Employment and Training Administration
Washington, D. C. 20210






November 19, 1997





Acting Administrator
for Regional Management
SUBJECT : A Systematic Approach of Profiling and Referring Welfare-to-Work Participants -- A Guide for Service Delivery Areas (SDAs)


  1. Purpose. To provide preliminary information about the design and implementation of a pilot project conducted at the Kalamazoo/St. Joseph SDA in Michigan to test the efficacy of profiling and referring Work First participants.

  2. References. A description of the profiling model and the implementation process is contained in the technical report, "The Use of Profiling to Target Services in State Welfare-to-Work Programs: An Example of Process and Implementation," which is available from the JTPA Liaisons and on the ETA web page of "doleta.gov." A description of the Worker Profiling and Reemployment Services System is available in the UI Occasional paper 94-4, "The Worker Profiling and Reemployment Services System: Legislation, Implementation Process and Research Findings."

  3. Background. SDAs in many States have the responsibility of administering the new welfare-to-work programs. This under-taking is a departure from previous administrative duties and offers numerous challenges and opportunities. Welfare-to-work entails serving a different population with unique needs and challenges. SDAs must decide who to serve and with what services in order to operate an effective system. The welfare-to-work administrative structure also requires SDAs to cooperate and coordinate activities with social service agencies.

    ETA is funding a pilot project to design, test, and implement a profiling and referral model for Work First participants in the Kalamazoo/St. Joseph SDA in Michigan. The purpose of the pilot is to determine the feasibility and effectiveness for SDAs using this system as a management tool to determine which participants need and can benefit the most from reemployment services. The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research administers the Kalamazoo/St. Joseph SDA and is partnering with ETA to conduct this pilot. The Upjohn Institute is an independent, not-for-profit organization, that in addition to administering the SDA, provides and supports research on employment and training issues. The Institute's research division has designed the model and is currently assisting the operations division to implement the system.

  4. Issues Facing SDAs in Administering Work First Type Programs. 

  5. Description of the Profiling/Referral System in SDA. The SDA administers Michigan's Work First program and JTPA programs for the two-county area in southwest Michigan. The purpose of Work First is to provide welfare recipients the reemployment skills, support, and opportunities to obtain employment in the shortest possible time. The program offers participants instruction on proper techniques for writing resumes, completing applications and interviewing skills. All enrollees receive the same services regardless of their needs and must find qualified employment within four weeks of enrollment. More intensive skill training is available only to those who hold a job or to those who have repeatedly failed to find employment.

    The Kalamazoo/St. Joseph SDA is piloting a system that profiles Work First participants as to their likelihood of finding jobs, and then refers them to appropriate services. By identifying individuals at intake as to their relative need for reemployment services based on their likelihood of finding a job at intake, local agencies can tailor programs to meet the varied needs of welfare clients and thus use scarce dollars more effectively.

    Profiling is a statistical methodology that assigns each welfare recipient referred to Work First a probability of finding and holding a qualified job (or conversely, not finding a job) within the specified time limits of the program. The probability is derived from a statistical model using information commonly collected during the enrollment interview. The model estimates the relationship between an individual's propensity to find and hold a job and their attributes, work and welfare histories, and the local labor market conditions. The model adopted by the Kalamazoo/St. Joseph SDA uses the participant's educational attainment, work status immediately prior to enrollment in Work First, and prior enrollment in Work First to predict employment. Estimates of the model yield coefficients that weight the attributes and, when multiplied by the attributes and summed, generate predicted probabilities. The estimated weights from the model are incorporated into the SDA's existing information system and automatically assigned a predicted probability when the individual's attributes are entered into the system.

    Based on the assigned probabilities, clients are referred to services that have been shown to most likely meet their needs.

    The Kalamazoo/St. Joseph SDA subcontracts with three providers to deliver services. Each subcontractor pursues a different approach to providing reemployment services, all within the guidelines of Work First. Analysis has shown that each program has a comparative advantage in serving clients with specific characteristics. The model predicts which client is least likely to obtain employment and indicates which provider may offer services that best address the individual's needs.

    The pilot is in the initial stages of implementation. The profiling model has been tested using administrative data collected at intake from participants who have enrolled in the welfare program during the last year and a half. The program will be evaluated by randomly assigning part of the weekly enrollees to the three providers and targeting the balance to specific subcontractors based on the model's predictions. The pilot builds on the Upjohn Institute's experience in developing a profiling model that the State of Michigan used for dislocated workers for the Michigan WPRS system. We plan to more fully discuss at the December 1997 JETTCON conference.

  6. Action. Please share this TEIN with representatives of the employment and training community, including the social service agencies working with employment programs for welfare recipients as we want to inform States agencies interested in this approach and perhaps expand the pilot to other States/SDAs.

  7. Inquiries. For general information, contact Ronald E. Putz, project officer on (202) 219-5305 ext. 173, or Steve Wandner on (202) 219-5677.

    For technical information on the overall design of the project and the statistical model, contact Randall Eberts, Executive Director of the Upjohn Institute. For information on the implementation of the pilot and operation of Work First, contact Robert Straits, Michigan Works Administrative Director for the Kalamazoo/St. Joseph SDA, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Mr. Eberts and Mr. Straits can be reached at W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 300 S. Westnedge Ave., Kalamazoo, MI 49007, (616) 343-5541, eberts@we.upjohninst.org or straits@we.upjohninst.org.