitment to the agency, she received a Regional Commissioner’s Citation.
  • The Department of Defense’s Commissary Agency accepts applications using the Telephone Application Processing System to simplify and expedite recruitment.
Hiring Mechanisms

Federal agencies use the Worker-Trainee hiring authority to bring new employees on board under the Federal Welfare-to-Work Hiring Initiative. Agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the General Services Administration, the Department of the Interior, the Department of State, and the Department of Agriculture also hire through the Student Educational Employment Program, Veterans Readjustment Appointment authority, time-limited or term appointments, and special appointing authorities for hiring persons with disabilities.


Orientation and Training

To ensure a smooth transition from welfare to work, federal agencies provide orientation and training for their new hires. Several agencies have developed orientation and training programs specifically tailored to the needs of their federal Welfare-to-Work employees, such as:

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development, NASA, the Department of Transportation, the Department of State, and the Department of the Treasury create Individual Development Plans. The Department of Transportation recently selected Sharon Hussein for a permanent position as a Buildings Operations Specialist -- evidence that Ms. Hussein is putting her Individual Development Plan to work.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Training Academy developed more than 30 training modules on topics such as proofreading, financial management, telephone techniques, public speaking, stress management, balancing work and family, and computer skills. Having completed several courses, Clerk Sylvia Jarrett reports that for her, "one of the ways out was to take advantage of all opportunities to get training."
  • NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center uses the Technical Apprenticeship Program (TAP) to hire and train welfare recipients. The TAP is a 4-year program consisting of a combination of formal classroom instruction and on-the-job training in an engineering shop. Successful completion of the program culminates with certification and promotion to an engineering technician position.
  • The Navy’s Human Resource Service Center designed a 300-hour computer training program, worked with the Private Industry Council to recruit welfare recipients for the program, and offered jobs to successful participants.
  • The Office of Personnel Management offers a specially tailored eight-week training program to develop skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Training includes orientation to the agency’s mission and functions, skills training in computer software, grammar, customer service, and time management.
  • The Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services offers a 2-week transition experience for new hires. A 2-day basic orientation session is followed by an 8-day "workplace survival" module, under the guidance of mentors. New hire reunions, where employees share their work experiences and discuss career development strategies, are held.
  • The Executive Office of the President conducts weekly training sessions using materials offered by the Department of Labor. Sessions include speakers, training videos, and facilitated open discussion forums.
  • At the Department of Energy, supervisors and mentors develop training plans for program participants. After a 90-day performance review, supervisors assess areas for improvement and schedule ongoing training.
  • In addition to hiring individuals under the Welfare-to-Work Initiative, the Department of Education participates in a United Planning Organization program to provide welfare recipients with 6 months of on-site work experience.
Career Development and Retention

Key components to a successful Federal Welfare-to-Work Hiring program are career development and retention, and new data show that these strategies are working. As of September 1998, the latest date for which data are available, almost 70 percent of Federal Welfare-to-Work hires were still working in their federal government positions after one year on the payrolls. This retention rate is 85 percent greater than the 37 percent retention rate of non-Welfare-to-Work employees hired during the same period for similar jobs and pay levels.

Many Federal Welfare-to-Work employees are hired at the GS-1 through GS-3 levels with opportunities to advance. Effective April 1999, Office of Personnel Management regulations allow promotions to the GS-4 and WG-5 levels for employees hired under Worker-Trainee authority. After three years of satisfactory performance, hires are converted to permanent career appointments. Agency efforts to promote career development and retention include the following activities.

  • New hires such as Wanda Jay and Florine Wesson from the Department of Housing and Urban Development have already received multiple promotions within a year. In fact, the vast majority of their Welfare-to-Work employees have been promoted to GS-3 and 4 levels, so the agency is now focusing its efforts at expanding upward mobility. Currently, they are developing an internal promotion plan call HUD Opportunities (HOPS) that will facilitate progressive promotions to GS-4, 5 and 6 level positions.
  • During her sixteen months of providing administrative support for the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Commerce, Alicia Davis has come to personify what excellent customer service is about, and has earned two promotions. At the Census Bureau, with its many temporary positions, follow-up supervision and training ensure a transition to permanent full-time employment. For example, Jamesetta Hawkins attended a ten-week training program in the evenings. The program inspired Ms. Hawkins to follow her dreams and become an entrepreneurial floral designer. "The Census Bureau has taught me to plan for the future, to set a specific goal and reach for it," remarks Ms. Hawkins, "I’m well on my way to success."
  • The National Institutes of Health of the Department of Health and Human Services prepares Welfare-to-Work employees for the Office of Personnel Management clerical test. The agency collaborated with Montgomery County and Montgomery College to develop a clerical exam preparation class. To date, 58 percent of enrollees have passed the test, compared to an average pass rate of 26 percent. Eight students have been hired permanently by the federal government, and 25 others have found jobs in private industry and state or local government.
  • The Social Security Administration has hired welfare recipients at GS-7 levels for positions such as a claims representative, and has been highly successful in retaining new hires, with a current retention rate of 90 percent. At the Department of State, several employees have converted to GS-5 and GS-6 clerical/secretarial positions.
  • Of the 95 employees hired by the General Services Administration under this initiative, all but a few have either remained at the agency or left for better positions.

Mentoring and Support Services

A significant part of the Federal Welfare-to-Work Hiring Initiative’s success can be attributed to the commitments of federal employees who mentor the new hires, and with the help of supports such as flexible work schedules or transportation subsidies. Almost all federal agencies use some form of a mentor program in which new hires are paired with trained mentors who provide personal and professional guidance. Examples of supports that agencies are providing include the following.

  • "The key to our success," reports the Social Security Administration, "is use of the three-tiered mentoring model," which relies on the new employee’s: (1) supervisor to help understand workplace rules and culture; (2) technical assistant to enhance job skills; and, (3) Employee Assistance Program counselor to provide counseling and workshops. Nearly two years ago, Renee Gaumond relocated her residence to take a job with the Social Security Administration, and shares, "This program has changed my life, and I owe it to my all my mentors -- not just my mentor Tracy Ortiz, but everyone in my office. This job has been well worth the move."
  • At the Department of Commerce, Michelle Patterson is grateful to Geraldine Robinson-Ervin for her expert tutelage and inspiration to attain higher levels of achievement. Ms. Patterson plans to return to Temple College to receive her degree in Computer and Information Sciences.
  • Many agencies tap into the existing resources of their Employee Assistance Program for not only counseling services, but also developing training curricula.
  • Like many working families, those moving from welfare to work face challenges such as affordable and adequate child care and transportation. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Executive Office of the President, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, the Office of Personnel Management, and, of course, the Department of Transportation provide transportation subsidies to employees, whether or not they are receiving welfare. The Department of Justice recognizes Tonia Myles as among the most successful Welfare-to-Work employees who, according to the agency, "showed us from the beginning her ability to perform the core tasks we had assigned to her...Tonia handles her daily tasks effortlessly and makes a demanding job appear easy." Ms. Myles attributes her success in part due to the Alternative Work Schedule, a Federal Transit Subsidy, guidance from her co-workers, and receipt of state child care benefits.
  • In some locations, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Veterans Affairs also provide child care subsidies and scholarships.
  • The Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration continue to have an important role in child care, assisting low-income federal workers to take advantage of existing state and local child care providers, programs, and funding.
  • The Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior and the Social Security Administration also rely on flexible work schedules to help ease the burden of child care and transportation issues. Amanda Nguyen and Judy Roberts of the Social Security Administration credit their success to the Alternative Work Schedule, which not only makes it easier to arrange childcare for their children, but also gives them more time to spend with them.

Federal agencies are reaching out to contractors and industry partners, grantees and associations to encourage the additional recruitment and hiring of welfare recipients in the following ways.

  • The Department of Energy has been particularly successful in encouraging their contractors to train and hire over 60 welfare recipients. Many contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Fluor Daniel Fernald and Westinghouse Government and Environmental Services Company have made voluntary commitments as part of their contributions to local communities. The Westinghouse Savannah River Company, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lockheed Martin created training and skills development programs for their participants.
  • The leadership in most of the agencies have sent letters to contractors and grantees encouraging their participation in the Welfare-to-Work hiring effort.
  • The grants and acquisition offices of several agencies, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of the Interior, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Veterans Affairs have created websites where contractors can obtain information on hiring welfare recipients in their geographic locations and updates on the initiative.
  • The Department of Transportation distributed "Contractor’s Voluntary Welfare-to-Work Commitment" pledges, which has resulted in commitments from 35 companies to hire welfare recipients. The agency also has a phone line to respond to any questions that may arise concerning the initiative. On their own initiative, Transportation procurement offices have also promoted the program by providing information at pre and post-award orientation meetings.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs participates in promotional events such training symposiums and discussions at conferences to encourage contractor involvement. The agency also plans to include a discussion of the program in meetings with major contractors and in small business/procurement counseling sessions.
  • Many of the Department of Defense’s contractors are hiring welfare recipients. Contractors such as AT&T, Aetna, J.A. Jones, and Lockheed Martin leaders in the national effort to hire welfare recipients into private sector jobs.
  • The Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Veterans Affairs emphasize the Javits Wagner O’Day (JWOD) Program as a way to increase employment opportunities for welfare recipients. The program leverages federal purchasing power to provide people with disabilities opportunities to supply goods and services to the federal government.
  • For all purchase orders, the Office of Personnel Management has a provision that encourages contractors to contact local welfare and workforce agencies for welfare-to-work referrals. For formal contract actions, each competitor is asked to submit a plan for hiring welfare recipients. Contractors receive extra credit in the evaluation of their technical proposal if they submit a plan.

Throughout the federal government, from cabinet Secretaries to Federal Welfare-to-Work Hiring Initiative coordinators, to front-line supervisors and colleagues – agencies have demonstrated extraordinary commitment and have made tremendous accomplishments through the Federal Welfare-to-Work Hiring Initiative. However, there is more work to be done, and we are committed to continuing and expanding the initiative in the upcoming year. New projects include the following.

  • The Department of Commerce has worked with the Department of Labor to designate up to $20 million in Welfare-to-Work Competitive grant funds for a Welfare-to-Work Census 2000 Employment Project. The Bureau of the Census plans to hire approximately 10,000 welfare recipients to complete the Census2000. The funds will be awarded to a national service provider and its state and local affiliates, to identify, recruit and train welfare recipients for the local Bureau hiring and selection as enumerators and crew leaders. Successful applicants who complete the temporary posts will be placed into private or public positions by the grantee organization serving that local jurisdiction. The grant calls for follow-up supervision and support for a duration of several months following permanent full-time placement to ensure a smooth transition from welfare to work.
  • In addition to launching their new promotion plan, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will launch two new programs this year to increase the number of welfare hires. The first program will target 40 receptionist positions in support of Secretary’s Representatives and Senior Community Builders located throughout the country. These individuals will receive visitors, answer telephone calls, and provide administrative support to assigned offices. The second program will place over 100 new employees in 51 Multifamily Offices across the country for a 14-month period under term appointments. The program will provide participants with formal training, practical job experience, and employment references to gain permanent employment. As each term expires and employees graduate, new hires would be recruited.
  • Largely through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of the Treasury has hired more than 450 percent of its initial hiring commitment. This initiative has provided the IRS with a large pool of suitable job applicants to fill entry level positions. The Department reports, "With our procedures firmly in place, we expect our hiring success to continue or improve over the next year as we learn from experience and experiment with new strategies. Immediate plans are for the IRS and other Treasury bureaus to increase the number of service organizations contacted in their recruitment efforts, continue to attend job fairs in local areas, and strive to expand the use of appointments under the worker-trainee authority."
Related Resources

Federal Commitments and Hires, 1999

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